The great savannas of eastern Africa -- cradle of humankind, home to traditional nomadic pastoralists, and last refuge of some of the most spectacular wildlife populations on earth -- are in trouble. Notwithstanding 20 years of highly committed wildlife conservation, much of the wildlife in several regions of Kenya and Uganda (and to a lesser extent, Tanzania) has disappeared in just the last 20 years. The Mara part of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is of particular concern because nearly 70% of the wildlife has been lost between 1976 and 1996. Pastoral peoples living in the Mara ecosystem have less livestock per person than they did 20 years ago, and about half survive today on an income of less than Ksh 70 ($1) per day per person. If these trends continue, it is probable that the Mara will support very few wildlife and poorer pastoral peoples 20 years from now.
What is jeopardising work to conserve the Mara's priceless wildlife populations and improve returns to pastoralists from wildlife is a lack of a unified effort, by all concerned, to join together to seek solutions. The Mara count is one such effort: a joint venture by pastoral peoples, conservationists, private industry, land managers and researchers to create an unparalled set of information to form the foundation of future decisions to conserve wildlife and develop pastoral peoples. This count owes its existence and success to the Mara pastoral communities, the Mara reserve management and the 22 vehicle counting teams, 3 aircraft counting teams, 20 organisations and 84 individuals who completed the count.