The video showed the tourist playing with the big cat in a vehicle belonging to Oltepesi Mara Tented Camp, and saw the animal clawing on the sole of the tourist’s shoes.
Maasai Mara National Reserve’s management suspended a tented camp and its client on Saturday, July 31 after a video surfaced on social media of the tourist playing with a leopard.
The video seen by Viral Tea showed the tourist playing with the big cat in a vehicle belonging to Oltepesi Mara Tented Camp, and saw the animal clawing on the sole of the tourist’s shoes.
Maasai Mara Chief Park Administrator Christine Koshal in a statement via the Narok County Government noted that the act put the tourists, the driver and the guide in danger.
The leopard was a cub, with its mother close by.
Watch the video:
Can you have the guts to try this..? pic.twitter.com/L0k89IuLL0
— Gibons Miller (@itsMillerG) August 1, 2021
“The management of Maasai Mara wishes to express its displeasure in regards to the behaviour and mode of conduct of your company within the game reserve,” Koshal said in the notice to Oltepesi, adding it was against park rules and “wildlife conservation ethics as a whole”.
“The management has decided to suspend you, the client and the vehicle in question indefinitely. I direct sentries in each point of entry to ensure these directives are enforced and take effect immediately,” read the notice in part.
The notice was copied to parties including Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Mara Guides Association and Kenya Airports Parking Services (KAPS). The latter, which is Maasai Mara’s ticketing agent, was asked to ensure “no transaction whatsoever” with the parties until further directives were issued.
According to the park’s rules and regulations, human activity disrupts an animal’s natural behaviour. To see an animal behave naturally, one must therefore maintain a good distance from it.
The rules add that a distance any closer than 25 meters (roughly five vehicles apart) constitutes harassment of the animal and is a breach of park rules hence could result in a fine.
“To get a better view, use your binoculars. Never put your guide at risk of being fined or even banned from the park by asking him to drive too close to an animal,” one of the rules indicates.
The management also affirms that no more than five vehicles shall be allowed at a wildlife sighting. No tourist vehicles are allowed near a cheetah lair (den) and they must all keep a minimum distance of 30m at a sighting.
Predators on a kill are not to be enclosed by vehicles as this means they can’t detect approaching danger.
Another member of the big cat family, a lion, wandered into a residential plot in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County on Wednesday, July 28, startling residents to the point the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) had to be called in to sedate and evacuate the lion.
It was hiding in a narrow alley in between a building wall and a fence made of iron sheets.
The lion spotted in Ongata Rongai on July 28, 2021. /TWITTER