'Overdevelopment' around Amboseli

Sun, 2007-12-09 15:22 by hcroze

Amboseli development
Development blocking corridors

Amboseli National Park is under siege. Burgeoning uncontrolled development in the form of lodges and hotels are springing up like mushrooms from elephant dung, cutting off wildlife corridors from the Park to the surrounding ecosystem.

The map shown here zooms in on the southeastern portion of the Park (boundary shown as blue-green dashed line) and the ecosystem. Some features:

  • Elephant corridors are shown as red-and-yellow lines streaming out form the Park,
  • The crucial, life-supporting swamps of the ecosystem (see our note on the swamps in the Background section of our Hydrology Forum.
  • Community conservation areas outside the Park are shown as yellow cross-hatched areas. By and large, wildlife are tolerated there, since the community gains revenues from eco-friendly safari firms, such as Ker & Downey in the Kiterua Concession Area on the left edge of the map.
  • The surrounding Maasai group ranches are bound in blue lines with the names in yellow).
  • Maasai enkangs (a.k.a. bomas) are shown as small red dots. There are actually more today, since the data were collecting in 1999/2000.

Some specific development-related highlights are shown by yellow numbered signs:

  1. Just outside the Park boundary and the Ol Kelyunet Gate to the SE there are a dozen new enterprises, ranging from small eco-friendly fly camps like Olkanjao (which means 'elephant' in Maa) to concrete monstrosities like that being planned by the Mada hotel group. Mada has already erected a fence (illegal, by the way, with no planning permission) around it's 40-acre concession.
  2. Hard on the southern Park boundary there are a number of disturbing developments. In particular, the so-called 'cultural bomas' are encouraging permanent settlement and infrastructure, increasing the chances of human-elephant conflict.
  3. Swamp areas outside the park, predominately Namalok and Kimana, have been alienated from wildlife use by fences for nearly a decade. Note how the elephant corridors have to snake between the fenced areas to get to the open Kimana Wildlife Concession (the green patch on the right edge: the northern half of that swamp is already under cultivation).
    Note that there is also a small fenced area of 400 acres (160 Ha) right in the middle of the national park. This rather chaotic commercial enclave in the middle of the national park is not under the management of the Kenya Wildlife Service, but belongs to the local government (more on that in a separate posting soon).

"Overdevelopment" around Amboseli

Sat, 2007-12-15 13:32 by Jan

Dear Harvey:

Thanks so much for posting the information about the building boom around Amboseli. I think it will get worse before it gets better as a lot of the safari companies that can no longer get into the Mara will now be wanting to build places in/near Amboseli.

As a frequent observer in/around Amboseli, not an expert as you are, I am more concerned about the Maasai moving into the area than I am lodges. Yes, lodges are taking up space. However, I think most lodges would be delighted to have a family of elephants walk through/around their property as a corridor and wouldn't threaten them in any way. Also, the elephants learn quickly that the people in the lodge/camps are not threat. At Satao I have families of elephants walking 10 - 15 feet from my tent on their way to the waterhole, and they could enter the waterhole from the other side where there are no tents or people. Lodges are indeed contributing to "pollution" of the environment with extra vehicles in the vicinity of the parks, sewerage problems, etc. However most people going to a lodge or camp are there because they do care about wildlife and do not threaten them in any way.

On the other hand, the Maasai are a different thing altogether. On my first trip to Amboseli in 2001 there were very few Maasai in the Serena area. Now that is getting totally built up. And, of course, many or most of these families have cattle. The elephants don't like or trust the Maasai, with good reason. I've seen all too many incidences in Amboseli of spearings. Luckily things have been relatively quiet lately. If more and more Maasai move into that area things will be disastrous. If only elderly people with no shambas and no cattle moved in, perhaps things might be different. Someone needs to put a stop to it, but how?

Is there any way that you, Cynthia, Joyce, Daphne Sheldrick, Iain Douglas-Hamilton can all get together and sit down with whomever is President and force them to look at your maps and learn from your experiences about what is happening? Someone, some how, has to try to force a land use policy for wildlife as well as people. If something isn't done, wildlife will be gone, and with it the tourist dollar that Kenya so covets.

I would also try talking with Julius Kipngetich at KWS. I know KWS is no longer "in charge" in Amboseli, but I am sure they still do have some power. This past week I read an article in Business Daily from Nairobi about the new Aruba Dam Lodge offering boating and fishing in Aruba Dam. I shot off an email to Kipngetich at KWS saying "please tell me it just ain't so". The next morning I had an email from him asking where I had heard that information. I pasted a copy of the article back to him. Got another email stating it was not allowed at all. I am sure he would be on the backs of the new lodge owners at Aruba. I don't know if you have any success dealing with him before, but it is certainly worth a try.

My thinking may be totally ignorant, but it is coming only from observations I've made over the last six years. It truly is a worrisome problem that I wish there were an easy answer for.

Again, thank you for posting this important information.

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