Every year between July and August, more than a million snorting wildebeest cross into Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve from the plains of Serengeti in the neighbouring Tanzania.
The spectacle caused by this thunderous migration that also involves thousands of herds of zebras has over the years become a global spectacle — boosting fortunes of East Africa tourism as visitors rushed in to witness the movement.
However, an international study now paints a bleak future for the region’s tourism industry as massive human and livestock encroachment in the Serengeti ecosystem threatens to end what has fondly come to be known as a “modern wonder of the world”.
“Protected areas across East Africa are under pressure from a wide range of threats. Our work shows that encroachment by people should be considered just as serious a challenge as better known issues such as poaching and climate change,” says Colin Beale from the University of York who was part of the study.
The Mara is a popular game viewing spot thanks to its expanse of savannah grassland, which in turn is the most-visited in the region.
Joseph Ogutu, a lecturer at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, says the number of animals that have been migrating from Tanzania to the Kenyan side over the years have been dwindling as water levels at the park decline.
“The number of wildebeest from the Tanzanian side has been declining over the years as water level in Mara has been coming down,” said Dr Ogutu.
“In countries where far more wildlife are still found outside than inside protected areas, such as Kenya, where more than 65 percent of wildlife occur outside protected areas, expanding human population size, livestock and human activities pose serious and unprecedented threats to wildlife populations,” he told the Business Daily in an interview.
Every year a million wildebeest, half a million gazelle and 200,000 zebra make the perilous trek from the Serengeti park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya in search for water and pasture.
A good number of these animals are attacked by crocodiles as they cross the Mara River, making it a spectacular scene for tourists.
An international team of scientists, through the research that will be published today (March 29) has discovered that increased human activity along the boundaries is having a detrimental impact on plants, animals, and soils.
For example, the study established that between 1977 and 2016, the population of cattle in the Mara shot up by a massive 1,053 percent while that of sheep and goats has gone up by 1,174 percent. Contrastingly, the population of wildlife in the ecosystem has dipped 87.4 per cent over the same period.
The authors conclude that, even for reasonably well-protected areas like the Serengeti and Mara, alternative strategies are needed to sustain the coexistence and livelihood of local people and wildlife in the landscapes surrounding protected areas.
“Even for reasonably well-protected areas like the Serengeti and Mara, alternative strategies may be needed that sustain the coexistence and livelihood of local people and wildlife in the landscapes surrounding protected areas.”
“The current strategy of increasingly hard boundaries may be a major risk to both people and wildlife,” the scientists concluded in the report.
The study, led by the University of Groningen and with collaborators at 11 institutions around the world, looked at 40 years of data, and revealed that some boundary areas have seen a 400 percent increase in human population over the past decade while larger wildlife species populations in key areas (the Kenyan side) were reduced by more than 75 percent.
The study reveals how population growth and an influx of livestock in the buffer zones of the parks has squeezed the area available for migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles, causing them to spend more time grazing less nutritious grass than they did in the past.
This has reduced the frequency of natural fires, changing the vegetation and altering grazing opportunities for other wildlife in the core areas.
The team shows that the impacts are cascading down the food chain, favouring less palatable herbs and altering the beneficial interactions between plants and micro-organisms that enable the ecosystem to capture and use essential nutrients.
The effects could potentially make the ecosystem less resilient to future shocks such as drought or further climate change, the scientists warn.
Dr Michiel Veldhuis, lead author of the study from the University of Groningen, says there is an urgent need to rethink how to manage the boundaries of protected areas to be able to conserve biodiversity.
“The future of the world’s most iconic protected area and their associated human population may depend on it. This finding alters our view on what is needed to protect biodiversity,” he said.
The wildebeest migration attracts thousands of tourists every year, generating millions of dollars for both countries.
Kenya features prominently among major world tourism destinations partly because of its choice flora and fauna and the beautiful sandy beaches.
Last year, Kenya made Sh157 billion from tourism, showing the sustained marketing of the sector that had been threatened by terrorist attacks was paying off.
The wildebeest’s life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water. An estimated 400,000 of their calves are born during a six-week period early in the year — usually between late January and mid-March at Serengeti.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.