armchair bushman

Cows in designated wildlife areas

62 posts in this topic

There are a lot of very strong opinions out there about whether or not cows belong in wildlife areas. There are many people who get VERY incensed when they see (or hear about) cows in a designated wildlife area, throwing accusations around and blaming the pastoralists for the decline in wildlife etc... Certainly, when people who are accustomed to the Southern African way of doing things come up to Kenya/tanzania and see completely open land with cattle and wild ungulates simultaneously grazing the same land, they find it strange. Many had not even thought it possible.

 

I'm interested to hear other people's opinions on the topic. Does cattle have a place in wildlife areas? Do governing bodies like the KWS and TANAPA need to rethink their strategies regarding cattle, herders, and traditional communities surrounding wildlife areas?

 

I'm looking for strong arguments with evidence to back them up. I am not interested in emotional pleas and not-well-thought-out reactionary messages.

 

I have my own opinions on the matter, some are well developed, and some are "works in progress" pending deeper investigation.

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Would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

 

I was in the Mara recently, and brought up the topic in another thread - Yet, who am I to judge this as an outsider? This has possibly been the case forever where the Maasai and the their cattle have shared the land with the wildlife ........

 

Would like to hear your opinions for sure - also, would like to know if there are zoning areas in the Mara and their conservancies? and what the rules are, if any are applicable....

 

What are your thoughts on the number of lodges/camps in the greater Mara?

 

Thanks

Hari

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I honestly believe that the pre-independence "protectionist" policy that KWS still uses is archaic and short-sighted. I don't think you can separate traditional local range-land pastoral communities from wildlife policy and expect to succeed.

I believe that it is only because of the pastoralists (not despite them) that Kenya still has such strong wildlife numbers both inside and outside the national parks and reserves.

Its a complicated issue now, as the pastoralists are being squashed into an ever-decreasing area of useable land. this means that the land that they use becomes overgrazed much faster, as they cannot move around to new pastures as they once did. So yes, I understand this.

 

However, I still believe cattle can be used to great effect as a grassland management tool, often in place of fire. Fire has its pros and cons, but in the hands of the wrong people, it can be very destructive. In Kenya's case, (as we're seeing right now with the Mt. Kenya fires), there really aren't any wildfire experts in this country, meaning that controlled burning as a management tool is risky business.

But why should we need to burn when we have cattle?

The maasai, Samburu, Pokot, Somali, and Rendille people have been grazing their cattle on the rangelands of east africa for centuries. they keep the grass short and encourage new growth. When they set up temporary bomas, the cattle produce large amounts of dung that fertilize the ground, producing wonderful, rich new growth.

The short grass attracts almost all wild grassland ungulates, as most of them cannot eat the very long, woody old-growth grasses.

So although, many wild animals do not particularly like being in close proximity to humans and cattle, once the cattle have moved on, the wildlife moves in very quickly.

This is illustrated very well in Mara North Conservancy, where constant short grass from years of cattle grazing (before the conservancy was set up) provided good grazing for thousands of zebra and gazelles, long after the main migration herds had moved south. When the National reserve is void of game because of the long grass, the areas outside, where the grass is short, are FULL of game.

 

Whenever people see cattle in masai mara, they get all up in arms, posting on facebook and twitter about the terrible situation they're experiencing and how disappointed they are. The connection that most of them are NOT making is that most of the game they have seen is in the areas of short grass where cattle has already grazed, and that when you get into the heart of the reserve, where there has been no cattle, and the grass is chest-high, the only wildlife you see is a few hundred bobbing widowbirds.

 

I don't believe fences are the right way to go in reducing human-wildlife conflict in most cases (certain cases like Aberdares, Mt. Kenya and Nakuru are exceptions). I think human wildlife conflict needs to be mitigated by ensuring that the people most affected by the wildlife actually see some value in it; So that the elephant who comes knocking down a bunch of maize is not a death sentence to a family, or a lion that kills a cow is not the end of the world to the herder.

 

Here are a few links with some pros regarding cattle in wildlife areas:

http://www.olpejetaconservancy.org/sites/default/files/Why%20Keep%20Cattle%20with%20Wildlife.pdf

http://www.olpejetaconservancy.org/wildlife_conservation/integration

http://www.nrt-kenya.org/livestock.html

 

Also some conservancy websites that are beginning to integrate cattle into their management model:

http://maranorth.com/conservation3.html

http://www.oocmara.com/

http://www.maranaboisho.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1

 

For me, the bottom line is that pastoralists and their cattle have been around much longer than wildlife administration, strategies, and tourists. As far as I'm concerned, they're just as much a part of the natural ecosystem as the wildlife.

