Balala wants Governor Tunai to remove Mara camp that blocked wildebeest

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has urged Narok Governor Samuel Tunai to take action against Mara camp that blocked wildebeest

What you need to know:

  • The water pressure was strong, causing a stampede and an unknown number of animals are said to have died as a result.
  • The wildebeest river crossing in Maasai Mara is a natural phenomenon and can happen on any part of the river but there are some illegal resorts built along the river banks that stand their way.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has urged Narok Governor Samuel Tunai to take action against a tented camp built on the banks of the Mara River after a viral video shot by tourists showed the staff of the camp chasing away wildebeest during crossing.

In the disturbing video, the camp workers are seen flogging wildebeest, forcing them back into the river.

The water pressure, which was strong, caused a stampede and an unknown number of animals are said to have died as a result.

Mr Balala revealed the order in a post on social media: “It is very disturbing and we expect Narok Governor Samuel Tunai to take action and have the camp removed.”

He added: “I have discussed with the Narok county boss about the camp built alongside the Mara River blocking the wildebeest migration. I have also insisted that we need a Maasai Mara National Reserve Management plan that will not only enhance biodiversity but also protect our wildlife migration corridors from greed.”

The wildebeest crossing in Maasai Mara is a natural phenomenon and can happen on any part of the river but there are some illegal resorts built along the river banks that stand in their way.

The wildebeest after entering the Mara, head northwards towards River Talek, where they graze and mate every year on their journey of chasing greener pastures.

From July to October, the wildebeests move between the western and eastern sides of the river, crossing it at different points, almost daily, to the Mara triangle side of the reserve, and back to the greater Mara.

Wildebeest on the plains of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Staff of a tented camp were caught on camera flogging them and forcing them back into the Mara River.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Mr Balala's concerns come a month after he warned illegal tourist resorts in the reserve that they would be shut.

He told the Narok County government to remove illegal lodges.

Governor Tunai informed the CS that an audit of tented camps and lodges operating illegally had been conducted and that the report would be sent to the ministry.

Among the establishments that will be demolished are camps developed without impact assessments and permits from the county and the Tourism ministry, and those built in wildlife breeding areas.

During his tour of the game reserve when he launched the lion and hyena recovery programme last month, Mr Balala told the Narok government to finish drafting the Maasai Mara Management Plan and forward it to the national government for gazettement, before August 31.

The plan, which is aimed at controlling the flow of tourists and investments into the world-famous reserve in a bid to protect its ecosystem, is yet to be gazzetted.

“The plan has been discussed for about 15 years and should now be implemented to bring order into the park,” said Mr Balala.

The plan will see the government shut down some tourist facilities and issue permits to lodge developers in a more controlled manner.

The CS observed that the plan is expected to preserve the Mara and reverse the damage caused by high human traffic and commercial interests in the reserve.