Monday, November 9, 2009

Wanting it Both Ways

One of the biggest inner conflicts I have experienced out here has been with tourists and tour vehicles. On the one hand, tourists help fund the existence of the park, and it's largely because of them that this land has been set aside as a protected area. On a larger scale, tourism is the Kenyan economy's largest source of income. Clearly, Kenya NEEDS tourists, and the Mara is arguably the most popular destination. Furthermore, it's wonderful to see people interested in and excited about wildlife, and wanting to shoot photos instead of bullets. These are all good things.

On the other hand, it can be very frustrating to watch tour vehicles violate the park "rules" (and I use that word loosely because like a tree toppling in a forest, is a rule really a rule if no one ever enforces it?) over and over again. On a daily basis, we see tour vehicles driving off-road, approaching animals to very close distances, making a lot of noise, and occasionally littering. The more in-demand animals like cheetahs and lions routinely get surrounded by tour vehicles. Below is a photo depicting only a portion of the thirty-one vehicles that encircled three adult cheetahs attempting to hunt.

As you can imagine, it's pretty difficult to sneak up on your prey when you've got thirty+ vehicles on your tail, so on this particular evening these cheetahs were unsuccessful. Better luck next time.


Dana-Phoenix, Arizona said...

Lesley - Are you taking photos and showing them to the Conservancy? They have asked ppl to take photos showing tour company/license plates.

I thought some of the tour drivers were getting better? NOT according to this photo.

Debby (Sean's mom) said...

This is a tough problem and complicated problem. Some driver guides do their game spotting by a- radio or b-spotting other vehicles,which is sad but when you consider how much people are paying to go "on safari" - they don't have the time/leisure to do safari properly. The guides have to produce the popular animals which leads to awful scenes like this. Just as bad if not worse in the Crater by the way, because you absolutely cannot go off road so when animals are near the road, it becomes insane.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science