Calls for a moratorium of building of new lodges and permanent tented camps inside the Masai Mara Game Reserve have been ongoing for a long time now, considering that the general view of conservationists has gelled into one tenor, too many lodges, too many rooms, too many tourists, and too many busses. That may be argued by others from a different background, but the fact remains that unlike in the Serengeti, where tighter rules are applied and new investors and developers are told to find their own land outside the boundaries of the national park, in the Masai Mara, it has been quite the opposite for a long time.
The establishment of conservancies, using land leased from Masai owners, is creating a much-needed buffer zone and gives space for animals to escape the pressures of hordes of tour busses circling a pride of lions and often outnumbering them by a sizeable factor to find peace on the conservancies where strictly limited ratios are applied in terms of numbers of beds vis-a-vis the acreage of the conservancy itself. There, to the credit of the promoters of this new wave of tourism businesses, the camps are non-permanent and if ever taken down for relocation or permanent removal, little if any evidence will remain after the next rainy season has helped the vegetation to spread.
The latest newsletter of RhiNews by Save the Rhino International (www.savetherhino.org) also mentions opposition towards a particular new development, likely aimed at the mass market; the full story can be found at: http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2010/01/18/32830/somak-refutes-claims-kenyan-lodge-affects-rhino-habitat.html . Somak Holidays has refuted claims it is selling holidays to a safari lodge in Kenya that will affect the habitat of the black rhino. According to a report in The Sunday Times, leading conservationists, including BBC’s Big Cat Diary presenter Jonathan Scott and safari writer Brian Jackman, have joined in a call for people to boycott the operator and sign a petition.
The website of the lodge in question, promoted by the name of Ashnil Hotels (www.ashnilhotels.com), shows no substantive information about their Mara property advertised, as the site has either not been updated since 2008 or else the information, which could have revealed the extent of their development, has been taken off the site. Notably also, neither doed the mission statement nor company vision speak in any way of conservation, the protection of nature, maintenance of the habitat and ecosystem, or give an insight into their environmental policy. It simply restricts itself to mention: “By practicing responsible tourism, we strengthen our efforts to develop future properties, which will further benefit the country’s economy, offer better employment levels, and yet retain the traditions and customs of the people.”