Thousands of Maasai will be evicted from a vast parcel of land in Tanzania’s Loliondo district to pave way for a private game park, area activists say.
This follows the reversal of a decision last year not to allow a Dubai-based commercial hunting and luxury safari company control over a 1,500 square km (about 370,000 acres) “wildlife corridor” near the Serengeti National Park.
Tanzania’s government, however, says the reports are merely “a bad rumour”.
More than 40,000 people have been asked to leave the grazing land by the end of the year as the State pushes on with plans to sell.
The proposed hunting reserve will be run by the Otterlo Business Corporation, a company with links to the Dubai royal family that leases land in the area.
According to reports in the Guardian newspaper, the government is offering £369,350 (TShs1 billion or about KShs52 million) in compensation “to be channelled into socio-economic development projects”.
The park is expected to have an impact on Kenya’s Masai Mara ecosystem, which neighbours the Serengeti and shares in its exceptional wildlife population.
Loliondo is on the main migratory route for wildlife north of Ngorongoro Crater, east of the Serengeti and south of the Mara National Reserve.
Each year hundreds of Arab royals and rich businessmen spend weeks hunting wild animals in its game control area, the Associated Press reports.
The hunting season coincides with the migration of wildebeest and zebra, which cross into the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, followed by predators.
“The area is leased under the Otterlo name by a member of an Emirates royal family who is a senior officer in the UAE defense ministry,” AP says.
Tanzania's National Resources and Tourism minister Lazarus Nyalandu says any talk of a change of heart regarding the wildlife corridor is mistaken.
“Government of Tanzania has no plans to evict the Maasai people out of their ancestral land in Loliondo as wrongly reported by media,” Nyalandu posted on his official Twitter account. He, however, made no reference to Otterlo, Dubai royals or plans for the hunting reserve.