How Human-Wildlife Co-Exist in Mara-Serengeti Baffles Many

Photo by Lip Kee – Creative Commons


Mara-Serengeti is a coined word that combines two of the world’s greatest natural wildlife reserves in the Savannah land. Mara-Serengeti is a region that spreads across two East African Countries – Kenya and Tanzania and is one continuous reserve only separated by a common border – The Mara River.  The northern part of this reserve that is within Kenya is known as Mara while the southern part which rests within Tanzania is known as the Serengeti.

The spectacular Wildebeest migration has been termed as a Seventh Wonder of the world, and who can argue. Other than Wildebeests, Mara-Serengeti is a rich natural habitat for some of the world’s most ferocious animals. This is also home of the ‘King of the jungle’ – the lion. Other than lions, we can also find leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. Mara-Serengeti is also home to the biggest land mammal – the elephant and the tallest mammal – the giraffe.

The habitat is also home to some of the most poisonous snakes around such as the puff udder, cobra, and black mamba and its river is dotted with a most ferocious fresh water reptile – the crocodile.Indeed, the Mara River works the same way for the Wildebeests as the River Ganges does to the Buddhists or even as the River Jordan did to the Israelites during the Exodus. It is a kind of a ‘holy river’ to freedom.Other than the wildlife, this habitat is also endowed with ably gifted people – the Maasai.

The Maasai community blends so naturally with the wild of Mara-Serengeti. The Maasai are one of the most versatile, brave and wildly of people not only in East Africa but almost the entire African continent.Many people who visit the Maasai Mara are always puzzled: How have the Maasai managed to adapt to this tough environment where not only dangerous animals inhabit but also living under a scorching? On close examination it would seem the Maasai have adopted some of the wildlife habits themselves, not only for survival but also for leisure and enjoyment.

For example, in this photo, you can see how tall a Maasai can jump fixatedly.

Maasai Jumping High
Photo by Wendylin20 Creative Commons

Observing the movements of a jumping Maasai, you would realize that they do have striking resemblance to the movement of a giraffe. Before a Maasai makes this jump, he vigorously thrusts his chest in back-and-forth motion as if inhaling and exhaling while at the same time he moves the head up and down rhythmically to coincide with the chest motion.When watching them dance there is striking resemblance in their body motion to that of a giraffe except of course that they are jumping on two legs and not walking on four legs, as a giraffe does.Other than their jumping styles which mimic those of a Giraffe, attending a Maasai initiation ceremony(if you’re fortunate enough!), you will also discover that the Maasai initiation ceremony works more or less the same as that of congregation of Wildebeests before crossing the Mara River. They gather together in the same way wildebeests do.

 

And as the Maasai engage in the rite of passage into adulthood where they are expected to be ready for procreation, so do wildebeests migrate to greener pastures where they can mate and reproduce. The purpose for the rite of passage of the Maasai – procreation and that of the Wildebeests – reproduction are strikingly similar.Though the initiation of the Maasai into adulthood involves circumcision, after which both the Maasai men and women are left to inhabit the open field with freedom to hunt, gather and mate.

Same wise, Wildebeests migrate from Maasai Mara into Serengeti to gather greener pastures and mate. A noticeable difference being that Wildebeests do not hunt as they are herbivores.When it comes to devouring their hunt, the Maasai has been known to mimic the habits of  lions, as can be seen on YouTube (a bit too graphic to post here!).  The Maasai are known to feast on raw blood and milk from live animals as they herd them too. In fact, a Maasai Moran (A Moran is a young male Maasai) can herd cattle more than 100 miles away from their home and can take several months without getting back home. While on herding mission, the Moran only carry a gourd for fermenting milk and a special handle-held shield-like stool for both defense and sitting in the grazing field.As you can see the Mara-Serengeti is such a diverse habitat, one where man and beast co-exist to this day, without the trappings of modern western civilizations.

I’d encourage you to check out the various Maasai rituals, hunts and initiations on YouTube, they make for wonderfully watching.