Radio tagged Ningu fish, Labeo victorianus (photo/ Univ. of Florida)

Aquatic Biodiversity Surveys Underway in Maasai Mara National Reserve

The rivers of the Lake Victoria basin provide important ecosystem services for East Africa, including surface water for domestic use and fisheries for local communities. However, very little is known about the aquatic biodiversity that plays a role in providing these services.  The University of Florida’s  Freshwater Biodiversity Data of Rivers of the Lake Victoria Basin project is aimed at generating and collating biodiversity data that are critical to address current policy discussions proceeding in the Lake Victoria basin.

Project Lead, Amanda Sabulusky and project partners at the National Museums of Kenya, just completed their first sampling event in the Mara River basin, including some of the first ever surveys of aquatic biodiversity in the small tributaries of the middle catchment area that runs through the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

The field team from National Museums of Kenya electroshocking for fish in the Mara River. (photo/Univ. of Florida)
An Orange‐winged Dropwing Dragonfly, Trithemis kirbyi, from the Mara River. (photo/Univ. of Florida)
Edward Njagi from National Museums of Kenya holding a African Sharptooth Catfish, Clarias gariepinus. (photo/Univ. of Florida)

The team also began one of the first ever tracking studies of fish in East Africa, deploying three radio receivers alongside the river within the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and tagging 19 fish to date.

A radio telemetry station on the banks of the Mara River tracking fish migrations. (photo/Univ. of Florida)
Radio tracking fish with the local community at the Old Mara Bridge. (photo/Univ. of Florida)

The project team has already documented a tagged fish moving several kilometers upstream from its capture location. Dr. Sabalusky reports: The natural history of these species suggests they are freshwater migrants, and several mark‐recapture studies and field surveys in other rivers in the region have documented spawning migrations triggered by seasonal high flows. However, no one has directly measured these migrations using telemetry. We look forward to telling a story of the “hidden migrations” of the Serengeti Mara Ecosystem that happen underwater.  

JRS looks forward to sharing that story in a future project update!