MAASAI MARA, August 29, 2008 (AFP) – Investors and conservationists have dreamt up an innovative business plan to save Kenya’s iconic Maasai Mara, a wildlife haven threatened by over-grazing, farming and mass tourism.
Around August each year, swarms of wildebeests come stampeding from neighbouring Tanzania’s Serengeti plains to find pasture in the Maasai Mara, in a great migration recently dubbed the world’s eighth wonder.
“Twelve years ago, there were 1.2 million wildebeests, last year we had only 300,000. If nothing is done, it could put pay to the migration forever,” said Ron Beaton, a leading Kenyan conservationist.
Having lived in the Maasai Mara for the past 34 years, farming wheat before launching a luxury lodge, Ron Beaton knows better than most the dangers looming over the crown jewel of Kenya’s tourism industry.
“We could be looking at a repetition of the bison and buffalo disappearance in North America,” he warns.
Beaton was one of the masterminds of an idea that germinated two years ago and is aimed at making conservation a viable alternative for the Maasais,