Saturday, December 11, 2010

'Nairobi NGO seeks to block new Serengeti road'

As the first civil legal challenge to the putative Serengeti road, it will be interesting to track how this case moves forward. Additionally, it will be an important test for the EAC justice system.

African Network for Animal Welfare (Anaw) sought an interim order from the court to stop the project on the grounds the road would harm the park’s ecology.

The suit says building of the road across the Serengeti, the largest national park in Tanzania which borders Maasai-Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, infringes Articles 5,89,111, 112,114 and 116 of the EAC Treaty.

“The Serengeti is part of a transnational ecosystem straddling Kenya and Tanzania. It is also a World Heritage Site of outstanding universal value”, Anaw executive director Josphat Ngonyo said after the case was filed.

Read more here…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another threat?

Noxious weed threatens the biggest wildlife migration on the planet

The Serengeti - Masai Mara ecosystem in Africa, which hosts the largest wildlife migration known to man, is under attack from a noxious weed from Central America, commonly known as feverfew (Parthenium hysterophorus). If left unchecked it could threaten the continued migration of millions of animals across the plains every year, including 1.5 million wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelle and 200,000 zebra.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Exciting Developments...

The US has launched a project aimed at encouraging the participation of local communities in the restoration of Mau Forest.

The project, sponsored by USAid, is also designed to improve local livelihoods and define individuals and communities’ rights to land.

Officials said the project titled the Pro-Mara programme is expected to be operational in March 2011 and will run for 18 months. Currently, the programme is undergoing a four-month preparation phase that will be concluded in February 2011.

The programme that will be concentrated on Mara River catchment areas of Molo, Kuresoi and Narok North also seeks to address land conflicts in the region.

Speaking in Nakuru, Rift Valley PC Osman Warfa said the Government would guard the gains it had made in the reconciliation process.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mara River Water User's Association - Presentation in New York

The Equator Initiative has just posted the Mara River Water User's Association's Presentation from New York on their website.

Also, be sure to stop by the Equator Initiative site.  There is a nice picture of Kennedy (Director of the MRWUA) attending a high level biodiversity event on their front page.  Follow their link and you can read more about the event honoring all the Equator Initiative Prize Winners.

Serengeti Road Project Worries Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15- Kenya has raised concern over Tanzania's plan to construct a 53 kilometer commercial road through the Serengeti National Park amidst worry it will jeopardize the sanctity of the park. 

Speaking to Capital News, Wildlife Conservation Director Stephen Manegene said the road which is aimed at linking the Eastern and Western parts of Tanzania would introduce alien species in the world heritage site and disrupt natural ecological processes.

He argued that the road would also interrupt the annual wildebeest migration as it cuts across the major animal passage routes.

"The proposed site for the road is in the Northern part of the Serengeti which represents the area where animals assemble to move to the next step which is crossing the border and the Mara River into the better watered Maasai Mara. It is a very important area for the migration," he explained. 

Mr Manegene also proposed that an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted before the construction was undertaken.

"The EIA must be done professionally and in a participatory manner. Let the East African countries who are all stakeholders be consulted and let them contribute to a decision about the proposed development of the road," he said.

According to the Wildlife Director, the highway would also increase wildlife mortality due to collisions between animals and vehicles. He added that the road would increase poaching in the park as it would facilitate transport for would-be poachers.

"If we go back to the impact, you realize that the road which will mainly be used for commercial purposes might end up registering an increase in the number of accidents because of the clash between wild animals and human beings," he said. 

He also quoted a study conducted by Tanzanian authorities that proposed two road alignments - one of the roads would cut through the Park while the other that would go round it, to the South of the Serengeti.

"The only drawback to the Southern route according to the project proponent is that the route will be longer, and the longer the route the more the cost implications in terms of transport of goods and people," he said. 

Mr Manegene however argued that the cost implications of the longer road seemed insignificant compared to the long term economic threat of cutting through the park.

"Given the importance of the Serenegeti and the Maasai Mara to the two economies of Kenya and Tanzania, it would be prudent to consider the alternative route. For example the Maasai Mara is the most visited protected area in Kenya and the counties of Narok and Transmara get 80 percent of their revenue from this site," explained Mr Manegene.

A study conducted by the University of British Columbia indicates that the Serengeti is the number one forex earner in Tanzania raising over $1 billion in 2009 and employing over 600,000 people.