 

And if you're a guest going to the MAASAI mara, you really shouldn't be so surprised if you happen to see some MAASAI and their pride and joy, their cattle.

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Thank You, Armchair Bushman for all that info ....... Very educative, indeed!!!

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For me, the bottom line is that pastoralists and their cattle have been around much longer than wildlife administration, strategies, and tourists.

 

 

 

Yes, but in extremely lower numbers. The Mara region was devoid of any significant settlement until 50-60 years ago (it was considered as being very marginal by Maasai). Granted, the Mara was more wooded back then, but it also supported wildlife such as Roan which has long gone.

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This one is complicated and controversial and I don't have any evidence to back my views up but don't have reactionary messages either.

 

When I first visited Lewa, they were still using fire to reduce rank grasses and it made for a rather unpleasant environment but if it did good by the animals, we didn't care. When we returned a few years later they had changed to bringing in local communities with their cattle on a rotational basis to graze down the rank grass. This helped the surrounding people and improved the grazing for the wildlife. So my opinion was that it was a win win situation. But it was closely monitored. I have some photos of large eland herds with cattle in the background … does it look as wild as some of my other photos? No. Do I care? Not really as the future well being of wildlife is more important than one or two photos.

 

I have stayed in the Mara North a couple of times and I didn't find the cattle appealing but then I didn't find them particularly disagreeable either. Where I have problems is when the cattle aren't kept in safe night time bomas so become easy pickings for predators which then starts the retaliatory behaviour. I also have issues with cattle herds becoming too large. So whereas Lewa can have regulations on how many cattle graze the property, in the Mara eco-system this is much harder to enforce. If there was a way for the communities to liaise with wildlife authorities in the area on how to best manage grazing for the benefit of both the Maasai and the wildlife, then I would be more than happy to see the cattle.

 

I know that there are many people who travel to Africa for a completely wild, human free experience but in some way I feel that this is a rather naive view in today's era despite the fact that I also love and seek some areas where I can feel totally at one with the wilderness. However, the intrusion of nomadic tribes doesn't seem to affect this, the intrusion of too many cattle herds would be different.

 

So I suppose, in my uneducated vision, I would like to see some of the more remote areas such as the Matthews Ranges, Meru-Kora, Tsavo East, kept as wild and as human free as possible. But balanced with that, I would welcome intelligent, informed approaches to integrating nomadic grazing herds into some areas as an alternative to fire, to maintain good pasture health and to allow traditional herdsmen the opportunity to see wildlife and wilderness reserves as something better than a threat to their livelihood, with the big caveat that numbers should be kept at a responsible level not the 'cattle is my life and the bigger the better' type of philosophy. This wouldn't be sustainable in my view.

 

Combined with that, I would love to see the herders taking more responsibility for protecting their livestock and also taking on responsibility for the welfare of predators.

 

Tall ask, but that's how I feel. So I wouldn't say that National Parks should open their borders to all and sundry to come graze. It would need to be much better regulated. But the sorts of things where people are totally disenfranchised to enable wilderness areas to stay 'pristine' (a totally overused word) is something which I don't support.

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Fires kill a lot of small critters don't they?

 

What is the situation when the masses of plains game concentrate during the great migration?

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Interesting how this topic has developed a fire angle. As ACB says, there's no real fire experts in the region and, in this case, imported ones won't do: southern Africa has a different climate to east Africa with a single rainy season and many of the savannas are on the drier and less nutrient rich end of the scale too. Here, at least in the north of TZ and across Kenya, we have to rainy seasons and often high growth rates on fertile and wet soils with, therefore, potential for two different burning seasons. A completely different situation to the south. So, with no local experts a range of different things happen - KWS has now stated that it won't set management fires and will put out any fires not thought to be from lightening; TANAPA seems to run a 'burn-if-you-can' system, which mean 60-70% of Serengeti burns every year, some areas twice; most pastoralists do late-season burns in anticipation of the rains. What's the impact? Who knows! Which is why I'm setting up a huge fire experiment around the Serengeti Ecosystem and trying to get together an international team of experts to monitor impacts and train up a bunch of TZ students. Watch this space for news on how you can be involved and help solve some of these mysteries...

