Influence of tour track driving on the distribution of the resident plains Zebra (Equus brucelli) of the Masai Mara Ecosystem, Kenya
The Masai Mara national reserve has been described as one of the ten travel wonders of the world and it receives the highest number of visitors out of the 47 major conservation areas in East Africa (Muthee, 1991). However, the impact of this high number of tourists over wildlife behavior is not well known. In this study the relationship between the distribution of the plains Zebras and the intensity of tour track driving was investigated. Transects were laid along tour tracks that were either categorized as minor or major road transects. Drivers were conducted through the transects twice daily; early in the morning between 7.00am and 9.00am and during lunch hour between 1.00pm and 3.00pm. Six variables namely; number of animals (dependent variable) Time of the day, the road category, car distance from the herd, number of cars visiting the intersect, and Vegetation type (Independent Variables) were considered were found to account for 51.54% of the distribution of the plains Zebra, with the number of cars, car distance and vegetation type being highly significant (P<0.0001), suggesting that a significant proportion of the outcome was influenced by the three said variables. Findings from this study intimated that the most significant factors were vegetation type (P<0.0001) and car numbers (P<0.0001). It was also apparent that these were the factors that could be easily manipulated by the management of the ecosystem. Therefore, sound management practices should be employed in this ecosystem if the sustainability of the ecosystem is to be ensured.