Mr Manegene further said that the Serengeti had been placed under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee and that Tanzania would have to comply with its obligations. 

The road was first discussed and put for forwarding to the World Bank about 20 years ago but based on the recommendation of a EIA report by the WB it was abolished.

Discussions on the construction of the road have been re-opened and government funds have been made available for the first phase. A 15 member committee comprising of representatives from TanRoads, Tanzania National Park (TANAPA), Ngorogoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) the President's Office and the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) has been formed to help steer the project.

Read more: 
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who cares what happens to the Mara?

Just saw this news article and found it interesting.  Here is an excerpt...

Mohamed Mohiedeen is an Egyptian sociologist who has long been critical of Egypt's stance on regional Nile issues.

"We think we are unique. We think that we are superior. There is a 1929 and a 1959 agreement and they are recognized by the international community, and whatnot and all that," Mohiedeen says. "But the other part of the story is we are not doing the necessary things to ease our own problems."

Egypt and neighboring Sudan are refusing to sign a new agreement with other Nile basin countries to more equitably share the water. But if the other countries agree to the old colonial guarantees, it could be hydro-suicide for them.

John Nyaro is Kenya's chief negotiator among the Nile basin countries. A number of Kenya's rivers empty into Lake Victoria, at the beginning of the White Nile.

"We cannot convince our people that that water belongs to Egypt or Sudan or another country," Nyaro says. "In Mara, Maasai Mara, if a Maasai is crossing the river Mara with his cattle, can he convince those cows, 'No, you cannot drink this water. This water belongs to Egypt?'"

Mohiedeen says the only way forward is to lower expectations for water usage within Egypt. Chances are Egyptians will continue making do with less, he says.

Just another remind of the international importance of maintaining flows in the Mara River.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pink Hippo

I was not going to post on this but I am now because it seems like people have become captivated by the sighting of a pink hippo in the Mara.

Rare Pink Hippo Discovered in the Masai Mara

Interesting to note that a hippo with reduced pigmentation usually would not survive very long.  Perhaps his survival chances are augmented due to the increased turbidity of the Mara?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mara River Water User's Association in NEW YORK!

Following up on Amanda's post from earlier this week, Kennedy has been making his rounds in New York City as he brings the message from the Mara River Basin to the United Nations.

Who is this posing with Kennedy?  None other than Gisele Bundchen, supermodel and UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Award Ceremony for the Equator Prize

In July, we posted that the Mara River Water User's Association (MRWUA) had been awarded a 2010 Equator Prize from the Equator Initiative. As part of the award, a representative from the MRWUA was invited to New York City to participate in a 10-day long program. Kennedy Onyango, the Manager of the MRWUA, has been in NYC since September 14, participating in discussion forums with representatives from other award-winning community organizations. One of their goals has been crafting a statement community-based biodiversity conservation, which they will present at the United Nations on Thursday.

Today Kennedy will accept officially the Equator Prize on behalf of the MRWUA at a high level event sponsored by the United Nations Development Program.The theme of the evening is Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change: Scaling Up Local Solutions to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Invited speakers and guests include the Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Executive Secretary for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Award Ceremony will be presided over by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, and others. Read more about this invitation-only event here. Congratulations again to the MRWUA for winning this impressive award!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Biodiversity Conference: Day 2

Hot off the press, here are my latest notes from the 2010 International Biodiversity Conference in Kenya. Key speakers today included a representative from USAID/Kenya who gave an excellent presentation on the protection and preservation of habitat critically important both in terms of biodiversity and cultural heritage (SECURE Project). Also notable were presentations by Drs. Walter Jetz (Yale) and Andrew Marshall (University of York). Their work highlighted the important need for improved data sources for predictive planning efforts in light of climate change and land cover transformation. Tomorrow will be the final day of the conference and I am hoping for lively debate to transpire from the information presented thus far.

Mara Triange in the News

Anyone who has ever been to the Mara Triangle know of the great job Mr. Brian Heath and his staff are doing to protect the system.  If you haven't been, you should go.  Below is a link to an article that just appeared in the Daily Nation...

Human-wildlife conflict declines in the Mara

Poaching and human wildlife conflict has declined at the world’s famous Maasai Mara game reserve due to joint surveillance patrols between Kenya and Tanzania, a conservationist has said.