 

For now, it's worth noting that we do know fire and grazing are not equivalent - you need both to maintain healthy savannas.

 

For the cattle point of view, as I've said in other threads before I'm also very much in favour of using cattle constructively to maintain habitat, particularly in areas where wildlife numbers have been much reduced through poaching. It's interesting to check some of the numbers, btw - Ngorongoro, for example, now has fewer cattle than 20 years ago, for example. But I think they have a greater impact now, because they're less nomadic. And herein lies one of the biggest problems for me - seasonal heavy grazing (like that produced by the migration) has a very different impact to persisent low-level grazing and can sustain higher animal populations. As nomadic lifestyles become more sedentary or simply more restricted in their movements, the grazing impacts change, even if the numbers of animals falls (in the NCA, for example, the reason for the higher impact now despite smaller numbers is, I think, because Maasai with permission to graze inside NCA don't want to take their cattle outside, fearing that they won't be allowed back in again a year or two later).

 

Given that cattle populations have increased in many areas (though not as many as you might think - TZ is one of the biggest increases, at 46% growth since 1960ish) and are at the same time less free to roam than before, there's no doubt in my mind that in some places there's a huge problem, and the cattle/goats simply eat all the food leaving nothing for wildlife. This is mostly a local issue, but it can be very serious both for the pastoralists and for the wildlife populations. With proper regulation of numbers and a sensible rotation wildlife and cattle can co-exist happily. The idea that these wildlife areas were empty before creation of the parks is a complete myth based on colonial observations of very low population densities that ignored two important facts: (1) nomadic lifestyles really did use these areas, even if they weren't there all the time, (2) they were viewing a population that had been decimated by the great rinderpest outbreak at the end of the 19th century - it probably wiped out something like 90% of Africa's cattle, resulting in a massive famine among the pastoralist communities. Archaeological evidence, plus the traditional names of places, tends to support the idea of continuous occupation by changing populations [e.g. Maasai have only been in E. Af. about 250 years] over a much longer time-scale indeed - "wild africa" is a colonial myth.

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From our perspective at our camp in Mara Naboisho Conservancy, we're generally happy to have the cows around when the grass gets too long. Throughout November and December 2011, it rained heavily and there was unprecedented grass growth, meaning many of the ungulates (and the predators) made their way away from the core area of the conservancy, making finding game much more challenging. The conservancy management has now been allowing Naboisho landowers' cows to graze inside the conservancy. Each day, they are given an area where they are allowed to graze, and all must stick together. They are policed by the conservancy rangers, and make their way out at the end of the day, meaning that there are minimal issues with cattle inside the conservancy at night time.

Within a few days of this happening, we saw a marked increase in the amount of game in the areas which had already been grazed by the cattle.

 

We're happy to have the cows opening up the land for other ungulates, but we are also very aware that it must be heavily controlled and zoned. The only cows allowed in the conservancy are those that belong to one of the +500 individual landowners who's land makes up the conservancy. From what we understand, each landowner is only allowed to have a certain number of cows in the conservancy in one day, in order to allow for other landowners as well. Our camp has stipulated that we would rather not have cattle in very close proximity to the camp. This is mainly for security purposes.

 

However, we also have an explanation ready when guests ask about the cows on the conservancy or hear the bells during the day outside of camp. We're happy to explain that the cattle are being put to good use as an ecological management tool, and that the landowners are also benefiting, being allowed to fatten their cows up in times of plenty in order to ease the pressure outside the conservancy, so that lean times outside will be less harsh. 99% of our guests seem to like the idea once its been explained well.

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Encounter Mara, I think tourists will often be happy once they have a situation explained to them which makes sense. It sounds like a thoughtful situation you have implemented.

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Yes, do feel free to upload some photos if you have some of the cattle in the conservancy.

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I'd much rather see cattle and hear their bells than those 100 Mini Vans zipping around ............ Thanks to all the information posted on this thread - very educative!!!

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So, if it wasn't for the cows, the only thing you would see is the grass? Kinda sells it for me!

