Mara Predator Conservation Program

Supporting stable, healthy predator populations in the Greater Mara Ecosystem by providing scientific evidence for conservation action.

Research efforts focus on three predator species; lions, cheetahs and wild dogs. Identifying each individual is essential to accurately obtain true density estimates of predators and population trends over time, and keep track of family dynamics. Each individual predator is provided with a unique ID code.

The Masai Mara has Kenya’s most closely monitored lion and cheetah populations, in terms of robust and consistent density estimates. Around 436 resident lions and 32 resident cheetahs live within the Greater Mara Ecosystem (latest survey report for end of quarter 1 2022). Cheetahs can have enormous ranging areas and there are a number of individuals that come into the wildlife areas that are transient or spend most of their time outside the Masai Mara protected areas, like the Serengeti.

Lion collars are used to gain valuable insights into the species spatial ecology, particularly their movements across and onto unprotected land and to document potential conflicts with local communities. These insights into their space-use can suggest how anthropogenic factors like livestock disturbance can affect predator populations.

Cheetah populations are declining at a rapid rate. The main causes of their decline in Africa are attributed to direct persecution due to livestock predation, habitat fragmentation and depletion of their preferred wild prey species. Because more than 70% of the cheetahs live outside of protected areas, there is always a high likelihood that they will encounter and kill livestock. As a result, retribution by local pastoralists has been on the rise in recent years. Many cubs are lost to predators and interference by tourist vehicles (accidental deaths by running cubs over or interfering with a kill). Cub survival chances can be increased by reducing the number of vehicles around a sighting and enforcing safe distancing by safari vehicles.

Following a local extinction in the 1990’s due to an outbreak of canine distemper, they documented the return of wild dogs into the region. In order to keep any new packs safe, it is crucial to vaccinate domestic dogs and cats against canine distemper and rabies as they are the diseases’ primary carriers.

 

 

The proximity of grazing lands to protected areas has led to an increase in livestock depredation during the day in the Mara. Poor herding practises are another issue since young children are often sent out to look after livestock. With increasing incidents of human-wildlife conflicts being reported, various mitigation measures are being introduced to enhance livestock security and therefore improve tolerance towards predators by communities in these conflict hotspots.

MPCP initiates training sessions to help reduce the occurrence of predator-livestock conflict incidents. Herders are equipped with good herding practice skills, and are sensitised on laws regarding compensation and penalties found in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WMCA) of 2013. The programme has also created a network of livestock herders who can report conflicts and sightings of predators to the Lion ambassadors and other relevant authorities. 15 lion ambassadors operate in 15 zones across the Mara. They are instrumental in data collection of settlements, human-wildlife conflict and livestock.

Livestock depredation inside bomas at night is a major cause for retaliation by herders as it results in large numbers of their animals dying mostly as a result of stampeding by the frightened livestock themselves. Weaker traditional stick bomas are the major targets of these attacks due to their ease of access by predators. Recycled plastic pole bomas have proved to be effective in preventing nighttime attacks by predators, a move that fosters positive attitudes towards predators by communities that live closer to conservation areas.

Wildlife poisoning remains a major threat to the survival of predators (including birds of prey) in the Mara. In response to this, the Mara Predator Conservation Program works to create awareness through establishing a network of groups to assist in curbing the spread of poisoning incidents. Engaging communities through awareness creation forums as well as increasing their capacities to respond to conflict incidents in order to promote coexistence is a core component of their outreach.

We support the work of this important project by providing financial assistance, accommodation for their researchers in our Masai Mara camps, and helping with seats in our aircraft for their employees. Our guides report sightings on new cubs as well as any injured predators. Our guests can help to supply clear photographs, which are then put into the ID catalogues.

If booked in advance, a presentation can be arranged for our guests in camp.