Tourists from all over the world, mainly lovers of animal observation and wildlife photo safaris, flock to the reserve every year. It is indeed one of the most famous wildlife parks on the African continent.
It benefits from a particular local climate : the neighbouring gigantic Lake Victoria, the biggest one in Africa, gives birth to huge turbulence leading to storms giving heavy and regular rains all year long on the 6000 square kilometers of grassy plain of the Maasai Mara ecosystem and of its surrounding conservation areas. This unique biotope is a thriving place for millions of grass eating animals, more numerous than in anywhere else in the world, which of course attracts predators. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and crocodiles, to name only the biggest ones, regulate the age-old balance of African savannahs.
This balance of the Maasai Mara ecosystem is today seriously threatened. There are multiple reasons which have been clearly identified. Poaching, animal trafficking, deforestation, climate change (which leads to an increase and an intensification of dry seasons) , the uncontrolled tradition of land burning, pollution , mass tourism....
However, the main threat is the constant dwindling of the area of the national reserve itself (1500 km2) caused by the pressure of human presence, namely of the Maasai farmers.
The Maasai culture has so far and to some extent allowed most certainly the preservation of the ecosystem of the Maasai-Mara. This proud people of cattle breeders, who were once nomads, has always lived in harmony on the same lands as the great African fauna. Being no hunters (the milk and the meat from their herds provide them with an endless source of proteins) the Maasai had only limited impact on the species they were living along. The eviction of the tribes from the national parks and reserves (to allow more space for the activities of tourism related to observation) has reduced the surface of their lands and caused them to adopt inevitable and permanent settlement.
Besides, along with the exponential curve of the Kenyan demography (more than 40 millions inhabitants today ) the demand for farming land has dramatically increased. Given that within the Maasai
tribes the social status is directly linked to the number of cows a breeder owns this trend has become more and more important.
Thus, the local populations now turned into owners of herds made of thousands of cows find themselves wedged between closed off farming land and the limits of the national reserve.
As the very few overused grazing areas are very quickly grassless , the Maassai and their herds have no other solution than to occupy the reserve and the conservation grounds. They then find
themselves competing for land with the wild fauna, eventually confronting their cattle with the predators.
The conflicts, especially with the lions and the cheetahs, are more and more frequent and end up with the killing of the predators by the Maasai who judge them too daring. The weapons used by the tribes are usually poison, gun shots or assegais.
The permanent quest for new grazing areas pushes the Maasai and the authorities in charge of the park to proceed to land burning on a large scale. It is an age-old practice which allows the rapid
growth of a green grass that is rich, nourishing and appreciated by domestic cattle as as well as by the wild herbivores.
Land burning, even if it leads to a short lived illusion of a greener grass, has its pernicious effetcs : the fire kills without any distinction, besides the remaining straw, insects, tortoises, snakes, small mammals, young birds and nesting eggs, small animals and young shrubs.