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Conservationists reject military base in Mara

Wildlife conservation groups, political leaders say planned facility will work against growth of tourism

Wildlife conservation groups and some Narok leaders are opposed to plans by the government to build a military facility in Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Their concerns come after the National Land Commission gazetted a notice to acquire 1,400 hectare land in Lemek and Olkinyei conservancies just outside the reserve for the government to set up the facility.

Several tourist facilities including the high end Porini Camp are in the conservancies which are also wildlife dispersal areas.

Masai Mara Marathon is also annually held within Lemek Conservancy.

The groups said yesterday they would not allow the facility to be constructed citing it would kill tourism in the larger Mara.

Wildlife habitat

“The facility will interfere with wildlife habitats and limit their dispersal areas. It should be built elsewhere,” said Narok North MP Moitalel Kenta.

The conservancies, he said have high concentration of the cat family, adding that the area is also their breeding grounds.

He questioned the importance of having the training fields in the Mara, adding that the community was willing to buy the land if members of the two expansive ranches west of the park, will sell it to the military.

“Apart from being wildlife dispersal areas, hundreds of livestock graze within the ranches,” said Kenta.

He wondered which strategic military interest the facility would serve and called for it be built in northern Kenya, a region hard hit by insecurity from internal and external forces.

The facility would also have negative effects on the environment, they said and demanded the Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out.

“Apart from failing to carry out the assessment, the government didn’t consult locals before putting up a gazette notice,” said David Ololoigero for the members of Lemek Wildlife Conservancy.

He said they would move to court to challenge the intention saying they would also not allow the mobilisation of equipment, machinery and construction materials into the area. 

Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem Coordinator for Lake Victoria Basin Nick Murero said the ongoing encroachment on  dispersal areas would kill tourism in the Mara in less than two decades and called on the government to reconsider the decision.

Military facility

“A massive military facility in the middle of one dispersal areas will definitely accelerate the demise of a premier tourist destination,” he said.

Murero, also the chairman of Narok Wildlife and Environment Forum, said rumbling military hardware including planes would scare wildlife out of both protected areas and in the conservancies.

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