Balancing needs of livestock and wildlife
Amboseli Game Park, Kenya
IN clear, early-morning air, a pride of lions lay resting, the sun catching their tawny skins, the male off to one side, the females together on a slight rise. Six elephants, four adults and two young ones, came ambling toward my safari minibus, some crossing the sandy road a few yards in front, some behind, tails swinging, great ears flapping, trunks methodically scooping up low bush and grass.
Behind them, as if on cue, a low mass of cloud thinned and lifted. The sun gleamed on the snow-white icecap on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain at 19,340 feet, across the border in Tanzania.
This is the stuff of tourists' dreams: one of Africa's great sights, serene, peaceful. But deceptive.
Behind the scenes in this small but colorful game park lies a struggle for resources that experts say has yet to be resolved. It poses sharp challenges for the government and the peoples of Kenya and other African countries.
On the one hand, lions, elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, wildebeests, zebras, and other animals are growing in number in the relative safety of the national parks, protected by a Kenyan government ambitious to increase overseas tourism from 360,000 last year to 1 million by 1988. Drought cost the Masai half their cattle
On the other hand, livestock of the local Masai tribes competes for grazing and water. Drought last year cost the Masai half their cattle. They still have some 100,000. Traditionally the diet of the Masai has consisted of milk and blood, but they now say they no longer have enough because of drought, and need to be sure of famine-relief grain in dry periods.
Static herds mean more animals overgrazing specific areas. Land grows more arid, and livestock competes even more fiercely with wild game for pasture.