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Great discussion, and I think there's no one answer. My strongest view is that successful wildlife conservation has to be about respect for the community as much as respect for the environment. Cattle – and particularly goats – are a very serious problem in many areas in Kenya because there are just too many of them for the land to support in some areas. So I'm all for conservancies that pay rent to landowners to be allowed exclusive (no herds) tourist use, but I'm also for mixed-use districts like Il Ngwesi, north of Lewa, where cattle and camels mix with lots of elephants and other plains game and the community also earns from tourists. And I have to say Naboisho, north of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, is an outstanding example of that.

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Posted (edited)

Indeed this is a hugely complicated issue. Generically speaking, in various conservation issues, I have tended to side with the pastoralists over "fortress conservation" views. For instance, I am a big fan of Northern Rangelands Trust and the Mara Conservancy. However, my general support for pastoralists in these issues pertain to issues in the rangelands (outside the protected areas). Within protected areas such as national parks, I believe rules must be enforced... otherwise, everything becomes a farce. So, we must make sure that the pastoralists who live on the periphery of these protected areas have a voice, participate in the tourism revenues, practice sound grazing policies and have access to things like education and healthcare. On the other hand, rules are rules. They should not be able to graze their livestock in national parks at will (perhaps only in extreme emergency situations according to rules set by the authorities and the pastoralists). The larger question is... are there property rights and rules in Kenya and Tanzania or not? Yes, it is complicated. And I understand that there is neither political will nor the enforcement body equipped to handle these issues.

 

On the point of cattle being perhaps "beneficial" to wildlife. I believe this is a very simplified view. Although cattle keeping by man dates back thousands of years, pastoralists and their livestock moved into Kenya (from the north) only 400 - 500 years ago and into Tanzania merely 200-250 years ago. So, in the grand scheme of things, the cattle is a new and foreign agent in the East African savannah. I don't think we can make snap judgments on such a new phenomenon. What we do know so far is that, yes, certain herbivores who prefer certain shorter grasses (wildebeests, zebras and gazelles, for instance) appear to do very well by having cattle around. Since these species are conspicuous and can attain large herd sizes, it is easy to conclude that cows are "good for wildlife". But what about other species? Certainly, hartebeests, buffalos, roan, reedbucks, etc. don't do well by fire or livestock, and they have indeed continued to decline in most pastoralist areas. We also know that cattle were responsible for bringing rinderpest, which wiped out a lot of wildlife time and again in East Africa.

 

Let's just say this... pastoralism is preferred to agriculture or industry when it comes to protected area buffer zones. It is a lifestyle that is compatible with the keeping of wilderness. It is the best available alternative for keeping wilderness intact. In East Africa, pastoralists are the best allies we have for wilderness, and their cattle are not incompatible with wildlife. To make claims above and beyond that... like "cows are actually beneficial to wildlife"... I am not there with you yet. You can check back with me on that issue in about 3,000 years...

Edited by Safaridude

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Safaridude, you make great points which help to clarify my thinking. Thanks.

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Cows are not native, and manage to do significant environmental damage throughout the world-mostly because of poor management by their human keepers.

 

They taste good though!

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Posted (edited)

Good points Safaridude (and Pangolin).

 

My take on this (simplistic as it may be) is that if pastoralists are allowed to graze their livestock in National Parks, Reserves, Wildlife Conservancies etc, it should be implicit that they do so at their own risk and accept that their livestock may be part of the foodchain without recourse to compensation.

Edited by ZaminOz

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- Yet, who am I to judge this as an outsider?

 

Thats what kept me from making a comment.

 

I have a very limited knowledge on the subject and how things work in East Africa.

 

Maybe you could give us some facts -

Are cattle numbers on the increase? if so by how much?

Is it true that Cattle are still a status symbol - rather than a source of income?

Are the numbers of people on the increase in those areas? - if so by how much?

Did cattle stay out of Protected areas (national parks) or are they only moving into the national parks recently?

Has there been an increase of conflict with wildlife (predators) as a result?

Is there any information to show decline in wildlife? or decline in tourism as a result?

 

What are the reasons for the problem....

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Good point Safaridude.

