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Tuesday, September 22, 1998 Published at 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK

World: Africa

Wildlife watchers stay away from Kenya

The wilderbeasts of Kenya - more animals, less tourists

"One of the greatest shows on earth"
Wildebeests are preparing for their annual migration from Kenya's Masai Mara Reserve in numbers seldom seen before, due to much rainfall and good grazing.

However, the spectacular event, which once drew herds of tourists to Kenya, is being watched by just a handful of people.

[ image: Providing space for wildlife is costly]
Providing space for wildlife is costly
Overseas visitors are shunning the country because of fears about security.

Bloody political violence last year and the bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi in August have scared off tourists.

The beaches are also nearly empty, and coastline hotels are struggling, with thousands of hotel staff being laid off.

The country's economic life is in steep decline, and conservationsts fear that a long-term drop in tourist revenue would have a serious impact on conservation and the management of places like the Masai Mara.

[ image: Crocodles pose a great danger - so does lack of revenue]
Crocodles pose a great danger - so does lack of revenue
Stefano Cheli, of the Association of Tour Operators, says that without people paying to see the animals their prospects are bleak.

"A drop in tourism means a drop in revenue for the game parks and the local communities that live around the game parks. This means that wildlife is not sustainable and therefore there is no future for it," he said.

There have already been calls for the reintroduction of hunting in Kenya, but the tourist industry, which wants to keep animals alive for the cameras, has so far managed to resist it.

But without tourists - and their money - to rely on, its arguments are dwindling away.

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