According to the chief executive officer of Mara Conservancy Brian Heath, tourists have increased as a result of the move. The organisation is a private company that manages the Mara Triangle, which is the North Western part of the reserve on behalf of Trans Mara County Council.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Biodiversity Conference: Day 1

The Kenya International Conference on Biodiversity, Land Use and Climate Change got off to a slow start today but showed much promise. Plenary presentations by KWS and the Tourism Board of Kenya quickly challenged attendees with the substantive problems at hand. Highlights of the day included Dr. Julius Kipn'getich and Dr. David Western. Dr. Kipn'getich eloquently described the many challenges facing Kenya and the broader East Africa region. Issues such as unconstrained population growth and a changing climate threaten the welfare of both humans and wildlife alike. Dr. Western made a simple but profound criticism: protected areas in their current form are wholly ineffectual at curbing the systemic loss of biodiversity. One key fact describes this dismal reality: species loss within protected areas (PAs) is roughly equivalent to that outside of protected areas. While the ineffectiveness of PAs may be intuited or presumed, it is another reality altogether to be presented with irrefutable facts describing the inadequacy of this foundational protective measure. An eye opening day indeed.

You can read more in the conference notes for Day 1.

Threat to Tourism

Four days ago, I linked to an article reporting that Gold is being prospected on the Kenya side of the Mara River Basin.  The Standard has now picked up the story and it is being labeled a threat to tourism.

A few choice excerpts:

Conservationists have said gold mining in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem would kill the multi-billion-tourism industry.

Maasai Mara Group Ranches consortium spokesperson Sammy Nkoitoi said on Tuesday mineral prospecting in the Mara would be an alternative for the majority who have not benefited from tourism and asked the government to intervene.

"Any alternative sources of income in the region will spell doom to conservation prospects. It is time short term benefits are weighed against long term ones," he said.

He said for years, illegal gold prospecting and trade had been going on in the reserve and asked the government to halt the development because it would kill the tourism industry, which was a major employer.

Get the full story at The Standard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kenya Int'l Conference on Biodiversity, Land Use, and Climate Change

On behalf of GLOWS and FIU, I will be attending the upcoming biodiversity conference in Nairobi. For those of you not able to attend, I will be distributing notes from the presentations and panels. The agenda appears to be quite exciting and extremely relevant to the work of the GLOWS partners in the Mara Basin. I expect lively discussions and am hoping for more than wholly academic debate. Check back for daily updates this Wednesday through Friday.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Gold in the Mara River Basin...

Kenya reportedly strikes commercially viable gold

An excerpt...

Lolgorian is part of the extensive Greenstone Belt of the Lake Victoria that
stretches into the Mara in Tanzania, and is believed to have rich gold deposits.
The company, which is operating in Kenya as Goldplat Kilimapesa Project,
is conducting more tests and is yet to finalise regulatory issues with the Government
with a view to obtaining a mining licence. The Standard has established the deposits
are between 40,000 ounces (oz) and 60,000 ounces. An ounce is the unit of measuring
gold with one ounce equalling 28.34 grammes (0.02835kg).
This means the deposits can support mining of 4,000 ounces per year, with
a lifespan of between 10 to 15 years. Going by the current price of gold in the
international market where one ounce is trading at 1,246 US dollars (Sh100, 926
under current exchange rates), the project could earn the country 400m shillings
annually or 32bn shillings in 15 years.
The amount, say industry experts, is a boom considering small time miners
in various parts of Western Kenya according to industry estimates, produce a mere
15m shillings annually, although much of is sold to middlemen at prices well below
those in the international market.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Serengeti Highway

I didn't realize that the plans were still going full-steam ahead until I read this article.

LOOK out wildebeest, here come the cars. Tanzania's government plans to build a commercial road in the north of Serengeti National Park, cutting through the migratory route of 2 million wildebeest and zebra.
The road would cut the animals off from their dry-season watering holes, causing the wildebeest population to dwindle to just a quarter of current levels, says the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Germany. It could also be a collision zone for humans and animals, leading to casualties on both sides, and there is a risk that transported livestock would spread disease, the society adds.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has written to Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to voice its concerns. While praising Tanzania's commitment to conservation, noting that 38 per cent of its land is already protected, the IUCN recommends carrying out a full assessment of the road's environmental impact.
Meanwhile, the African Wildlife Foundation is campaigning for the road's path to be altered so that it passes south of the park, avoiding the migration route.
Despite the ongoing campaign, the road is set to go ahead, with construction kicking off in 2012. In a recent speech, Kikwete said the best he could do was to leave the part of the road that crossed the migratory route unpaved.