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Posted (edited)

On the point of cattle being perhaps "beneficial" to wildlife. I believe this is a very simplified view. Although cattle keeping by man dates back thousands of years, pastoralists and their livestock moved into Kenya (from the north) only 400 - 500 years ago and into Tanzania merely 200-250 years ago. So, in the grand scheme of things, the cattle is a new and foreign agent in the East African savannah. I don't think we can make snap judgments on such a new phenomenon. What we do know so far is that, yes, certain herbivores who prefer certain shorter grasses (wildebeests, zebras and gazelles, for instance) appear to do very well by having cattle around. Since these species are conspicuous and can attain large herd sizes, it is easy to conclude that cows are "good for wildlife". But what about other species? Certainly, hartebeests, buffalos, roan, reedbucks, etc. don't do well by fire or livestock, and they have indeed continued to decline in most pastoralist areas. We also know that cattle were responsible for bringing rinderpest, which wiped out a lot of wildlife time and again in East Africa.

Ok, I'm going to try and be a polite pedant again. Yes, it's true that pastoralists of Nilotic origin have only been recent settlers in East Africa. But they didn't arrive in places empty of cattle, they came with spears... The best discussion of the history and origins of cattle in Africa is available (happily free of charge) here. It's pretty technical, so to grab a few key points: "The North African subspecies of wild cattle or aurochs Bos primigenius may have undergone an indigenous African domestication around 10,000 years ago, possibly in the northeast of the continent". If that didn't happen, they moved in domestic stock from the middle east around the same time and rapidly spread across the continent. There have been subsequent major introduction events, particularly of the 'Zebu' type cattle, domesticated first in India.

 

So, note (1) There was a north African native cow/buffalo type, (2) Cattle have already been widespread across the continent for many 1000s of years. and (3) There's remarkably little difference, ecologically and evolutionarily, between cattle and cape buffalo. You might also be aware that there were a range of other Bos species in Africa not that long ago.

 

Next, I can assure you I'm not certain that hartebeests, buffalos, roan, reedbucks, etc. don't do well by fire or livestock. They decline in some area as a consequence of poaching - as resident species they suffer from the impacts of bycatch (or in the case of buffalo as direct targets that are easy to herd across a line of snares) much more seriously than nomadic and migrant species. But they've survived in good numbers for thousands of years alongside cattle.

 

As for rinderpest - well, happily it's now been erradicated globally, and I'd suggest it was the Italians (deliberately or not) who were ultimately responsible for bringing it to Africa, though it clearly came in the cattle. (Check here for my blog on rinderpest history.)

 

Maybe you could give us some facts -

Are cattle numbers on the increase? if so by how much?

Is it true that Cattle are still a status symbol - rather than a source of income?

Are the numbers of people on the increase in those areas? - if so by how much?

Did cattle stay out of Protected areas (national parks) or are they only moving into the national parks recently?

Has there been an increase of conflict with wildlife (predators) as a result?

Is there any information to show decline in wildlife? or decline in tourism as a result?

 

(1) Yes, locally in some areas. But not as much as people thing. And declining in other areas too. FAO is the place to source the facts here.

(2) Yes, certainly, to a degree, and in some tribes. As you know, there's no one Africa, and there's a huge diversity of cultures and views out there. Among the Maasai in East Africa it's generally true that the majority of people I talk to will want more cattle, not fewer of better quality. There are significant exceptions, some of whom have influence. But there's also a tragedy of the commons here (pastoral land is all owned by the government at some level and any citizen has a right to move around the country into any place they want - except where land-use plans prohibit settlement) - if you want to reduce stocking levels to focus on high-quality cattle, everyone else needs to as well.

(3) Tanzania's population is growing at 3% per year, but mostly in cities. Rural growth is still positive.

(4) Protected areas were pretty much all formed by (often forceable) eviction of pastoralist communities. Aided by the reduced populations thanks to the influences of rinderpest. Cattle are forbidden from TZ National Parks except in exceptional circumstances - say, after two years of drought. But that doesn't mean pastoralists haven't been grazing illegally throughout.

(5) The real risks are when cattle are not kept safe at night. A lot of wildlife conflight is not pastoralist at all, but those with crops planted in traditional rangelands [which, I should say is also being carried out by traditional pastoralist tribes now too, partly for food for the larger population, and partly as a form of land-claim]. Most of TZ 250 recent human deaths from lion predation are in agricultural areas where wild food has become scarce and lions follow, e.g. bushpigs into crops at night and find people trying to keep the pigs out. Elephant conflict too is growing mainly because of the increase in agricultural lands around protected areas that elephants rather like. There's certainly an increase in conflice caused by an increase in population.

