Pioneering conservancies struggle to save Kenya’s wildlife jewel

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.
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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.
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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.
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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,

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