SOS - Cheetah "Zoo" in the Masai Mara

Old Apr 7th, 2009, 06:09 AM
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SOS - Cheetah "Zoo" in the Masai Mara

Received following message the other day that I know will be of interest to many who have or will be visiting Kenya's Masai Mara.

"I’m writing today as a conservationist and as a (ex)-reporter and I’m afraid that, as journalists often have to do, I’m not bringing you good news: in the middle of the Maasai Mara ecosystem, in a magical region that is now finally protected and under professional management by Masai Mara North Conservancy-MMNC (the body that holds lease contracts for 30,000 hectares in the ex Koyiaki and Lemek Group Ranches), somebody is setting up an electrically fenced “cheetah zoo” with a connected cheetah hotel”.

The Kenya Cheetah Foundation (KCF), founded by a Mr Jorge Alesanco del Castillo, has apparently received approval from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to develop a “Cheetah Rehabilitation Sanctuary Project” on 61 hectares in the ex Koyiaki Group Ranch. This has been made possible by the fact that the land is one of a handful of very few parcels in the Koyiaki region that are not under lease to MMNC.

MMNC does not believe that NEMA was fully informed of the complete nature and impact of the KCF Project during the process of granting its approval and has presented a list of legal and technical objections to such a licence. For those interested in more details, please let me know and I can send you the documentation. However, I just want to point out to you this: the KCF’s stated goal is to establish a wildlife drive thru zoo in the midst of a wildlife conservacy. Presumably this will be accomplished by darting, manhandling, capturing, caging and maintaining in captivity the limited and endangered cheetah population currently found in the Masai Mara region. Thereafter these wildlife animals (including separated breeding males, breeding females and females with litters) will be put on public display in the twenty four (24!!!) holding cage pens that KCF proposes to construct for tourists visit purposes, presumably based on a ticket fee arrangement. These isolated captivity areas shall have a size of 1,000 square feet each and shall be accessible by vehicle drive thru with intermittent stopping by pedestrian tourists to view the captive animals on display.

Now, it doesn’t take a high degree in environmental sciences to smell a big rat here. The main 10 questions that arise are:

1) Is the electrical fence legal and ethical in an habitat that prides itself of having been open and unfenced for centuries? What are the damages that can be suffered by the wildlife, not to mention the cheetah?;

2) Is it legal to exploit commercially animals that, according to the law, belong to the nation, not to individuals?

3) Why is KCF quoting as supporters of the project some “affected persons” and organizations that either do not exist or are not affected at all because belong to different areas?

4) Has NEMA vetted the qualifications, both scientific and financial, of the proponent of the KCF project to undertake such a sensitive national project? Is NEMA relying on the experience of the KCF Project proponent as the owner of a “cheetah household pet” as adequate experience to handle the KCF project?

5) Are NEMA and KWS aware that very few people have ever breeded cheetahs and released them in the wild successfully and that scientific institutions involved in these experiments (expecially in the US) call it “highly problematic” (often death rate exceeds birth rate in captive cheetah)? Besides, our area is prevalent with several prides of lions and a significant number of leopards who will decimate any released cheetahs within a short period of time. Capturing and breeding cheetahs will either result in the captivation of our cheetah population or will result in the destruction of our cheetahs when they are subsequently released.

6) How can a zoo be authorized when the Biodiversity Regulations (2207), NEMA’s and KWS’s regulations prohibit the set up of zoos in situ in game park areas?

7) Where will the KCF Project get its supply of cheetahs? How is it possible to justify the magnitude of this project stating that it applies to “only orphaned or injured cheetahs”, since orphaned or injured cheetahs are far and few?

8) How will the captive cheetahs be fed? Has KWS or NEMA licensed the KCF Project to poach wildlife in the Masai Mara to feed its captive animals? If not, will the captive cheetahs be fed domesticated animal meat, in which case they will never be able to be released to the wild if they have been raised on domesticated meat?

9) What will happen to the captured and caged cheetahs eventually? Will they be transported somewhere else? Will they be sold or transferred to overseas zoos since the KCF project states that they will be working in “partnership with zoos”?

