When the Cheetah Kills, Safari Truck Groups Attack Immediately. - Liberty

Sunday, October 15, 2023

When the Cheetah Kills, Safari Truck Groups Attack Immediately.


About 60 cars were waiting near the Mara River in Kenya. Wildebeests and zebras congregate in August and attempt to cross the channel as part of their migration to the Serengeti Plains. Simon Espley

The video was published online around October. Taken from a distance, this image shows an antelope grazing on the African plains. Suddenly two cheetahs run up and an antelope takes off and runs toward the camera. But cats are too fast. They converge on it and defeat it. they start eating.

At that moment, the second drama begins. The safari car parked in the background starts moving. His dark-colored 4x4 hits the gas and starts approaching the animal. Then, one after another, green, brown, and white, vehicles in various states of repair follow. You can hear the guides yelling at each other. Some start honking their horns. Cars race in circles, and passengers hold up their cell phones to record cheetahs and meals.

A female voice is heard in the background. "Are they stupid?" she asks.

This video was shot in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. The reserve is home to five species of animals: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos. The identity of the creavideo's creatorains unknown, as is the date it was taken.

First shared on his Twitter account using the name @DrumChronicles, he has been played over 175,000 times since his appearance. Guides and conservationists who watched the video said it highlighted a problem many had observed since the Kenyan government began lifting most pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Crowds at popular safari spots were a serious problem before the pandemic but reappeared surprisingly quickly after tourists returned to Kenya. And Kenya-based organization Tourism Agenda calls for increased monitoring of protected areas.

"Unfortunately, what you see in this video is the rule, not the Masai Mara National Reserve's exception.

In February, her Toyota Harland cruiser carrying tourists got too close to a family of cheetahs and her car nearly ran over one of her cubs.

In August, Simon Espley, chief executive of travel and conservation company Africa Geographic, said the Mara River, which flows through the reserve, is just feet from where hundreds of wildebeest and zebras live. said. He said. He said. he announced. I was horrified to see 60 cars idling on both sides of the road. They are slowly congregating at intersections during their travels in the Masai Mara.

When her hooves hit the water, Espley said there was a "maddeningly chaotic rush of screams and moans of hundreds of tons of steel" from the four-wheel drive vehicle she maneuvered to approach the herd. I said. she said.

“It was unrealistic and uncomfortable to have everyone gathering on the riverbank just a few hundred meters away and vying for positions to avoid a collision,” he said.

Espree, a company that organizes safari trips for groups of photographers, said it felt "regret and anxiety" about being part of the crowd.

The problem, described by conservationists as "aggressive tourism," was on the rise before the pandemic, but Instagram moments are starving guests and trying to make up for the losses they suffered when the world shut down. . was. obtain. It seems to be made worse by the tour company.

“Personally, I will never go to the Mara Reserve again during the season because of this,” said Michael Lorenz, a Cape Town-based safari guide who leads tours in Kenya. "It actually upsets me a lot and my guests are upset to see how badly the animals are being treated.

Urge to get too close

The human desire to get close to animals, no matter how dangerous, is innate, Professor Philip Tedeschi, founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connections at the University of Denver, told students. increase. He said he visits Kenya frequently.

Last summer, a small boat in Plymouth, Massachusetts, approached a humpback whale and nearly capsized when the whale leaped out of the water and landed on its bow.

In May, a 25-year-old woman was stabbed when she approached a bison in Yellowstone National Park, and she was thrown 10 feet into the air. She survived, park officials said in a statement, warning her visitors to stay at least 25 yards from the animal.

The move may be misguided and dangerous, Tedeschi said, but it's also an attempt to get the "best possible experience."

It's also possible that you put too much emphasis on getting too close to the animal. "Being able to literally look over the shoulder of an animal that kills its prey," he said.

Tedeschi said the results could be devastating for animals.

In Kenya, the fastest but most timid of the big cats, cheetahs can easily frighten prey even if they haven't eaten in days. If the car gets too close, it reveals the cheetah's whereabouts to prey and other predators, creating another challenge for animals already struggling to find food due to drought and habitat loss. addition.

In the approximately 580-square-mile Masai Mara National Reserve, large numbers of vehicles and tourists threaten the annual migration of mammals known as the Great Migration. August is the peak travel season in Kenya.

Migration was already threatened by other types of human behavior, such as urban development, new settlements, and farm fences.

