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The African Great Rift Valley - The Maasai Mara

Date of Submission: 12/02/2010
Criteria: (v)(vii)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Kenya Wildlife Service
State, Province or Region:
Rift Valley Province (Narok and Transmara Districts)
Coordinates: S01 30 E35 00
Ref.: 5512
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The National Reserve is situated in Rift Valley Province, Narok and Transmara Districts. The site adjoins the Serengeti National Park along the Kenya-Tanzania border, and is considered part of the same ecosystem. The National Reserve is Kenya's most-visited protected area, world famous for its high density of herbivores and predators, and the annual migrations of Wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus.

The Maasai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley (fault line) some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long from Ethiopia's Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. It is characterized by a wide valley and a towering escarpment in the hazy distance. Habitats in the Maasai Mara are varied, including open rolling grassland, riverine forest, Acacia woodland, swamps, non-deciduous thickets, boulder-strewn escarpments, and Acacia, Croton and Tarchonanthus scrub. The permanent Mara and Talek Rivers, and their tributaries, flow through the Reserve and approximately trisect it. There is a pronounced rainfall gradient from the drier east (with c. 800 mm rainfall per year) to the wetter west (with c. 1,200 mm per year).

Wildlife

The Maasai Mara is remarkable for its great concentration of large herbivores and their attendant predators. The density of herbivores is estimated as nearly 240 per km2, with a biomass of just under 30 tonnes per km2 (Gakahu 1992). The extraordinary annual migration of some two million Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and 200,000 Plains Zebra (Equus burchelli) is world famous. Almost 2.5million large herbivores together with the smaller species inhabit the Mara ecosystem. Mara has the largest number of savannah species in the world it has over, 650,000 gazelle, 62,000 buffalo, 64,100 impala, 61,200 topi, 7,500 hartebeest, 7,100 giraffe, 3,000 eland and 4,000 elephant (Mara Research Station Report). There are particularly large numbers of Lion (Panthera leo) and Spotted Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and populations of the threatened black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and African hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) As well as uncounted antelope, hippo, warthog, bush pig and giant forest hog (Lamphey and Reid 2004).

More than 500 bird species are known to occur, including 12 species of Cisticola and 53 birds of prey. Grassland birds are especially well represented. Large numbers of Palaearctic migrants winter in the area, including Caspian Plovers and White Storks. The Oloololo or Siria Escarpment is one of the few Kenyan sites for Rock Cisticola, and other local and unusual birds in the Maasai Mara include Rufous-bellied Heron, Denham's Bustard, Black Coucal, Red-tailed Chat, Pale Wren Warbler, Tabora Cisticola, Icterine Warbler (in the northern winter), Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Green-capped Eremomela and Magpie Shrike. There is a single record of Shoe bill, from the Musiara Swamp (Kahindi 1994). Mara's extensive grasslands are a stronghold for the threatened, migratory Corncrake and the near-threatened, restricted-range Jackson's Widowbird. The woodlands around the reserve are probably the centre of abundance for the threatened, restricted-range Grey-crested Helmet-shrike.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(v): The Maasai community living adjacent to the reserve has for many years lived in peace with the wildlife, their land use practice has until recently been strictly pastoralism that conquers with wildlife conservation.

(vii): The annual wildebeest and plains zebra migration from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara National Reserve earned the park the status of one of the Seven Wonders of the World as its' the only migration of its kind in the world.

(x): As the reserve is a wintering spot for palearctic migrants it is therefore of most importance and significance for in-situ conservation. It is also characterized with the largest number of carnivores in Kenya i.e. lions, cheetahs, these two species are listed as threatened and play an important role in ecosystem balance by keeping prey numbers in check.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Maasai Mara is a National Reserve situated in Rift Valley Province, Narok and Transmara Districts

Conservation issues

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is managed by the Narok County Council and Transmara County Council. Because of a rapidly growing human population, accelerating land-use changes there is ever increasing pressure on the reserve. Parts of the area have good agricultural potential due to moderately high rainfall and fertile soils. Large-scale farms with fields of wheat, maize, barley and soya beans sorghum already spot the landscape towards the north, in Lemek and Olkinyei, and there are now farms within 10 km of the reserve boundary, serious human wildlife conflict occur in this area. The clearance of natural vegetation that accompanies agriculture increases the pressure for demarcation and sub-division of land. This has led to the splitting up of group ranches to individual plots that can be fenced, leased or sold. Generally, sub-division is a process that contradicts wildlife conservation. As sub-division proceeds, the movement of wildlife is inevitably impeded, and human-wildlife conflict increases. Some 45 tented camps and lodges now operate in and around the Reserve. There has been little consideration of how many tourist facilities the area can support, and the proliferation of accommodation puts severe pressure on resources, particularly wood-fuel and water. Uncontrolled dry-season grass fires, poaching for meat both for subsistence and on a commercial scale, especially along the western boundary, invasion of the Reserve by livestock, rampant off-track driving, and chronic harassment of animals have all attracted unwelcome attention.

Comparison with other similar properties

Maasai Mara National Reserve is the same ecosystem as the Serengeti National Park in United Republic of Tanzania which is a World Heritage site. The site should be listed as across boarder site as the United Republic of Tanzania has taken the first initiative. The spectacular migrations of large herbivores use the two protected areas for their survival. The Serengeti like the Mara is also very unique, due to the unique and large concentrations of wildlife and the great wildebeest, zebra migration and carnivores that follow suit in the migration. Both these areas are exceptional in that no migration of this magnitude happening anywhere else in the world.

In Bolivia the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is comparable to the Mara Serengeti ecosystem in terms of species Diversity, it is one of the largest (1,523,000 ha) and most intact parks in the Amazon Basin. With an altitudinal range of 200 m to nearly 1,000 m, it is the site of a rich mosaic of habitat types from Cerrado savannah and forest to upland evergreen Amazonian forests. An estimated 4,000 species of flora as well as 600 bird species and viable populations of many globally endangered or threatened vertebrate species found in the area there are small migrations of antelopes across the forest and savannah ecosystem not to the magnitude or extent of the Mara.