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A massive animal migration is still happening in the Maasai Mara. But the pandemic means few can see it

October 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The bulk of Kenya's tourists usually arrive between June and October to witness the Great Migration. But months of travel restrictions due to the pandemic have dealt a blow to the country's tourism industry -- and a valuable source of income for the Maasai.

She typically spends her days hawking her wares to tourists who flock to Kenya's Maasai Mara to take part in the region's world-renowned safaris.

Every year between June and December, one of the world's largest and longest animal migrations takes place in East Africa.

Over two million wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and other animals travel across the Serengeti into Kenya's Maasai Mara in pursuit of greener pastures.

In the past, the bulk of Kenya's tourists arrived between June and October to witness the migration.

August is typically one of the busiest months for tourists, accounting for 10% of Kenya's total annual visitors, with around 250,000 travelers, according to Najib Balala, Kenya's Minister of Tourism and Wildlife.

International flights were halted at the end of March due to coronavirus, and resumed on August 1; the country welcomed less than 15,000 tourists that month, Balala says.

Many of these belong to the Maasai themselves, a tribe known throughout the world for their traditions and colorful dress.

The Maasai also own large swathes of the Maasai Mara -- often leasing the land to conservancies who run national game reserves and safaris.

In 2019, 15,000 Maasai landowners collected more than $7. 5 million in lease payments, says Daniel Sopia, CEO of Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association.

This year, landowners say they're expecting to receive less than half that sum.

The Maasai are now looking to move beyond tourism to sustain their livelihoods.

Nelson Reiya, cofounder of the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, says construction of a mechanized production center is underway and should be operational by the end of the year.

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