I wonder what the impacts will be on the Mara...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're still around!

Yes...we are still around!

Sorry for the absence.  Amanda and I are back in the US beginning our graduate studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.  Amanda is doing her PhD in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and I am doing my MESc in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  We are both still settling into our new surroundings.  A bit different than the Mara!

Our good buddy Jeff, formerly of the Hyena Project and now studying Penguins, just sent us these pictures from our time together in Kenya.  Be sure to notice the hippos that were always watching us as we took samples or made measurements.

We are still continuing our research on the Mara River so expect to see us back in the region in the summer of 2011.  Expect to see more from us as we continue to develop our research proposals.

Friday, August 13, 2010

July 2010 Newsletter

The Mara River Flows Newsletter is now available.  Learn more about what is happening in the Mara River Basin by downloading it now.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New LVBC Research Fund for the Mara River Basin

Announced on 21 July, the LVBC has signed MOUs with three universities to facilitate applied research in the Basin. The selected universities are Ardhi University (Tanzania), Egerton University (Kenya) and Maseno University (Kenya). The purpose of the MOUs is to facilitate improved management of water resources within the basin by building on the previous work of the EFA and BSAP. Initial funding of $60,000 USD will be divided equally among the universities to facilitate the applied research of "wildlife and habitat conservation; conservation enterprise; and, capacity building and leadership".

This collaboration between LVBC and these universities is exciting news for those interested in further enhancing our capacity to effectively manage the Mara River Basin. In addition to LVBC's work, another collaborative effort exists between UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and four parter universities: University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Egerton University (Kenya), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya). UNESCO-IHE is currently funding the research of 4 PhD students (3 at UNESCO-IHE, 1 at UDSM) with the objective of developing a better understanding of the relationships between flow regime, water quality, and aquatic ecosystems. GLOWS will be providing funding to facilitate further research by 8 additional MSc students selected from the partner institutions. GLOWS will be facilitating this work over the coming months.

You can find out more about the LVBC initiative on their website, and about the MaraFlows program at the UNESCO-IHE website. Congratulations to LVBC staff and supporters on this exciting and important work.

More Press for the Mara River Water User's Association

Mara community wins US$5,000 global award
Kenya’s Mara River Water User’s Association has won the Equator Prize (US$5,000), announced by the Equator Initiative 13th July 2010 in New York, USA. WWF has provided support for the establishment of the association since 2005. RV, Kenya. 22/07/2010

Local community prized for work in Mara river basin
Nairobi, Kenya – Last week in New York, the Mara River Water User’s Association (MRWUA) won the Equator Initiative Prize for promoting the protection and conservation of the Mara Catchment area and supporting the sustainable and efficient use of water. 

The association, which also assists relevant authorities with water resources management, issuance of water use permits and water conflict resolution, was one of the 25 winners selected out of nearly 300 finalists from 66 different countries for their work to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Masai Mara News Round-up

Maasai Mara has lost half its animals

The Maasai Mara has lost almost 60 per cent of its large animals, including lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and rhinos, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme.

Proposed park fee increases threaten tourism recovery in Kenya

In a proposed staggered increase over the next two years, KWS announced they were seeking a low- and high-season entrance fee, ranging for category one parks between US$60 and US$90 a day, while some of the lesser-visited parks would continue to attract lower fees of US$50. However, under plans to rebrand some of the parks, these categories may also be revised in order to generate more income for those protected areas.

Stakeholders have also expressed concern over what such KWS increases may mean for parks managed by county councils, with an eye on the Masai Mara, which already charges at present US$80 per person, per day. One usually reliable source mentioned to this correspondent that the Narok county council has, behind closed doors, been toying with a US$100 charge, which if found correct – is expected to be tagged onto the KWS move very soon – may sharply increase the cost of safaris to Kenya. Charges in neighboring countries are still comparably lower, but other competitive disadvantages keep the cost of photographic safaris there high, too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Congratulations to the Mara River Water User's Association

Congratulations is in order for the Mara River Water User's Association!  They have just been notified that they are one of the recipients of the Equator Prize.  They were selected in the top 25 winning initiatives from a total of over 300 nominations from 66 different countries!


