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Extinction means no turning back

Kenya’s multi-billion dollar Standard Gauge Railway project will cut through 2 major national parks in Nairobi and Tsavo. In the largest infrastructure project since Kenya became independent in 1963, replacing the old Ugandan Railway, there’s a lot resting on its success, which is anticipated to massively boost economic development, regional integration, and social and political development.

Set to be completed by 2017, construction is reportedly driving wildlife out of Nairobi NP, which has recently resulted in lost lions and sadly the tragic and public death of 13-year old Mohawk the lion 20 days ago. Soon, construction will run through Tsavo NP, which is home to about 12,000 elephants. The balance between economic development and wildlife conservation appears increasingly difficult to strike with time. Species are fast becoming critically endangered, and some rest dangerously on the precipice of extinction, like the African elephant. If things continue the way they are, it’s expected they’ll be extinct within one generation.

While consultation between key wildlife management authorities, the planning ministries of the government and CBRC, the building contractor, are ongoing- the stark truth must be realised that habitat loss and the displacement of wildlife will catalyse the decreases in population numbers and the anticipated extinction of key species. At that point, the damage will be final. Irreversible, and no turning back. Something that no economic gain will ever be able to help, and will, in fact, represent a reversal of a nation’s development.

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What if the Great Migration stopped?

We’re familiar with the Great Migration, where approximately 2 million beautiful beings move around within the Serengeti ecosystem, chasing what the fresh rains have provided: greener pastures. Comprised mostly of wildebeest, and some hundreds of thousands of zebras and antelope, they are constantly on the move, navigating the dangers of big cats and dogs on the plains, and the mammoth crocs and hippos wading in the river. It is declared one of the greatest wildlife shows on the planet. And what a grand spectacle it truly is.
Behind the scenes however, an ecological disaster is taking place.

The source of this magnificent Mara River, which provides the life-giving water to these wondrous creatures, is the Mau Forest- the largest forest in Kenya, up in the hills, and is rapidly shrinking. In the last 20 years, more than a quarter of the forest has been decimated by human development and agricultural activities. The water flowing from it is increasingly lesser and lower in quality, and in certain periods, droughts at the Mara ensue, resulting in widespread animal deaths. Last year the water flowing out of the Mau was at an all-time low.

A lot rests on this forest, which also powers the country’s hydroelectric plants, and fuels key agricultural exports such as tea.

The issue of resettling communities that live there, all of whom have land title deeds, remains at large. While it has been done before with successful partnerships between conservancies and the Maasai, time ticks along for the Mau Forest, and this issue remains one of the biggest threats to the Maasai Mara and the massive ecosystem in which it belongs.

We must ensure that all areas are protected soon enough, before the Mara River runs dry, and before the Great Migration won’t be so great anymore. It will just be no more.