Game plan to get financial support for a Maasai sanctuary

Bird counts begin – two members of the excellent family of starlings, the Nubian woodpecker, and so on.

The census, taking place in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, is part of a project that has a dual purpose: using biodiversity to make money, which will then help conserve natural resources and support local communities.

5000 ha site on the outskirts of the Amboseli National Park. A park elephants, giraffes, antelopes and lions are found in southern Kenya. The reserve is owned by the Maasai people, and no fence separates the land from the area used by the shepherds for their cows, sheep, goats and donkeys.

These days, wealthy visitors are returning to the reserve after the Covid pandemic, which had a severe financial impact.

“Tourism has completely collapsed, and we realized that we needed to find other ways to increase income and income in order to be able to continue paying rent,” said Mohanjit Brar of Gamewatchers Safaris, which leases Selenkay from the Maasai.

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The reserve is monitoring the potential of carbon credits and planned biodiversity credits, mechanisms designed to channel funds to landowners who conserve natural hotspots for rare species and carbon storage. For Selenkay, the first step to realizing these benefits is data collection.

Cameras and acoustic recorders are used to give an idea of ​​what animals are present in the reserve and in what numbers, and are complemented by human observations.

“Is biodiversity higher in the reserve than outside it, and what is driving this increase?” said Andrew Davis, an assistant professor at Harvard University in the US who is helping with the research.

“Once we know this scientifically, we can start thinking about a loan for sale.”