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1st June 2011
The Masai Mara reserve in Kenya has seen the wildlife population decline dramatically by 70% over the past three decades, according to a new report
Published in the Journal of Zoology, the research was compiled using data gathered since 1977 when aerial monitoring of Kenya's wildlife first began.
By tracking trends in wildlife numbers over the past three decades, the team found that numbers of impala, warthog, giraffe, topi and Coke's hartebeest had dropped by 70%.
However, the Masai Mara has seen a shocking 1,100% increase in the amount of cattle grazing in the reserve, although it is illegal for them to do so. The scientists who conducted the report believe this surge in domestic livestock has been held largely accountable for the drop in wildlife population.
The research was led by Dr Joseph Ogutu, a senior statistician in the bioinformatics unit of the University of Hohenheim, Germany. He worked alongside a team both in Germany and at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya.
Dr Ogutu told the BBC that the team were surprised by the findings, as they expected wildlife numbers to have grown since 2000-2001.
"The Mara has lost more than two thirds of its wildlife," Dr Ogutu said. "But, to our great surprise, the extreme wildlife declines have continued unabated in the Mara."
The great wildebeest migration, which sees mammals travel over 1,800 miles from the Serengeti through the Mara region, has also suffered greatly in recent years. According to the team, the total number of migrating animals is now 64% less than it was in the early 1980s.
Three main causes have been attributed to the drop in wildlife numbers: illegal poaching, larger numbers and ranges of domestic livestock, and changing land use patterns on the ranches.
In order to tackle the problem and avoid a continuing trend in decreasing wildlife numbers, the team behind the research say that poaching levels need to be reduced, as well as regulating the expansion of settlements, fences and livestock numbers.
For more stories visit our news pages
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Kenya travel guide | Destinations... More
Wildlife adventure a natural high | Blogs... More
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I'm not sure if it's as bad as the BBC report claims. I wouldn't want to be complacent about falling numbers, but the research data doesn't seem to bear out the dramatic "crash'" story, but shows more of a slow decline. Numbers appear to be stable or rising in the many community and private conservancies that have emerged in the surrounding districts and I think the infrequency of surveys in recent years isn't giving us a very clear picture. I've blogged about the report at my Rough Guide to Kenya blog. Comments from visitors and wildlife people would be very welcome. We need to keep an eagle-eye on the Mara, not abandon it. Richard TrilloAuthor: The Rough Guide to Kenya
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