In September 2017 our chairman James Welch visited the Maasai Mara Ecosystem as part of a volunteering trip. This section of the website written first hand hopes to give everything an understanding of the trip.
The idea of this visit was to get a better understanding of the problems lions face in the wild and to see the threats first hand. As well as seeing the fragile habitat this also gave a brilliant opportunity to see lions in the wild and to get to see wild lion behaviour first hand. This section of the website aims to give you all an idea of where we were based in the Naboisho Conservancy. The Conservancy is part of the Maasai Mara ecosystem and is right next door to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The map below shows the Naboisho Conservancy sat right in between the Reserve and the community land.
The Maasai Mara ecosystem is situated in the bottom left of the country and borders onto the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is a 6 hour drive from the capital city Nairobi.
Naboisho Conservancy is situated to the North of the Reserve nestled in amongst a cluster of other conservancies.
The following information is from the Naboisho website which can be found here. I believe that the best way to explain the Conservancies is through their own words.
"The Mara Naboisho Conservancy – a 50,000 acre community pastoralist and wildlife conservation area – is located in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. The conservancy, which falls within the Greater Mara Region and was carved out of the Koyaki-Lemek Group Ranch, borders the world famous Masai Mara National Reserve to the south west, the Olare Orok Conservancy to the west, and the Ol Kinyei Conservancy to the east.
Naboisho, which means “coming together” in the Maasai’s Maa language, is a community response to the challenges of the privatization of group ranches in the Greater Mara Region. Strain was put on the soil, endemic vegetation, and the wildlife as a result of intensive herding and various tourism activities such as camping and off-road vehicle activity. The conservancy provides the opportunity to conserve the land and wildlife, whilst simultaneously creating wealth for the landowners.
There are approximately 500 local Maasai landowners in Naboisho. Inspired by their neighbours in the Olare Orok Conservancy, these landowners asked the Basecamp Foundation Kenya to facilitate the formation of the conservancy as a community wildlife area. In 2008, a forum – which brought together community leaders, upcoming community champions, dedicated resource managers, seasoned conservationists, experienced socio-ecologists and tourism investors – was convened to chart out a broader framework for the development of Naboisho. It was agreed that the conservancy model should combine conservation of nature and cultural heritage, tourism, and the enhancement of livelihoods for the local communities. On the 28th of March 2010, the landowners formerly signed a 15-year lease to create the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is now the second largest conservancy in the region. Once the conservancy was established, a plan was put in place to ensure that the environment was given a chance to recover, that wildlife was protected, and that the landowners benefitted, both financially and from a social development perspective."
Together the Conservancies offer a space outside the National Reserve where the animals can be safe and protected and where grazing is only carried out on a limited basis allowing the environment to settle.
The Conservancy model has been replicated many times and has seen to be a huge success both for the wildlife and for the communities. The Conservancy itself being privately owned can only be visited by those who are staying in one of the camps, this makes it quieter and less crowded than the Government owned National Reserve.
The Conservancies are in what is known as the 'Dispersal Area' this is where the herds from Tanzania will go during the migration before heading back to their home country. There are however plenty of animals that stay in these areas all year round, lions are one of these.
Staying in Naboisho allowed me to see first hand the challenges of keeping the wildlife and the people happy together. There are always going to be issues to face to ensure that the wildlife and the people benefit equally.
From setting up the Conservancy the local people rented their land and gave it over for the wildlife. From this they receive rent from the tourism operators. The wildlife benefit from this because of the protection offered to them whilst in these conservancies but the people benefit when the wildlife are there. The more wildlife in the Conservancy the more tourists will want to come and see them, but in particular the larger wildlife - The elephants, the leopards, the cheetahs and most importantly, the lions.