Safari and Wildlife Tourism in Kenya, a Case Study of Maasai Mara National

Safari And Wildlife Tourism in Kenya, a case study of Maasai Mara National Reserve
Sub-Saharan states are among the developing African states that aim to create income opportunities by coming up with numerous economic activities. Among these activities, tourism forms the back born of the countries’ revenue. Kenya is one of the states with major tourism attraction sites in the south of the Sahara desert; a good example is the Maasai Mara national Reserve that attracts tourists from all parts of the globe. Safari and wildlife tourism is one of the basic economic activities that contribute a large share in Kenya’s foreign exchange. “THE MARA” as it is also known, is one of Kenya’s national reserves that receive a large number of tourists every year. The locals and the country at large depend much on tourism activities that are promoted by existence of wildlife in Maasai Mara.Tourism activities in Maasai Mara are largely considered environmentally positive and sustainable, thus, Kenya as a country encourages tourism activities through favorable policies formulated by its government (Udoto, 2012, p. 56).Tourism means a lot in Kenya’s economy as it contributes to other economic activities in the area. This paper analyses safari and wildlife tourism product in relation to the environment.
Tourism and the Kenyan economy
Tourism means a lot the economy of Kenya, as an economic sector Tourism approximately contributes 25% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Besidesthe environmental, social and economic impacts associated with this industry, safari and wildlife tourism remains an important product for Kenya’s economic growth and development (Udoto, 2012, p. 55).
Wildlife tourism means a lot to Kenya and this has made the government to establish the Kenya wildlife service (KWS) that manages Kenya’s national parks and game reserves including the Mara. For instance, those communities living around the Mara national reserve are also assisted in a number of ways. KWS provides water, security and transport. Construction of roads to and from the Maasai Mara, this promotes better living standards and individual development of the locals (Akama, Maingi& Camargo, 2011, p.283).
Kenya has owed its global reputation as a leading country in wildlife tourism, trade has been promoted through tourism products as victors spend on exports and transport during their safaris in national reserves. Domestic travel and tourism spending is an important source of revenue in the Kenyan economy (Silvestri et al, 2013, p.24). Locals within the country have gotten the opportunity to engage in trade as they sell goods to tourists during their safaris. In Maasai Mara, the Maasai people (local inhabitants of the Mara region) earn their living by selling ornaments and entertaining tourists who came to see wildlife in the area. Through this, their general living conditions have improved rapidly (Schmitz, 2014, p.98). Both the government and private sector have created jobs due to wildlife tourism, hotel industry activities have also flourished in the Kenyan game parks and game reserves (Silvestri et al, 2013, p.30). Indeed, tourism means a lot to the Kenyan economic development, and this is the main reason the government of Kenya is formulating policies to promote sustainable wildlife activities.
Wildlife tourism in Maasai Mara
Named in the honor of the Maasai people who are the ancestral inhabitants of the area, Maasai Mara is a home for many wild animals such as lions, Thomson’s gazelle, zebras,African leopards and the wild beasts who keep on migrating to and from Serengeti every year.Tourism activities in Maasai Mara are very important in the Kenya’s socio-economic development. After independence, Kenya relied heavily on coffee and tea exports to earn foreign exchange; however, this became difficult as the prices of these primary products declined in the world market. Kenya as a country has turned into tourism as a valid alternative (Briggs, 2008, p.23).
The Mara is currently on of tourism attraction centers that bring much revenue to the country in addition to creation of jobs to thousands of Kenyans.However, this industry is associated with a number of environmental, social and economic impacts as discussed below.
Environmental impacts of wildlife tourism in the Mara
The environmental sustainability and conservation is one of the critical and most important issuesthat need to be considered and evaluated in any economic activities. Tourism contributes to more than 20 percent of Kenya’s foreign exchange. This sector contributes both negatively and positively to the environment (Jules-Rosette,1984, p.112).
Maasai Mara safari tourismon the other hand, has been presented as one of the activities that promote environmental sustainability in addition to the assertion that it is environmentally positive. The following are ways that illustrate how this is true.
Positive impacts
Wildlife is part and parcel of our environment and tourism plays a major role of promoting the value of wildlife. This situation has made locals and the government to engage in campaigns of promoting wildlife in the Maasai Mara national reserve (Akama, Maingi& Camargo, 2011, p.282). Among these campaigns members are warned and educatedagainst poaching and any other activity that may harm wildlife. Through this, environmental conservation is indirectly facilitated as man demonstrates his responsibility of positively contributing to the environment.
