Chief Ecologist with Serengeti National Park, Emilian Kihwele says that the revival of the wildlife corridor linking the vital Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem with Lake Victoria is imperative.
Mr. Kihwele says that the basin, which straddles the Kenya-Tanzania border, is adversely affected by climate change and human activities not compatible with conservation interests, putting the world’s greatest annual wildlife migration across east Africa’s plains – under threat.
Planet’s largest wildlife migration – the annual loop of two million wildebeest and other mammals across the Tanzania’s legendary national park of Serengeti and Kenya’s renowned Maasai Mara reserve – is a key tourist lure, generating multi-million-dollars annually.
A leading TANAPA ecologist, Dr. James Wakibara says that ripple effects of climate change as well as large-scale irrigation and industrial activity such as mining along the sprawling basin have led to higher rates of water abstraction.
Increased clearance of the forest and cultivation, respectively, in the upper catchment of Mau escarpments in Kenya has progressively led to excessive sediment loads and altered hydrograph of the Mara River, the only source of drinking water for Serengeti-Mara ecosystem wildlife during the dry months of August-September.
Consequently, both seasonal floods and droughts have become more frequent and extreme, leading to Mara River water flow becoming unpredictable in the past few years, scientists say.
Since Mara is not a large river, ever increasing abstractions or pollution will eventually severely degrade the riverine ecosystem and even impinge upon the most basic needs of people, livestock, wildlife, and the overall basin’s economy.
“If the irregular flow of Mara river becomes more and more extreme, it could, for example, cause a collapse in the wildebeest populations, thus hampering the entire migration cycle that sustains the Maasai Mara – Serengeti ecosystem” Dr Wakibara says.
The habitual migration – which has occurred without interruption for thousands of years – is one of the most extraordinary movements of animals on earth. Nearly 2 million of these huge creatures trudge across Kenya and Tanzania in a vast 3,000km arc.
This globally unbeaten spectacle has led Serengeti to be named the 7th Wonder of the World in the year 2008.
En route, the animals eat 7,000 tons of grass a day and drink enough water in Mara River to fill five swimming pools.