For decades, if not centuries, Maasai cattle farmers in Northern Tanzania have reared their animals alongside iconic wildlife species like cheetahs, lions and black rhinos.
But that may change this year for a Maasai community living in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a park adjacent to Serengeti National Park and about the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
The Tanzanian government, citing the growth in population of the Maasai and their cattle as the main threat to wildlife in the park, announced in 2019 that about 80 percent of the nearly 100,000 residents of the area must leave or else be forced out. In reaching the decision, the government said it had consulted with international conservation organizations, including UNESCO (Ngorongoro is a World Heritage Site).
The eviction order, expected to take effect sometime this year, has stirred deep-seated grievances over conservation efforts in Tanzania. For the past 60 years, ever since the British established the Serengeti park in the 1950s, the Maasai have been repeatedly pushed off their ancestral land to make way for wildlife parks and big game preserves. That dispossession has come with additional affronts: Reports have documented allegations that the Maasai have been subject to attacks by police during disputes over the boundaries of where the Maasai are permitted to graze their cattle within the park. The alleged attacks have included the razing of homes, assault and the destruction of cattle, the Maasai’s main source of livelihood. [Continue reading…]