Want more information?  Download the Mara River Water User's Association Information Brochure for 2010.  We picked this up from Kennedy during our visit to their office in Mulot two weeks ago.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Evaluation of Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystem Health in the Mara River Basin

Beth McCartney just wrapped up a very nice evaluation of water quality and aquatic ecosystem health for the Mara River Basin as part of her Master of Science degree in Environmental Studies at Florida International University.  Download a copy of her thesis.  

The abstract:

Limited capacity and lack of urgency have left many regions of the Mara River Basin unstudied resulting in uncertainty and ambiguity when forming management strategies. Eutrophication, flow alteration, land use conversion, pathogens and suspended sediment are of concern throughout the region.

This study provides a better understanding of baseline conditions, river status and health, throughout the Basin using in-situ water chemistry parameters, nutrient analysis and macro invertebrate indicators, in coordination with a geographic information system. Additionally, visual assessments were conducted to note local users, immediate land-uses and riparian condition. Though
basin scale trends were generally not evident, some sites exhibited locally elevated parameter levels. The effects of local land-use and observed degradation were evident. Though pollution and poor ecosystem health do not appear to be widespread, the long-
term repercussions of land conversion, climate change and resource demands will warrant more consistent, in-depth monitoring of the system.

Amanda Subalusky, Doris Ombara and Beth McCartney

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Water No Life Video from their Mara River Expedition

Allison Jones and No Water No Life have just released one of their videos from their Mara River Expedition.  You may remember how we accompanied them through part of the basin a few months ago.  Check it out below then continue on to their website to see all the other great work they are doing in different watersheds.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Mamas of Ol Chorro

Several of the Mamas of Ol Chorro singing at the commissioning of a protected spring and water tank at the Ol Chorro Secondary School in Mulot, Kenya.  This project was completed by the Mara River Water User's Association with funding through the Water and Development Alliance - TCCC and USAID.

Learn more about the Mara River Water User's Association by downloading their informational pamphlet.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Children of Chemaner

WWF-ESARPO hosted our Q3 meeting in the upper catchment of the Mara River Basin.  During our field visits, we stopped by and saw the work of WWF in Chemaner.  Here is a video of the Children of Chemaner.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mara River Flows Newsletter - June 2010

The June issue of the Mara River Flows Newsletter is NOW AVAILABLE.

Get updated on developments within the Mara River Basin over the last month by downloading a copy now.


Two Maasai children in Oletikut enjoying some freshly harvested honey.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Nathan Project Coordinator for the Trans-boundary Water for Biodiversity and Human Health in the Mara River Basin, Kenya and Tanzania.  Nathan officially relieves me of my position within the next few weeks as Amanda and I return to the United States to attend graduate school.  Karibu.

You will be hearing more on this soon....please join us in welcoming Nathan to the GLOWS team!

Posing next to a project sign in Kirindon, Kenya

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tigithe River News Roundup

As you may remember, a few months ago there was a toxic spill incident in the Tigithe River.  The Tigithe River flows into the Tanzanian portion of the Mara River.  Here is the latest news on that situation...

It is reported in various media that Tanzania's Water and Irrigation Minister Mark Mwandosya said that Tanzania's Tigithe River, which passes through North Mara Gold Mine property is now free of pollution following a range of mitigating measures adopted by the mine's management and that recent tests on the river indicate that the water is fit for human and livestock consumption.

Tanzania Clears North Mara Gold Mine Over River Pollution
Tanzania's Tigithie River, which passes through North Mara Gold Mine property is now free of pollution following a range of mitigating measures adopted by the mine's management, Tanzania's Water and Irrigation Minister Mark Mwandosya said Monday.

Debate on safety of Tigithe water reemerges
Water from Tigithe river is now fit for human and livestock consumption, Prof Mark Mwandosya, the Water and Irrigation minister has said while playing down criticism that the river is contaminated with toxic spills caused by operations within the North Mara gold mine.

Pictures of the incident.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Mara River Basin

So what does the Mara River Basin look like?

We have been taking land cover photographs for over 2 years.  Here is the map with the photographs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flickr Photostream

We have been posting some of our project pictures on the USAID Biodiversity & Forestry photostream.  Check them out when you get a chance.

Humble Beginnings

A picture on the wall of the WWF Musoma office...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Road Kill in the Serengeti?

