The human population in the Maasai Mara region of Africa has grown by 7% per year for the last 16 years; three times the national average of 2.5%. This is pushing more and more people into elephant rangelands, which leads to Human-Elephant Conflict.
“THE MOST IMPORTANT PERCEIVED THREAT IS THE LOSS AND FRAGMENTATION OF HABITAT CAUSED BY ONGOING HUMAN POPULATION EXPANSION AND RAPID LAND CONVERSION” IUNC Red List of Threatened Species
More people living in the Maasai Mara means the takeover of more land used for farming and infrastructural developments like roads, railways and pipelines. Most of the land traditionally home to elephants has been separated into title deeds given to individuals, privatized. Herds of elephants can have trouble reaching food and water sources and their options are more limited with the livestock grazing on the same grasses they rely upon for food. If this grazing by livestock continues to go unchecked it will lead to widespread soil erosion having a devastating impact on the grass growth and ecosystem in the future.
“THIS IS A WAR OF SPACE. EVERYONE IS TRYING TO CARVE OUT A LIVING IN THIS AREA.” Marc Goss, CEO, Mara Elephant Project
The best land for delicious grass for elephants is also the best land to grow delicious crops for farmers. Farms are being established in the rangeland used by elephants. This is resulting in elephants being squeezed into conflict areas and raiding the crops. Seeing as an elephant can eat over 600 pounds of food a day, this means that even a small herd can wipe out an entire harvest, potentially half of the farmer’s annual earnings in a single night.
“KENYANS ARE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT DEVELOPMENT IN THE MARA AND THE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND ON WHAT REALLY IS A GLOBAL WILDLIFE SPECTACLE.” Paula Kahumbu, CEO, Wildlife Direct
Resentment from residents grows as elephants not only eat and trample crops, but also raid food stores and damage village infrastructure including precious water sources. Elephants are often viewed as a pest and killing, an act of retaliation.
“WE ARE TRYING TO ZONE THIS COUNTRY SO THAT THE LAND USE, FOR EXAMPLE, AROUND THE MARA SHOULD BE THOSE THAT ARE COMPATIBLE WITH WILDLIFE CONSERVATION.” Patrick Omondi, Deputy Director of Species Conservation, Kenya Wildlife Service