Kenya’s wildebeest migration © Alison M. Jones
“THE LENGTH OF THE MARA RIVER” EXPEDITION, 2009
THE MARA RIVER BASIN: One million Kenyans and Tanzanians and 2 million wildebeest and zebra depend on the Mara River; but in 2009 it is ankle-deep for the first time in memory. Sixty-five percent of this watershed is in Kenya, and the rest in Tanzania. THREATS along the 245-mile Mara River include:
The Mau Forest: The headwaters face deforestation, dam proposals and increasing settlement.
Commercial farming: Extraction of increasing amounts of water for agriculture imperils the river’s flow.
The Maasai Mara - Serengeti Ecosystem: The Mara River supports the world’s largest mammal migration and other great wildlife sources of tourism revenue. Downstream it is polluted by gold-mining slag.
Lake Victoria: Algae blooms, due to human and livestock effluent carried into the lake by rivers, threaten the livelihoods of 30 million lakeshore inhabitants. The Mara Swamp however filters most of its effluents.
Climate change: Increases in floods and droughts are greatly impacting the hydrology of this watershed.
EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: The NWNL Mara River Expedition, carrying Explorers Club and Wings WorldQuest flags, will produce both still and video documentation, and stakeholder interviews, to be disseminated via various media; used as educational tools; and shared with other watershed stewards. The expedition timeline is:
Ongoing since 2007: Research and fund-raising by NWNL project director, advisors and interns.
Fall 2009: NWNL director/photographer, video photographer to travel length of the Mara.
On return: Photography, video, journals and interviews to be edited for broadcast and reports.
2010 and on: Documentation to be publicized via lectures, exhibits, articles, Internet and educational tools.
2010: Integration of Mara River documentation into NWNL materials.
RELEVANCE OF EXPEDITION: A dry, polluted Mara River and shrinking, oxygen-deprived Lake Victoria will jeopardize all of the region’s species – including humans. NWNL publicity will help protect these and similar water bodies from this fate. Degradation and poverty impacts in this watershed foreshadow the future elsewhere. Desertification, no access to water, water-related diseases and conflicts over water are already causing social insecurity and potential breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.
EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks those endorsing this expedition: International Rivers, Explorers Club, Wings WorldQuest, Global Information Network and the International League of Conservation Photographers.
Funding was made possible by two Scott Pearlman Field Award grants, generous private donations, and in-kind contributions by James Robertson, Ker & Downey Safaris.
Please contact NWNL if you wish to make a 501c3 donation.