(6) There's massive evidence of population declines in wildlife in East Africa, mainly (but not only) outside protected areas. The main causes are a combination of habitat loss and bushmeat poaching.

 

To my mind there is absolutely no doubt that grazing and fire are both essential to maintain savanna ecosystems, and if we've poached the grazers, cattle certainly have a role to play in helping maintain habitat. [i've got loads of stuff of the savanna 'big four' ecological processes - fire, grazing, nutrients and water - on my blog if you want all the links to the primary literature. Perhaps start at Savanna Ecology and work from there if you've got an inclination...]

 

EDIT: Inserted missing link...

Edited by TZBirder

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As for rinderpest - well, happily it's now been erradicated globally, and I'd suggest it was the Italians (deliberately or not) who were ultimately responsible for bringing it to Africa, though it clearly came in the cattle.

 

 

 

Could you please expand a bit on the Italians spreading out rinderpest? (the link to your blog entry does not work for me).

 

Since I am planning to bring to the Mara a fair number of buckets full of Katavi tsetses, soon you might have another Italian to blame.... :lol:

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That was a kind way of noting that I'd not put the link in at all... Ooops! It's there now. The blame goes to the first Abyssinian campaign of the Italian army in 1887 who managed to import some infected cattle from India. There's some debate about whether this is an early (but far from the earliest) example of attempted biological warfare, or just a lack of quarantine on the cattle being imported to feed the troops. If it was an act of warfare it was an incredibly successful one, but I think an accidental introduction is probably as/more likely. Deliberate introduction of bucketloads of tsetse, on the other hand... (Don't worry, there are some there anyway...)

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Could you please expand a bit on the Italians spreading out rinderpest? (the link to your blog entry does not work for me).

 

Since I am planning to bring to the Mara a fair number of buckets full of Katavi tsetses, soon you might have another Italian to blame.... :lol:

 

Not that I'm in favour of moving wildlife (in this case tsetses) from one place to another, but I think you'll find the Mara has its own tsetse (as one Belgian traveller recently found out). So I wouldn't worry too much.

 

I've never read anything (or experienced anything) that suggests that Hartebeest and buffalo don't do well with cattle. Obviously, if the cattle are allowed to over-graze the area, any ungulate population will suffer.

 

Perhaps I didn't make my original post clear. When talking about cattle in designated wildlife areas, I am referring to controlled, zoned grazing, not a free pass for all and sundry to bulldoze the savannah with their masses.

 

If controlled, zoned grazing seems to be working in the NRT conservancies, Lewa, Ol Pej, and the Mara conservancies, why can't it work in National Reserves or National Parks?

Lets take Nairobi National Park as an example. Its a TINY park (115Km sq) and about to get tinier with the new southern bypass. To the south of the Park are the Athi-Kapiti plains, much of which is fenced off by large ranches. The type and quality of the fences means that they're really not much of a barrier for most wildlife, allowing them to move with a certain amount of freedom (though still quite limited). Maasai cattle, on the other hand, cannot move freely across these boundaries. Not only are they less agile, they are also less welcome by the big landowners. So the cattle is much more concentrated in certain areas, causing major over-grazing.

If one was to visit NNP in the middle of the rainy season, not much game would be encountered. Generally, the rains entice the wildlife outside the park to areas where the grass is short. Only when those areas become overgrazed by the cattle again, will the wildlife come trickling back into the over-grown park.

KWS sometimes burns sections of NNP. I generally don't have too much of a problem with this, as long as they know what they're doing. Burnt areas are usually GREAT for seeing small and medium raptors. But I got to thinking... what if they just allowed some of the cattle into the park during the rainy season. It would obviously have to be very strictly controlled. Controlled numbers, controlled zones.

This would create a great sense of goodwill with the marginalised maasai living outside the park as well as get rid of old, dry rank grasses, making room for new shoots with the rain. It would also ease the pressure on the land OUTSIDE the park, meaning that the herders would be less likely to come in illegally when they've overgrazed their own land.

The KWS also needs to invest more in local communities in general. One of the easiest ways to help the local maasai outside NNP is to help them construct predator-proof bomas.