Imagine. You are lying in the grass in the east African savannah, watching wildebeest fording a shallow river. You can hear the funny grunting noises they make, and as they pass by, you can feel the impact of their hooves on the ground and smell their rich animal smell. You see their kicking heels, their beautiful sleek bodies. Then you look up, and you realize that the herd stretches as far as you can see, that the plain is dark with wildebeest. If you were to wait for them all to pass, you would be there for days.

The sight is magnificent, primal and profoundly moving. It is the wildebeest migration.

Every year, more than a million wildebeest, along with hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, move through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Tanzania and Kenya, following the rains. In the course of a year, an individual wildebeest may cover as much as 2,100 kilometers. (That’s more than 1,300 miles — which is further than the distance between New York and New Orleans.) It is the last great migration on Earth.

But for how much longer? A large part of the migration takes place within the vast Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and there are reports that the Tanzanian government is preparing to build a major road through the northern part of the park: through a designated wilderness area, through the migration route....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Upper Catchment of the Mara River

A Lesson in the Bush

Meeting with the Mugango Community Group (part of the Mara River Water User's Association) on riparian land they have conserved with the assistance of WWF.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

Statistical Wizard

While we were in Delft, we had the good fortune of getting to spend some more time with Veronica Minaya, the Master's student at UNESCO-IHE who recently completed her thesis...Land use influence on the benthic macroinvertebrate communities of streams in Nyangores and Amala tributaries of Mara River, Kenya (April, 2010).

Check out her thesis when you get a chance.  The statistics are quite impressive...and above me.  We have never seen anybody work harder in the field than Veronica and her classmate Fred Omengo.  They spent several weeks climbing through the Mau Forest in the rain, covered in mud, sampling in a hail storm, sleeping in a primary school, chased by forest elephants, etc...  

Amanda and Veronica

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Swimming Giraffes of the Mara River?

Probably not...but check out this article anyway for some interesting insight into the possibilities.

Testing the flotation dynamics and swimming abilities of giraffes by way of computational analysis

A few years ago, the excellent BBC series Big Cat Diary featured a scene where a group of giraffes tried to cross the Mara while it was in flood. The giraffes got about half-way across before turning back [two of them are at the turning-back phase in the adjacent still, © BBC], and at one stage were in water that submerged them right up to the bases of their necks. I thought at the time that these giraffes must have been swimming: I was so confident that I even mentioned this on the Dinosaur Mailing List back in 2000 (I now think it more likely that those Kenyan giraffes still had their feet on the riverbed: you can see this for yourself, as the footage is online here*). Several writers and researchers who have googled 'swimming giraffes' during the course of research have discovered my comment, and I've since seen it paraphrased in a few places (such as here at and on Focus magazine's Q&A page).


What have we been doing all week in Delft, The Netherlands?  Other than hanging out with the McClains and attending the Mara Flows Inception Workshop, we have been painstakingly processing over 250 water samples from the Mara River Basin taken over the last two years.  Special thanks goes out to Fred and Ferdi for helping us out with all the analysis.  Ferdi has given us a great deal of time over the last two weeks to teach us the methods used by the UNESCO-IHE lab.

Here is Ferdi and Amanda preparing 20 of our samples to analyze them for of the many items we are looking for in our samples.

Even with two straight weeks of 10 hour days in the lab, we still will not be able to get everything analyzed.  Thankfully, a Mara Flows student is going to help out.  Frank has been helping us this week with the preparation of our samples and he is going to volunteer some of his time over the next few weeks to assist with some of the other analysis.  Thanks Frank!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Research From the Mara!

Special thanks to UNESCO-IHE for facilitating all this research on the Mara River.  Here are three more theses.

Mara Flows Inception Workshop

Mara Flows is a program developed by the minds of UNESCO-IHE with funding from the Dutch government.  The program will fund four PhD students to conduct their research on the Mara River.  We will also work to provide funding for several Master's students through GLOWS to work on discreet projects on the Mara River under the supervision of those four PhD students.  Dr. Michael McClain is the head of both projects.  We just held the inception workshop for the Mara Flows program at UNESCO-IHE in Delft, The Netherlands. 

