Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"The illegal camps that threaten to destroy Kenya's Masai Mara"


The riverine forest on the banks of the Olkeju Ronkai, close to where it meets the waters of its sister river the Mara, has long been a sanctuary for critically endangered black rhinos. Two-thirds of Kenya's remaining population of these shy leviathans were until recently living among the fever trees in what was the largest intact forest of its kind in the Masai Mara wildlife reserve.

Today, the rhino sanctuary has been transformed into a building site, the tranquillity has been shattered and trucks deliver concrete into what is becoming one of the largest lodges in the Mara.

An alliance of conservationists, park wardens and eco-tourism experts are fighting stop the construction of the Olkeju Ronkai lodge which has already displaced the rhinos from their natural habitat. The development is being financed by a British family, the Sofats who trade in the UK as Somak Holidays, registered in Harrow, Middlesex.

An unpublished Kenyan government audit, seen by The Independent, reveals that the Greater Mara ecosystem is now weighed down by 108 camps and lodges, with more than 4,000 beds. Most of these units are flouting the law, failing to compensate local communities and not paying tax, the confidential report concludes. Nearly eight out of 10 of the camps surveyed have not carried out the required Environmental Impact Assessment while only 29 per cent of the camps are operating legally.


Get informed:

Flashback to a post we did on the Mara's sister, the Talek River, in July 2009. The Talek River joins the Mara within the Masai Mara National Reserve.

There are over 50 E. coli colonies growing in 1 milliliter sample of water from the river. The river smelled of raw sewage...The water levels are some of the lowest that we have seen. So where is all this fecal contamination coming from? It is difficult to say...but with the higher numbers of tourists staying in the lodges along the Talek River and the well known fact that many of the lodges do not treat their wastes...well...I'll let the facts speak for themselves.
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