Giraffe numbers in Masai Mara down 95%

The giraffe population of Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve has declined by up to 95% because of increased human settlement around the unfenced park, according to a new study. Scientists at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) found that the numbers of giraffes, hartebeest, impala, warthogs, topis and waterbuck all fell “markedly and persistently” throughout the 1,500 sq km reserve between 1989 and 2003. Their sample counts were backed by government population estimates that showed actual losses as high as 95% for giraffes, 80% for wart­hogs and 76% for hartebeest for the period dating back to 1979.

The study warned that killing of animals that damage crops and water supplies, break down fences and threaten humans and livestock was “common and increasing” in the ranchlands. Adding to the pressure on wildlife, more and more farmers were allowing their livestock to graze in the reserve, especially in times of drought. Hunting by mainly non-Masai ethnic groups within the Mara also remained a significant problem.

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