M&M trot the globe

Masai Mara

A visit to Masai Mara, the Kenyan part of a massive cross-border national park (named the Serengeti in Tanzania), is a must on any visit to Kenya. Named after the Masai, the tribe who live there, the park is unique in that it has been declared a World Heritage Site despite the fact that the Masai live there and use it for grazing their cattle. Admittedly, given the number of predators in the vicinity grazing cattle in the area puts herdsmen at serious risk (on one game drive, we counted about 15 lionesses and saw a group of 7 cheetahs!). I met two Masai men who showed me their bows and poison-tipped arrows – necessary weapons for defending themselves and their cattle! Inside the Masai Mara wildlife was abundant, enabling us to spot four of the ‘Big Five’ within the two game drives that we did. Seeing 15 lionesses in one spot relaxing at sunset before a busy night of hunting was particularly satisfying. Observing the elephant families was also wonderful. Most fascinating of all though, was the amount of information we got from our wonderful guide, John. We learned that the number of predators in a given area affects the colour of a zebra’s stripes – the darker they are, the more dangerous their environment is – black stripes indicate a lot of predators, whereas brown stripes indicate fewer. Newborn zebras have brown stripes; as they mature their stripes darken according to the environment in which they live. Another fascinating thing we learned about female zebras was that they (along with wildebeasts) can prolong their pregnancy for up to two weeks, if say they are caught in the middle of the migration or a hazard makes it imprudent to give birth. Driving around the park with John, it was hard to believe that amid the abundance of wildlife, poaching is still such a problem in East Africa, but he informed us that between 2004 and 2008, poaching got so out of control in Kenya that the government issued ‘shoot on sight’ directives. Masai Mara along with other parks in East Africa, must vigilantly protect the prized elephant tusks, rhino horns and other animal parts which countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, China and Japan prize. John lamented the fact that the Chinese are the number one importers of ivory and that their economic power combined with corruption inside the government and a quid pro quo between Chinese investors and Kenyan officals means that shipments of ivory are still being seized.


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