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Top 10 facts about the magnificent Mara


Following World Mara Day on 15 September, we’ve got the lowdown on this incredible landscape…

Mara Day, held on 15 September every year, celebrates the Mara River and the unique surrounding landscape in Kenya and Tanzania. The day coincides with one of nature’s greatest events: the annual migration of wildlife from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is said that this is the day the wildebeest return from Kenya to Tanzania.

The rich and fertile Mara river basin boasts some of the biggest wildlife populations in Africa and the Serengeti National Park is arguably the best-known wildlife sanctuary on the planet. This is one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth. But in recent decades the area has been under pressure like never before. Poaching, expanding agricultural development, population growth and other influences mean the Mara-Serengeti and the thousands of animals it supports are under threat.

Here’s the need-to-know on the magnificent Mara and what we’re doing to help protect it.

1. Mass migration

This spectacular area is the site of the world’s greatest wildlife migration. Every year, almost two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle travel from the Serengeti up to the Maasai Mara (and back again), feeding on the lush grass that springs up after seasonal rains.

Common / Plains Zebra, Masai Mara National Reserve, KenyaCommon / Plains Zebra herd running. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. © naturepl.com / Anup Shah / WWF

2. Epic landscape

The mara ecosystem spans around 3,000 sq km. All that space makes for some pretty awe-inspiring sunsets.

Three Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) silhouetted at sunset,Three Wildebeest silhouetted at sunset, Maasai Mara, Kenya. © naturepl.com / Anup Shah / WWF

3. Elephant numbers increasing

Elephant numbers in Kenya are on the rise. The elephant population declined from 167,000 in 1973, to a staggering 20,000 in 1990. But, in 2012, numbers had climbed to 26,000 and are still increasing.

African elephant herd walking - wide angle perspective (Loxodonta africana). Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.African elephant herd walking. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. © naturepl.com / Anup Shah / WWF

4. Endangered species

Elephant numbers may be rising, but the African elephant remains vulnerable and there are more than 100 endangered species found in Kenya, including the black rhino, wild dog and cheetah.

Black Rhino (Diceros Bicornis).Black Rhino. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. © Richard Edwards / WWF-UK

5. Poaching pressure

One such endangered species is the critically endangered black rhino. There are only around 680 black rhinos left in Kenya. But the good news is we’re working hard to protect them against poaching and the illegal trade in their horns. Check out this film to find out how.

6. Diverse bird life

Kenya is considered one of the top five bird-watching destinations in the world and well over a thousand species of our feathered friends call the country home. The Mara ecosystem has the highest ostrich population of Africa and the unique grey crowned crane is also found here. We think its distinctive stiff golden feathers give the lion’s mane a run for its money!

Grey Crowned-Crane or South African Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum), portrait. Southern and East AfricaGrey Crowned-Crane. © Martin Harvey / WWF

7. Lions under threat

The Mara-Serengeti landscape has the highest concentration of large predators in the world, including the iconic African lion. Across Africa, lion populations are estimated to have halved over the last 20 years and an estimated 600 lions remain in the Mara ecosystem. This is the story of one man’s mission to help protect them…

8. Human wildlife conflict

In Kenya, 60% of the elephants’ range is outside of protected areas. This close proximity to humans means elephants are under threat. David Leto, WWF Elephant Project Officer, has a unique story to tell about elephant conservation in the Mara. David’s father was killed by an elephant when he was 10, but now he dedicates his life to protecting this magnificent species. Watch this inspirational film to find out why…

9. River lifeline

The Mara River provides the lifeblood to the surrounding ecosystem. Without the essential water it provides there would be no wildebeest migration and the ecosystem would look very different. The river is also the main source of water for many communities, businesses and local farmers nearby, with only 30% of people in this part of East Africa having access to tapped water. But the river is under pressure. Water levels and quality have changed significantly over the past few decades because of expanding agriculture, industrial activity and population growth.

Over half of households on the Mara River are home to smallholder farmers and we’re working with them to protect this vital resource. Nancy Rono, farmer and single mother to three boys, tells us how training in sustainable farming methods has improved her life and the quality of the water she depends on…

10. Two decades of conservation

WWF has worked in the Mara ecosystem for more than 20 years, supporting species, people and landscapes to create a sustainable future for all.

A short film highlighting the people, landscapes and species we support in Kenya, including some of our work in the Mara.

Want to learn more about our work in the Mara? Check out our Mau-Mara-Serengeti web page.

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