10) Was the KCF project determined by NEMA to be a worthwhile exception to the ungazetted moratorium on any further tourism facility construction on the Masai Mara area pending gazetting of the “General Management Plan for the Maasai Mara Master Plan”?

We need your help to find the answers to these questions. This project has to be stopped while it is properly investigated. Please send emails and letters to NEMA using the following details:

Director General
National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
Popo Road off Mombasa Road
P.O. Box 67839-00200
Nairobi, Kenya
Re: Objection to the “Cheetah Rehabilitation Sanctuary Project”
Of the Kenya Cheetah Foundation (KCF)
KCF NEMA LICENSE 0002326 dated NOV 10, 2008
KCF NEMA Report PR/4058
KCF NEMA Approval 3/10/2008
Environmental Impact Assessment Study Report for the
Proposed “Cheetah Rehabilitation Sanctuary” dated June 2008

Or email the same to: [email protected]. "

Subsequent email received today indicates many friends of the Mara and Kenya tourism have replied:

"Dear friend of the Maasai Mara,

Thank you for your support in the attempt to stop the establishment of a “Cheetah Zoo” in the Maasai Mara. Your letters, emails, ideas and contributions have been very important. The foreign press, the Kenyan medias, the Kenya public opinion, many travel agents and tour operators around the world are now aware of problem and are asking NEMA and the Kenyan government to stop it.

Conservationists like Laurence Frank of Laikipia Predator Project, Julian Fennessy of Kenya Land Conservation Trust, Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund Namibia, Jonathan Scott, Anne Kent Taylor and many more have shared our opinion that this project is not suitable for the Maasai Mara and has not been sufficiently vetted.
Now we need to establish if the fence build around the proposed Cheetah Zoo can be taken down. It is harmful for wildlife and it is against the law.

Objections and complaints to the project can be emailed (or re-mailed) to: [email protected] "

Your input would be helpful.
sandi is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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wow, this KCF project sounds like a terrible thing. I cant think about what harm this will cause to the animals and the environment. I dont understand why this could have been approved...
steffid is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 10:52 AM
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... why they're trying to stop this idiosy or have the project properly vetted, which apparently it wasn't.

I can appreciate the idea (Namibia, as mentioned above has such), but not in this already overcrowded reserve. One of the smaller parks/reserves throughout the country would be better suited and then only if the cheetah are taught to hunt on their own for when they're released.
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Old Apr 7th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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There is quite a good thread re this subject on safaritalk
http://safaritalk.net/index.php?showtopic=3399

From one of the links there, I believe that the project has been halted for now.
twaffle is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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I hope it has been halted, but a show of disgust to the those involved cannot hurt and may prevent this atrocity from rearing its ugly head again. The above link has info.
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Old Apr 7th, 2009, 07:24 PM
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From what I've read second hand, it appears now the focus is on getting the fence taken that was to surround the "zoo." The fence is a detriment to wildlife.

"I can appreciate the idea (Namibia, as mentioned above has such), but not in this already overcrowded reserve." I agree with Sandi's statement and am not anti-cheetah population restoration. The existing programs are great, but this venture in the Mara would have put behind fences the cheetahs that should be roaming the wild and it would have used them as breeding machines to export cheetahs to zoos around the world.

Mr. Director General, tear down that fence!
atravelynn is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 05:53 PM
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Terrible news--the zoo is back on!

http://www.maratriangle.org/blog/200...tion-cont.html

Here is the contact info.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
Popo Road off Mombasa Road
P.O. Box 67839-00200
Nairobi, Kenya
Re: Objection to the “Cheetah Rehabilitation Sanctuary Project”
Of the Kenya Cheetah Foundation (KCF)
KCF NEMA LICENSE 0002326 dated NOV 10, 2008
KCF NEMA Report PR/4058
KCF NEMA Approval 3/10/2008
Environmental Impact Assessment Study Report for the
Proposed “Cheetah Rehabilitation Sanctuary” dated June 2008

Or email the same to: [email protected]
atravelynn is offline  
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