The Mara Cat Project

In 2023 the Mara Cat Project became affiliated with KBCT. The overall goal of the project is to determine the impact on wildlife and human populations of feral domestic cats around the households and the tourist camps within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

A population of more or less roaming domestic cats has grown up around the households and the tourist camps within the Mara. These animals may harbor diseases and parasites that could be devastating to wild felids (cheetah, leopards, and lions) or could affect the human population by the transfer of diseases (zoonoses). In addition, there may be animal welfare issues associated with the increasing domestic cat population.

 

The project has three main focus areas. The first includes the conservation of threatened feline species, that will be determined through the examination of diseases that can spread from domestic cats to wildlife. There also will be the examination of possible hybridization between domestic cats and wild feline species. The second focus area is One Health, which is a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment.

 

 

 

The third main focus area involves animal welfare. An initial survey was conducted in 2022 to determine the attitudes of the Maasai to the cats with increased cultural understanding. The project was established in 2023 where, after obtaining necessary permission, domestic (or feral) cats were collected by a member of a household or trapped, anesthetized, and spayed or neutered before being returned to their homesteads. While anaesthetized, a health check was carried out and samples were taken to test for various diseases and parasites, with focus on diseases important to conservation of wildlife and a One-Health approach.

 

In the future, genetic sequencing will be carried out to ascertain the genetic diversity within the population and the degree of hybridization occurring with wild felids. The results of the studies will be communicated to the Maasai so that they can decide how best to manage the feral cat population in the future.

 

 

Collaborative Partners

The pilot study last year showed promising results, which will be published in 2024. Long-term collaboration is now being made between the Swedish University of Veterinary and Agricultural Science (SLU), the University of Nairobi, and the Narok County. Associated collaborative partners were/are: Boras Djurpark, Sweden; Knuthenborg Safaripark, Denmark; and Ree Park, Denmark. Collaboration partners in Kenya are: Dr. Gideon Nkeyasha (Narok County) and Dr. Esther Macharia (University of Nairobi). The leader of the project is Dr. Therese Hård, of Wildfair Professional Scandinavia.

 

 

A short video

Watch a small video with pictures from the project:

More pictures

See more pictures from the Mara Cat Project here.