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Mara River Biodiversity Report

The Mara river basin is a hotspot for freshwater biodiversity

The Mara river is famous for hosting the greatest concentration of vertebrates on earth. It’s less famous, but no less important for also being a hotspot for freshwater biodiversity.  The Mara river basin is home to at least 473 freshwater species including at least 4 mammals, 88 waterbirds, 126 freshwater-associated birds, 4 reptiles, 20 amphibians, 40 fishes, 50 invertebrate species and 141 vascular plants. As many species are not yet identified or described, especially invertebrates and fishes, there could be hundreds more.

Ten of the freshwater species in the Mara river basin are threatened with extinction due to a combination of threats including habitat loss, water pollution, over-abstraction and drought, the presence of invasive non-native species and over-exploitation:
Critically Endangered
  • Ningu (Labeo victorianus)
  • Singidia tilapia/ngege (Oreochromis esculentus)
  • Victoria tilapia/mbiru (Oreochromis variabilis)
  • Grey-crowned crane (Balearica regulorum)
  • Madagascar pond-heron (Ardeola idae)
  • Killifish species (Nothobranchius sagittae)
  • Hippopotamus (Hippotamus amphibus)
  • Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)
  • Crab species (Potamanautes gerdalensis)
  • Freshwater mussel species(Coelatura alluaudi) 

The status and trends of freshwater biodiversity provide a window through which the overall health of the Mara can be understood. While the ecosystem faces many threats, including those in the present and those predicted for the future, we believe the Mara river basin can be resilient if management efforts focus on balancing competing needs. To achieve that everyone must work together and a framework for equitable transboundary governance is an essential foundation. The moment to act is now, before we lose any more time. This report recommends:
  1. Increased monitoring of freshwater biodiversity to better understand its diversity, status and trends over time.
  2. Improved communications about freshwater biodiversity to promote wider awareness about its importance to the Mara river basin.
  3. Elevated and co-ordinated efforts to create a resilient and heathy Mara river basin by addressing existing threats and those predicted for the future. 

Read the report Freshwater Biodiversity of the Mara River Basin of Kenya and Tanzania here
Access the full Mara Freshwater Biodiversity Database here (www.wwfkenya.org/marafreshwaterbiodiversity.cfm)