According to Kenyan guide Benson Gitau, tourists who want front-row seats are putting pressure on the animals.

Looking for a better way

Tourism is important to many African economies. Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for almost 10% of the country's gross domestic product in Kenya, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, in 2019 he had more than 2 million visitors to Kenya and in 2020 this number is expected to grow by more than 7%. But then a pandemic hit, forcing hotels and restaurants to close and laying off more than 80% of his workers in the country's tourism sector. Those who have not lost their jobs often have to deal with pay cuts of up to 70%, the ministry said.

Gitau, a Kenyan guide who works at Loisaba Nature Reserve, his 57,000-acre wildlife sanctuary north of Nairobi, said many guides lost their jobs during the pandemic and used their cars as taxis. Told. He said. Or I needed to have groceries delivered.

Although the number of tourists is decreasing, it is steadily returning. By spring 2022, the number of international tourists arriving in Africa will more than double that of 2021. In October, then-Kenya Tourism Secretary Najib Balala predicted that by the end of 2022, he would see 1.4 to 1.5 million visitors. Country. 2021 years.

But as the country welcomes visitors, leaders are beginning to rethink how tourism is managed in reserves and parks.

Ballara's office released his 130-page report in May calling for a "new tourism strategy." Among its proposals are increased Maasai Mara National Reserve fees in July and August (currently, it costs up to $80 for non-resident adults to visit the park) and a new Includes accommodation development. Limited to 30 beds.

There are dozens of camps and lodges in the reserve and adjacent reserves, according to Kenyan travel agency Masai Mara Travel. Some camps and lodges within the reserve have up to 200 beds, Gitau said.

But conservationists and field guides say few, if any, of the ministry's proposed measures have been implemented.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, which took over as a new leader in October, did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment.

Zebra Plains, one of his operators who can see the vehicle in the video, did not respond to a request for comment. The video was posted on her Zebra Plains Facebook page in November by a user who was unhappy with the driver's behavior.

"Our pictured guests typically have off-road permits, but are not exempt from driving between other vehicles and sightings," the company said in a statement. ”

As the Maasai Mara National Reserve comes under pressure from tourists, conservationists are pushing a "protection" model of leasing private land owned by local communities, such as the Maasai, to tour companies. They hire community members as guides, camp managers, kitchen staff, and housekeepers and agree to follow regulations such as caps on the number of lodges and camps and limits on the number of tourist vehicles. For example, the largest camp in the Loisaba Nature Reserve can accommodate 20 to 30 tourists, Gitau said.

Since he founded the Masai Mara Wildlife Conservation Society in 2013, some 350,000 acres of wilderness bordering the Masai Mara Reserve have been placed under this kind of public-private partnership.

Studies show that wildlife fares are higher where tourism is more controlled. For example, according to his 2018 report published in the scientific journal Ecology and Evolution, female cheetahs living in the Masai Mara have far fewer cubs than cheetahs living in reserves. that's it.

Staying in the Masai Mara National Reserve is much more expensive, costing at least $1,200 versus several hundred dollars a night, said Big Five Tours & Expeditions, a Florida-based tour company that organizes trips to the reserve. . I am here. receive. President Ashish Sanglakka said:

The answer to limiting tourist numbers in the Masai Mara National Reserve may lie in raising park prices, he said.

"It should be expensive," said Kenyan-born Sangladika. "It should be a privilege. It shouldn't be a right."

At the same time, a healthy tourism industry is critical to conservation efforts in regions of the world that are home to some of the most threatened species, including the black rhinoceros. Many Kenyans rely on tourism as a lifeline to escape poverty. Tourism provides incentives for communities to protect wildlife, and few other industries offer high-paying jobs.

Keffer Gonna said the aim was to improve police and surveillance in the Masai Mara Reserve, not to discourage travel.

As such, she said, visitors have tremendous power. They make sure the tour company has guides licensed by the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association and ask the tour company about their ethics. I will ask. I will ask. I will ask. I will ask. I will ask. can ask.

As a rule, trained guides keep him within 20 to 30 meters of a hunter, Gitau said. "Once you get there, you have to turn off the engine, be quiet, and enjoy the scenery," he said.

Relaxing expectations will also help tourists behave more responsibly, Gitau said. When he picks up guests, he always asks them what they want to see.

Gitau said he will do his best to provide a memorable experience.