Secondly, wildlife habitats form part and parcel of the environment. Maasai Mara is a large game reserve that occupies a large area in the region. With trees and glass that for an important home of wildlife, the government and locals play an important role of conserving this habitat. Trees are the most important to most wildlife as they not only provide food but also provide shelter and shade to wildlife (Sindiga,1999, p. 197).  By understanding the benefits that come from tourism, the people work through thick and thin to prevent cutting down of forests in the Maasai Mara region that on the other hand contribute to wildlife survival in the game reserve. Thus, wildlife tourism indirectly or sometimes directly contributes to environmental conservation. This reflects the tourism enterprise in the Maasai Mara as an environmentally positive activity in the country.
Additionally, through wildlife tourism, animal friendly behavior is promoted in the region. The practice promotes showing animals in their natural habitats. This has also made the local people who live around the Mara to become friendly with wildlife as they tend to acknowledge their benefits to both their society and the country at large.
Wildlife tourism is therefore linked to the environment, the government aims at providing a quality experience in the Mara. Thus, it encourages biodiversity conservation, water and proper waste disposal in the region. This kind of nature based tourism activities positively impact biodiversity conservation (Udoto, 2012, p. 57).This way, the government and non-governmental organizations in Kenya, succeed in protection of endangered species in Maasai Mara in addition to conservation of large tracks of natural habitats in the region. All the policies formulated by the Kenyan government on tourism issues aim at adequate environmental management(Akama, Maingi& Camargo, 2011, p.289).
Through wildlife tourism, use of renewable energy has been emphasized in the Mara region. People have been advised against the use of local sources of energy such as burning firewood, and charcoal which contributes to a number of problems (Sindiga,1999, p. 119). First, it will promote cutting down of trees in the region, a condition that is against natural habitat conservation policies. Second, use of firewood and other nonrenewable sources promotes the issue of global warming, a condition that challenges the entire globe. It is therefore important that through wildlife, the above issues are indirectly solved.
Wildlife tourism and safaris also contribute much of the revenue that is used to preserve the environment in the Maasai Mara national reserve. The government uses part of the revenue to reinforce its laws that aim at protecting native species and also the preservation of forests. Wildlife tourism does not only promote environmental protection but also facilitates the restoration of biological diversity and protection of natural resources.
Lastly, through safaris and wildlife tourism, environmental awareness is raised by the government (Silvestri et al, 2013, p.24). The inhabitants of the Mara region have increased their appreciation of the environment and are ready to spread this to other people who live near the wildlife. It is through this that they individuals have become more aware of the value of nature as they have been brought closure to nature itself (Udoto, 2012, p. 56).This has facilitated the creation of an environmentally conscious society which engages in those behaviors that has a main aim of preventing the environment. This awareness becomes a very important positive development of wildlife as members of the society agree to contribute positively to the environment (Akama, Maingi& Camargo, 2011, p.284)
Negative impacts
World life tourism on the other side has some negative impacts on the environment. The natural habitats and environment is directly affected by the viewing of wildlife in the Maasai Mara national reserve (Sindiga,1999, p. 106). Some birds and reptile species have been reported to be more vulnerable to predators due to increased tourism activities in the habitat.
Additionally, environmental pollution cases have been reported in the region. They are directly causes by either tourists orwildlife conservation officials knowingly or unknowingly. Through their regular use of vehicles, both sound and air in the national reserve is polluted (Marin, 2015, p.80). This largely contributes to creation of a hostile environment in the game reserve (Akama, Maingi& Camargo, 2011, p.283). For instance, sound produced by vehicles used across the reserve has greatly affected fertility in some species of birds, a condition that may lead to extinction. Creation of a hostile environment that makes the animals scared, thus affecting their feeding and nesting sites.
Lastly, unchecked tourism activities can have a large impact on ecology and wildlife. Expansion of wildlife activities around the Mara region such as construction of hotels has greatly improved the livelihood of the local community (Dieke,2000, p.96).On the other hand, this has greatly affected the processes on the land and the organisms. Some activities also encourage unsustainable consumption of plants and animals, for instance, the buying souvenirs in the Maasai Mara national reserve (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2005, p.45).

