Nature Interpretation as an Environmental Educational Approach in Visitor Management at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Various scholars have endorsed contemporary visitor management strategies broadly categorized as hard or soft approaches. The hard strategies like area closure, penalties, patrols, or limiting access have been deemed punitive and restrictive to visitors seeking escape into natural environments. On the other hand, nature interpretation (NI) and general conservation information, christened as soft strategy, are pushed as complementary or alternative non-obstructive visitor management tactics. However, these arguments notwithstanding, questions linger about the choice of appropriate NI strategies, their application, and their effectiveness. This study sought to establish which NI and visitor information approaches can be used be to manage visitors by target group effectively at the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Data was collected by surveying n = 570 respondents that constituted visitors (n = 413) and tour guides (n = 157) participating in wildlife tourism at MMNR over six months. Descriptive and inferential statistics were employed to present and analyze data with spearman’s correlation used for testing the relationships to answer the research question. Study results established mixed results with different NI attributes comprising a few weak, some very weak, and the majority no correlations with the respondents’ demographics. The month of the visit and type of vehicle used had very weak negative correlations with attributes of NI, generally implying inverse relationships. Nationality and gender had the least correlations, while the month of visit and the purpose of the visit had the highest number of correlations with, the latter having slightly stronger correlations. Display boards and orientation signage had the highest number of very weak and weak correlations with nearly all the respondents’ demographics except nationality and gender. Visitor codes/do’s and don’ts followed with tour guiding with no correlations with almost all the demographics. The study recommends continuous improvement of all NI approaches at the MMNR, with urgency being given to display boards and orientation signage followed by visitor codes and tour guiding, as evidenced from findings. The study further recommends research on contemporary trends in NI and conservation education and information dissemination.
Steps to reproduce
The study was conducted at the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR), one of Kenya’s most visited wildlife tourism destinations and the world. MMNR has been christened the 8th wonder of the world due to the seasonal wildebeests’ migration that attracts high visitor numbers during the high season. The research adopted a descriptive survey design, and questionnaires were the main data collection tool. Descriptive and inferential statistics were employed to present and analyze data using spearman’s correlation to test the research question. In the interpretation of spearman’ correlations, the study adopted the following ranking of correlation coefficients; 0.00–0.19 very weak correlations; 0.20–0.39 weak; 0.40–0.59 moderate; 0.60–0.79 strong; 0.80–1.0 very strong correlations as adopted from Akoglu . Data collection took over six (6) months; in the low season months of November (20% of the respondents), December (11.2%), January (10.4%), and February (7%), and the high season months of August (31.2%) and September (20.2%) as detailed in Table 2 below. The high season constituted 51% of the respondents and 49% for the low season, giving a total sample size of n = 570. The respondents (n = 570) included 67.5% Kenyans, 18.7% non-residents, and 13.7% resident foreigners that visited MMNR. 61.9% of the respondents were males, 36.3% were females, and a further 1.8% for others. The skewed data towards the male gender was because 157 of the 570 respondents were tour driver guides who were predominantly male. The majority of the respondents fell in the youthful category of ages 25–40 years (54.4%), followed by those aged 41–65 years (29.1%), those aged below 24 years constituted 14.6%, and lastly, senior citizens (66 years and above) with a small fraction of 1.9% as detailed in Table 2 above. The demographics of the visitor age completely departed from past statistics where the senior citizens constituted a more significant percentage of travellers than the current scenario attributed to the COVID-19 scare. It is especially true for senior citizens whom COVID-19 could have constrained their vacationing despite having higher travel propensity characteristics. Contrastingly, the youthful part of the population travelled more during the COVID-19 pandemic as they could have considered themselves as having higher immunity levels.