We are all excited about the great students recruited to be the PhD candidates!  More to come on this in the future...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Water Samples

One third of our water samples from the last two UNESCO-IHE in Delft.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


As you all know, Amanda and I going back to school soon.  I was going through some of our old pictures and was reminded of the time our Land Rover got stuck at the bottom of a hill with a boat on the roof.  It was our low-flow EFA sampling event...we had completely bald tires...but also just happened to have 100 meters of rope in the truck.  Thankfully, there just happened to be about 30-40 young men (including members of the Water User's Association!) around that could help us pull it up the hill.  

Ecological Society for Eastern Africa Conference

Opening remarks....

Amanda...representing the Ecological Society of America at the reception....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two EXCELLENT Reports Now Available

You may recall from the December and January issues of the Mara River Flows Newsletter about two UNESCO-IHE students visiting us in the Mara River Basin.  They were both doing their Master's research on some of the issues facing us here in the basin.  Well, now they have wrapped up their analysis and have provided their results to us.  Check out their work below...

Omengo O. Fred
Carbon cycling in the Mara River system – Influence of land use and location in the fluvial network on organic matter processing and CO2-production (April, 2010)

Veronica G. Minaya Maldonado
Land use influence on the benthic macroinvertebrate communities of streams in Nyangores and Amala tributaries of Mara River, Kenya (April, 2010)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Details and photos of lions poisoned in Masai Mara

...The lions lay dead in a traditional homestead where they had been poisoned by eating a cow laced with pesticides by a Masai family. A lioness had died about 5-10 meters away from the cow carcass. The carcasses of a juvenile male and second lioness lay some 30m away. There were piles of dead flies around the cow carcass and the lions had not yet been scavenged. KWS arrested a local man who admitted that he had poisoned the lions with his neighbors. He produced a container that contained pink powder, which he had used to poison the lion. The same pink coloring was visible on the laced meat of the cow carcass used for the poisoning.  KWS have sent samples of the lion carcasses and the pink substance have been sent for toxicological tests to confirm what pesticide was used....

Mistrust at Nile treaty meeting

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poaching Hippos from the Mara River with a Shotgun?

POLICE have arrested two men in Wegero Village in Musoma Rural District, Mara Region, in possession of 32 hippopotamus teeth, the Regional Police Commander (RPC), Mr Robert Boaz said today.

The RPC named the suspects as Nickson Abdhala (55) and Juma Masanja (55). Both are residents of Wegero Village in the vicinity of Mara River on the Tanzanian side.

The suspects were also found in illegal possession of a shotgun and dozens of live bullets, according to the RPC. "It is likely that the suspects have been using the gun to kill hippos in Mara River," the regional police chief said.

Mara River is shared by Kenya and Tanzania and it traverses the world famous Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve on the Kenyan side.

The arrest follows information volunteered to police by a good citizen, he said. Wildlife experts working with the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources are expected to assess the value of the teeth, according to Mr Boaz.

"We don't know the value of these teeth but natural resources people will find out soon," he said. The suspects were arrested late last week. They have already been arraigned in a court of law in Musoma , the RPC said.

Meanwhile, two suspects have allegedly been caught with a bomb at Sirari border in Tarime District, police reported today. The Tarime Regional Special Police Zone Commander, Mr Constantine Masawe, named the suspects as Selemani Idd (35) and Ramadhani James (28).

Both are residents of Tarime District in Mara Region. The bomb was immediately examined by members of the Tanzania People's Defence Forces at Nyandoto Military Camp on the outskirts of Tarime town, according to the RPC.

"After we realized that it was a bomb we alerted TPDF officers at Nyandoto and they came to destroy it. It was made in 1913, according to their findings," the regional police chief told the 'Daily News.'

The suspects, he said, were till being questioned in connection with the bomb while under police custody in Tarime. A preliminary investigation indicates that they have been using the bomb to cone people out of their money, according to the RPC.

Meanwhile, a resident of Kwisarara Village in Tarime District, Nyagwaka Mwikwabe, has surrendered a homemade gun and live bullets to police in Tarime, the RPC said.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Amanda's EFA/BSAP Technical Presentation

This is the full presentation that Amanda gave the to the audience at the Official Launch Event for the Environmental Flows Assessment and the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Sustainable Management of the Mara River Basin that was held on April 22nd, 2010.

