Sunday, April 26, 2009

Masai Mara Wildlife Populations


A report on the BBC website (here) shows once more how wildlife populations in Africa continue to decline in the face of human population expansions. With annual increases in the human populations continuing to be over 3%, and in some cases even over 4% this is not a big surprise. When you put those numbers on to a spread sheet you soon learn that the number of people will double roughly every twenty years. The increase in human settlement has a direct effect jupon the wild animals
Of course these people need a place to live and so the number of dwellings increases, and also the number of cattle, as cattle are the main currency for the tribes in the area and even more, for the Maasai, they are the reasons to live.

Here a herd of wildebeest in the foreground is living almost cheek by jowl with cattle that are linked to the Maasia manyatta in the middle of the picture.

Hunting, although illegal inside the reserve, is another factor. It is conducted for food and profit as the bushmeat trade lends significant income for some families.

A study telling the story and conducted by a team from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has recently been published in the May 2009 issue of the British Journal of Zoology.
"The situation we documented paints a bleak picture and requires urgent and decisive action if we want to save this treasure from disaster,"
said Joseph Ogutu, the lead author of the study and a statistical ecologist at ILRI.

“Numbers of giraffe, warthog, impala, topi and hartebeest fell by 50% or more between 1979 and 2002.”

"The numbers of lions are going down. The cheetah numbers are declining. The wild dogs in the Mara system have become extinct."

By 2002, numbers of giraffe in the reserve had fallen to 20% of their 1979 levels, the bulk of those losses occurring before 1989. Topi and hartebeest in the reserve fell to less than half their 1979 levels, and almost disappeared in some of the neighbouring ranchlands where they once grazed. Impala fell by 70% in the Mara itself, while warthog fell by more than 80%, although their numbers appeared steady since 1989.

Is there any chance that human population increases will flatten out? Not much, when all the elements are factored in. The Pope has again condemned the use of condoms, and for many people large families are simply a fact of life. The doubling effect is relentless and the pressures on the ecosystem will continue.

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