Dar es Salaam. Tanzania commends the decision by the Kenyan authorities to indefinitely close a tourist camp that was blocking wildebeest migration between the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
The permanent secretary in the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Aloyce Nzuki, termed the move by Kenya as “ecologically sensible. It is an ecologically sensible decision. We commend them for that,” he said.
Dr Nzuki was reacting to reports Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) had closed the controversial Mara Ngenche Camp indefinitely, pending an environmental assessment.
A statement the by Nema chairman, John Konchellah, revealed that four other tents within the camp were found to have flouted Nema rules during an inspection tour by Government officials.
The annual migration about 1.4 million wildebeest, 300,000 zebra and hundreds of thousands of other herbivores from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya and back between July and October is one of the greatest tourism spectacles that attracts thousands of tourists from across the world to witness the unique event.
The animals migrate in search of new pastures and water. But their migration ‘freedom’ was being threatened after a video clip went viral last week of a group of people – believed to be workers of the tourist camp in Maasai Mara – forcing a herd of the wild beasts to turn back after crossing the Mara river.
This caused a stampede and an unknown number of animals are said to have died as a result.
Blocking the animals from their natural migration triggered condemnation from across the world, and the Kenya’s Tourism minister, Najib Balala, just as soon ordered removal of the tourist camp.
“I have discussed with Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, about the camp built near the Mara River, blocking the wildebeest migration route. It’s very disturbing, and we expect the governor to take action and have the camp removed immediately,” Balala said.
“I’ve insisted that we need a Maasai Mara National Reserve Management Plan that will not only enhance biodiversity, but also protect our wildlife migratory corridors from human greed,” he stated.
Being a common heritage for the two countries, Tanzania’s minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla, said last week that he was keenly watching the situation – but that the issue would be resolved amicably.
“I assure you all that, since Maasai Mara is part and parcel of the Great Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, through our trans-border conservation initiatives, we will discuss and solve this matter immediately and amicably, for the survival of our shared heritage,” Dr Kigwangalla said.
He said such a camp would not have received the relevant approvals to be built in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, noting that the video was really most disturbing.
And Dr Nzuki said yesterday that blocking the migration route would decimate – an d even annihilate – the great wildebeest migration: the main reason for touring both the Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
“Blocking the migration in this tiny ecosystem of Maasai Mara would be the end of Maasai Mara,” he said.
Despite the closure order, however, a director oft he tourist camp, Nagib Popat, is said to have obtained a court order against the closure by the Kenyan minister.