Part 1

Part 2

New Project Report Added

I just added a new project report to our database that we just received from Nasser Brahim.  Nasser was a student at Florida International University several years ago who received research funding from GLOWS.  He has since moved on from FIU and is getting ready to complete his graduate degree at Yale University.  Check out his informative report on the best local farming practices in the mid-lower catchment of the Amalo River.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mara River Flows Newsletter - April 2010

Download it now to get informed about...
  • the Official Launch Event for the EFA and BSAP Reports,
  • how the Mara River did during April,
  • the new MaraFLOWS graduate students,
  • upcoming changes to our research,
  • and MORE...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dr. Tom Okurut's Speech at the Launch Event

The Executive Secretary of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Dr. Tom Okurut, also spoke at the EFA/BSAP Launch Event on April 22nd, 2010.

Here is his speech and introduction of Amanda Subalusky.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reports Now Available: EFA and BSAP

The Environmental Flows Assessment for the Mara River and the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Sustainable Management of the Mara River Basin are now available.  Download them now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Official Launch Speech

Here is the Kenya Minister for Forestry and Wildlife giving the launch speech...

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Mara River Environmental Flows Assessment and Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan Launched!

The Environmental Flows Assessment Report (EFA) and the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) were officially launched last evening at the Intercontinental Hotel here in Nairobi, Kenya.  Dignitaries present included the East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, The Tanzanian High Commissioner to Kenya, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, the Conservation Secretary from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, the Director of USAID/EA, the Executive Secretary from the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and the Director of Water Resources from Kenya.  The documents were officially launched in a speech by the Kenyan Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, the Honorable Dr. Noah Wekesa.

Also present at the event were officials from the Water Resources Management Authority, UNESCO-IHP, UNESCO-IHE, IUCN, WWF-ESARPO, Florida International University, CARE-Kenya, Mara Conservancy, Transmara County Council, Narok County Council, SIDA as well as other stakeholders and organizations working in the Mara River Basin.

Congratulations to all the hard work of WWF-ESARPO,  the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and all the other individuals and organizations that worked tirelessly on this document.

I will upload soft copies of the documents soon.  In the meantime, here is a video of Amanda presenting on the EFA and BSAP at the event.  The video begins just before she begins speaking specifically on the EFA.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"13 unlicensed lodges shut down in Mara"

From "Business Daily Africa":

The government has stopped 13 unlicensed hotels and lodges from operating in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in a clean-up exercise meant to boost the image of one of the country’s leading tourist attractions.

This follows an inspection of the reserve last month that established that 80 per cent of the 115 properties are licensed.

Thirteen were operating illegally while others are either being constructed or have been closed for renovation.

“These properties are denying the government revenue and tough action has to taken,” said Tourism minister Najib Balala as he presented the findings of the inspection team.

It was also established that poor governance by group ranches and conservancies, especially in land sub-divisions, had led to a high concentration of facilities in the Koiyiaka and Siana areas.

Most of the affected facilities were tented camps in Siana.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lungs of Steel

An elder from Kemgesi Village...he played this huge gourd for hours.  Eventually, he would hit the ground but wouldn't stop blowing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Protests in Narok over killing of taxi driver"


Business came to a stand still in Narok Town after taxi drivers staged demonstrations over the increasing cases of insecurity in the area. The protests come just days after a taxi driver was kidnapped and killed in the outskirts of the town. Taxi drivers decried insecurity saying they have of late become the target. In the last 2months, 3 taxi drivers have been killed in mysterious circumstances. Locals accuse police of not beefing up security at night when the attacks mostly happen. Police have launched 


Nick and Allison giving a helping hand...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mbalibali Picture

The picture painted onto the side of the rainwater harvesting tank at Mbalibali School.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Child in the Upper Catchment of the Mara River

This picture was taken by Paul Geemi, an Ogiek that we work with here in the Mara River Basin.  Geemi borrowed our camera a few months ago when he visited his birth village.  This is one of the pictures he brought back...the expression on the child's face captivates me.  

The Kemgesi Group

While we were in Mugumu for our quarterly meeting, CARE-Tanzania took us to one of the villages they have been assisting with water, sanitation and hygiene related activities under the Trans-boundary Water for Biodiversity and Human Health Project here in the Mara River Basin.

As we drove up to the small village of Kemgesi, we were surprised by the huge celebration awaiting us.

This video was taken by one of our visitors, Nick Silverman of Natural Systems Designs.  Nick has been visiting us in the Mara River Basin for the past few weeks just before he begins a PhD program at the University of Montana.