Jonathan and Angela Scott

The Marsh Pride: The Future?

December 9th, 2015

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The Paradis Pride who share the same pride males – the 4 Musketeers – with the Marsh Pride.

The poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride will make a sorry end note to our Autobiography (Published by Bradt in August 2016). To be honest there is no longer a Marsh Pride – the Musiara Marsh area that gave the pride its name has become a ‘no go area’ for a proper pride with nowhere safe for them to breed now that Bila Shaka and the Marsh are cattle country. Remnants of the Marsh Pride are eking out an existence wherever they can – along Rhino Ridge and over on Paradise or keeping to the fringes of the riverine forest. But that means trying to avoid hostility from neighboring prides. Prime lion territory is fiercely contested – nobody is willing to cut any slack to their neighbors.

We do retain hope that all the furore over this incident may force some changes. The problem is ‘Where do all those cattle go?’ Sub-Division of Masailand has changed the landscape around the Reserve – it is no longer suitable in the main for large scale pastoralism. One suggestion is to set aside some of the Greater Mara as pasture for cattle that could be used on a rotational basis. In the Wildlife Conservancies surrounding the Reserve, use of the land for wildlife based tourism exists alongside pastoralism by rotational use of the area – tourists and cattle avoid being in the same place at the same time. Ideally of course it should be an absolute given that no cattle be allowed inside the Reserve – day or night. But with night time grazing becoming the accepted norm with the authorities simply pretending it isn’t happening, how do you revert to a NO CATTLE INSIDE THE RESERVE regime? The damage to the ecosystem by unregulated cattle incursions has been documented by the Hyena Research Team at Talek – showing a loss of biodiversity (less pasture for wild herbivores) and a drop in lion numbers, among other findings. There are no easy solutions to please everyone. We must try to think of the Masai Mara as sacred again – a place where wild animals can live in safety from humans. If we cannot set aside an area of just 1500 sq km for that purpose what hope is there?

There is no question that this has been a public relations disaster for the Masai Mara and Kenya. The Marsh Pride, along with the other star big cats such as Kike and Half-Tail, Bella, Honey and Toto, brought a sense of wonder and joy to millions of people around the world. Big Cat Diary changed people’s lives and promoted Kenya Tourism the world over. We can only hope that the fate of the Marsh Pride will prompt the relevant authorities in government to address the issues that have plighted the reputation of the Masai Mara for years. If it does that then something positive will have come of this and a new Marsh Pride will be able to reclaim the land of the lion around Musiara Marsh and Bila Shaka.