Socio-cultural impacts of wildlife tourism
Other than environmental issues, wildlife tourism has got a number of impacts on the society and the economy of Kenya. These impacts are both negative and positive. In Maasai Mara, tourism has affected the way the Maasai people (the original inhabitants of the Mara region) live in addition to their relationship with other societies (Walpole, 2003, p.84). On the other hand, their economic activities have been greatly shaped by wildlife tourism. The following are some of the socio-economic impacts of wildlife tourism in Maasai Mara.
There are many socio-cultural effects to the host community, the Maasai people have been affected either directly or indirectly by a number of wildlife tourism that take place in the region. The interactions between them and tourists who visit Maasai Mara have been associated with a number of cultural changes experienced by this community (Kennedy & Kennedy, 2012, p.122). Although the Maasai people have been credited for cultural preservation, some cultural borrowing has been recorded. The Maasai people who live around the Mara region have been changed their dressing code in addition to eating styles.
Secondly, the community’s value systems and behavior has received a slight change. This poses a strong challenge to on the indigenous identity of the Maasai people. Culture brings and promotes a community’s identity; therefore, it can be viewed as a negative impact when certain valuable aspects of a people’s culture are threatened or even lost due to tourism influence. Cultural changes can happen in family relationships and even the general collective traditional lifestyles. Additionally, wildlife tourism has caused commercialization of the local culture. This is where religious traditions and beliefs of the Maasai people have been standardized and commercialized to satisfy tourism desires. For instance, the kind of foods, drinks and accommodation in the Mara region has been designed to meet tourists’ desires. This also means that, they should not be too strange to be purchasable.
Wildlife tourism in the Mara has made the Maasai people to face changes through adaption to tourist demands. Tourists who visit Maasai Mara need experience the Maasai culture and arts and craft (Riley & Riley, 2005, p.45). In Maasai Mara, craftsmen have responded by making changes on their products so that to meet the demands of tourists. This is also a way of making them more sealable to the visitors.
The Maasai people have also experienced a lot of social stress. There are resource use conflicts in the Mara region. The Maasai are culturally pastoralists who move with their animals from place to place within the Mara in search for water and green pasture. Some resources such as land and water are competed against by tourists and the local people. This brings a problem of scarcity of primary resources (Matias, Nijkamp & Sarmento, 2011, p. 199). The Maasai people have been having regular conflicts with the Kenya wildlife service (KWS) over property destruction caused by world animals. Lions and elephants are known to escape from the reserve and destroy the property of the local people, a situation that can cause poor relationship between the government officials such as game rangers and the community.
There have also emerged conflicts with traditional land uses. As mentioned, the Maasai people are culturally pastoralists who move from place to place with their animals. The Maasai Mara region is culturally a land that belongs to them (The report: Kenya, 2014,p.198). There have been conflicts when they are denied grazing grounds within the national reserve, a situation that can causes lack of cooperation between them and local government agencies. This has also socially affected the community since they have a limited access to traditionally used areas.
Cultural and social impacts can also include: changes in gender roles and family structures, the Maasai people’s local language and culture has been diluted. All these, cause tension and low self-esteem for older generations and men.
Human and wildlife conflicts
Although safari and wildlife tourism is a very valuable resource in Kenya, wild animals are highly associated with damage to the society (Walpole, 2003, p.16).  They generally attack the people and wildlife in addition to damage to crops and infrastructure a situation that facilitates disruption of peaceful existence in the local Maasai community who live close to the reserve. Human-wildlife conflicts are common in the Mara region, some of the conflicts include: human deaths and injuries in addition to destruction of livestock and crops (Walpole, 2003, p.96).
Wildlife can also promote transmission of diseases to humans and animals. Diseases such as rabies have been reported in the Mara region (Sharma, 2005, p.125).Humans and domestic livestock are possibly affected; predators and scavengers also promote transmission of diseases by openly dispersing and dismembering of infected carcasses.
To conclude, wildlife tourism in Maasai Mara is a valuable resource to the Kenyan economy. Tourist activities in the region are associated with financial contributions, education and socio-economic incentives for preservation. Indeed, Maasai Mara reserve contributes a lot to the Kenyan tourism industry as it promotes and creates employment opportunities to the people. However, wildlife tourism activities in Maasai Mara are associated with a number of negative impacts. First, it has intensified human and wildlife conflicts in the area in addition to cultural and environmental problems. Intense tourism activities cause disturbance and stress to wildlife in the area.
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