This concept is working well in Laikipia and in the Mara. Going 50-50 with landowners to construct the predator-proof boma provides incentive for better animal husbandry for the maasai. If they're told that they'll get no compensation for cattle killed in a non predator proof boma, they're much more likely to construct one and keep their cows IN IT at night. But if they KWS just goes and pays out a few million shillings every few months in compensation, there's no incentive for anyone to change their ways. And KWS ends up spending excessive amounts of money on something so unsustainable, rather than spending it where it counts.

 

Thoughts?

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I honestly believe that the pre-independence "protectionist" policy that KWS still uses is archaic and short-sighted. I don't think you can separate traditional local range-land pastoral communities from wildlife policy and expect to succeed.

I believe that it is only because of the pastoralists (not despite them) that Kenya still has such strong wildlife numbers both inside and outside the national parks and reserves.

Its a complicated issue now, as the pastoralists are being squashed into an ever-decreasing area of useable land. this means that the land that they use becomes overgrazed much faster, as they cannot move around to new pastures as they once did. So yes, I understand this.

 

However, I still believe cattle can be used to great effect as a grassland management tool, often in place of fire. Fire has its pros and cons, but in the hands of the wrong people, it can be very destructive. In Kenya's case, (as we're seeing right now with the Mt. Kenya fires), there really aren't any wildfire experts in this country, meaning that controlled burning as a management tool is risky business.

But why should we need to burn when we have cattle?

The maasai, Samburu, Pokot, Somali, and Rendille people have been grazing their cattle on the rangelands of east africa for centuries. they keep the grass short and encourage new growth. When they set up temporary bomas, the cattle produce large amounts of dung that fertilize the ground, producing wonderful, rich new growth.

The short grass attracts almost all wild grassland ungulates, as most of them cannot eat the very long, woody old-growth grasses.

So although, many wild animals do not particularly like being in close proximity to humans and cattle, once the cattle have moved on, the wildlife moves in very quickly.

This is illustrated very well in Mara North Conservancy, where constant short grass from years of cattle grazing (before the conservancy was set up) provided good grazing for thousands of zebra and gazelles, long after the main migration herds had moved south. When the National reserve is void of game because of the long grass, the areas outside, where the grass is short, are FULL of game.

 

Whenever people see cattle in masai mara, they get all up in arms, posting on facebook and twitter about the terrible situation they're experiencing and how disappointed they are. The connection that most of them are NOT making is that most of the game they have seen is in the areas of short grass where cattle has already grazed, and that when you get into the heart of the reserve, where there has been no cattle, and the grass is chest-high, the only wildlife you see is a few hundred bobbing widowbirds.

 

I don't believe fences are the right way to go in reducing human-wildlife conflict in most cases (certain cases like Aberdares, Mt. Kenya and Nakuru are exceptions). I think human wildlife conflict needs to be mitigated by ensuring that the people most affected by the wildlife actually see some value in it; So that the elephant who comes knocking down a bunch of maize is not a death sentence to a family, or a lion that kills a cow is not the end of the world to the herder.

 

Just my five cent worth Armchair Bushman,

 

the pastoralists, their Manyattas and their livestock belong to the great plains of East Africa. I have been to the Mara for the first time in 1998 and was delighted to see the fearless Masai along with their cattle. I was the last time in the Mara in 2006 and got finally sort of uneasy about the dynamics having unfolded over the years.

 

So what was the difference between 1998 and 2006, just 8 years apart. One has to realize, that the population of the Masai in the Greater Mara has increased significantly. One has to realize, that many of the once semi nomadic herders have settled down in many places, have even started crop farming. The once existing balance and peaceful co-existence between the pastoralists and the wildlife is history to a large degree. Much more humans and human settlements go hand in hand with the dramatic decrease of wildlife in the Greater Mara area. That in a nutshell is the bigger picture.

 

Nobody can deny, and I believe nobody will deny, that the pastoralists have always played a significant role in keeping wild habitat and wildlife populations viable over centuries. If the Masai and other pastoral tribes would be bush meat lover or crop farmers there would hardly be much left of wildlife in many places of East Africa. That cattle grazing is benefitting pastures for wildlife under certain circumstances is also known, but under different circumstance it can be just be the other way round. There is competiton for water sources and food between livestock and wildlife.

 

If those dynamics continue, growing local popualtions along with growing numbers of livestock, it will continue to have serious negative impact on wildlife populations and as a result it will start to have negative impact on the tourism industry in Kenya, one of the most important business for this country with hight impact on GDP.

 

What makes people nuts when seeing cattle grazing in so called protected areas (and therefore scream & shout on e.g. Facebook) is simply the fact, that pastoralists kill predators! Whenever people see herders along with livestock the alarm bells start ringing. What if a predator cannot resist but take down a cow? What if one of the lions they have seen during their last trip to the Mara gets killed by the Masai? The Masai kill predators! Without any question the most iconic animals out there on the plains. Without any doubts predators are key species to keep wildlife populations healthy and viable. Not only spear the Masai lions, they have started some years back already to poison lions and indicriminately kill all sorts of other animals. The latter is one of the key facts why many people are losing respect for the Masa and other pastoralists. Predator populations are suffering from human-wildlife conflict and the pastoralists are playing a key role here.

 

The Masai have always protected their livelihood, have always killed lions and other predators if those have attacked and killed livestock (and I do not want to step into the area of traditional lion killings of young Masai warriors as we are talking about cattle grazing here). But with the increasing human population this has become without any doubt a real threat for predator populations (keeping in mind that Kenya is said to lose app. 100 lions per year netto, with lions may go extinct in less than 20 years). Nobody should blame the Masai for protecting their livelihood, nobody should blame the Masai for growing in numbers. If wildlife and esp. the predators don't have any value but only cause damage, then conflicts will further accelerate.

 

Now the key question is coming up. What if the pastoralists get compensation for livestock losses, what if the local communities start benefitting from wildlife tourism. One would assume, that in this case the Masai in the Greater Mara will ultimately stop killing predators. Sadly this is not the case, or lets better say this is not always the case. In fact many lions and other predators are still getting killed, speared or poisoned. In the highly rated Mara North Conservancy the lion population went down significantly between 2008 and 2010, as reported by the Mara Predator Project, with many lions being killed by the Masai. How can it be that lions are still being killed inside the Masai Mara Reserve, a cash cow for the Masai landowners.

 

Based on what I know it seems that many of the Masai families, benefitting from tourism and getting compensated for livestock losses to predators, still do "business as usual". Meaning if a predator takes a cow it will be killed. And that just doesn't work from my point of view. Somebody recently told me that many Masai families buy add. livestock with the money they get from concession fees. If true this would mean that tourism is promoting the increase of livestock populations and therefore potentially promote human-wildlife conflict. And it should be just the other way round.

 

So my personal conclusions on this topic, assuming that the overall objective of the Kenya citizens is to protect their wildlife and to sustain an important economy (and not just us mighty tourists and conservationists, armchair & on the ground):

 

Traditional pastoralism does not longer benefit or even sustain viable wildlife populations in most areas of East Africa, given the human populations growth. There is obviously a need for change towards alternative and more effective/efficient ways of livestock "farming". And there is obviously a need for alternative livelihoods for the growing pastoralist populations.

 

Local communities should benefit from wildlife tourism and should be compensated for livestock losses. Wild animals should become as valuable for pastoralists as livestock is, resulting in a decrease of livestock numbers (which would mean to invest money into education & alternative livelihoods) for the benefit of viable wildlife populations and predator populations in particular. I think that the Conservancies are a great example how to move forward, hence even in some of the Conservancies conflicts are still rampant as the MNC example is showing.

 

Herders have to tolerate losses to predators if they are benefitting from wildlife tourism. Herders shouldn't be allowed to graze cattle during the night (promoting livestock predation) or in wildlife dedicated areas. If they let there cattle graze there anyway (which may become necessary during periods of drought to get access to fresh water sources), they have to tolerate losses even if they are not yet benefitting from tourism.

 

I somehow feel, that the existing rules, regulations and processes of tourist revenue distribution towards local communities are often neither transparent nor in line with fair play. But this is certainly something the share- and stakeholders have to figure out themselves. To that end my hopes are that the new Wildlife Bill in Kenya is going to set the right framework of rules & regulations-

 

Net net, I have personally not problem with seeing cattle grazing along with the Masai people, right the opposite in principle. I can hardly imagine the great plains of East Africa without the herders and warriors, but I can also not imagine the great plains without the big herds of wild animals and the iconic predators. As long as I would know these herders are not longer going to kill predators, but see them as part of their culture and part of their livelihood (fact or future), I am a happy tourist.

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