A Maasai Model to Wildlife Conservation: Exploring environmental subjectivities among the Maasai living in and around Naretunoi Community Conservancy and next to Nairobi National Park in Kenya

Objectives: Wildlife in Kenya, much like globally, is under significant pressure. In Kenya
alone, there has been a 60 percent decrease in species and the remaining wildlife is faced with
habitat loss and climate change, among others. The study of conservation practices – responding
to the many challenges underlying the “sixth mass extinction” – has never been more relevant.
All the more so is the delicate balance between environmental protection and social justice and
equity for indigenous groups residing in wildlife-populated areas. This study investigates the
environmental subjectivities – informing the acting and thinking in conservation practice – of
Maasai living in and around Naretunoi Community Conservancy (NCC) and next to Nairobi
National Park (NNP). It will do so by employing the theoretical framework of multiple
environmentalities – a perspective that seeks to explore power dynamics, subject formation, and
agency in environmental governance.

Method: A qualitative case study research design has been employed to explore the different
perceptions and experiences of the Maasai residing in and around the NCC. The data has been
collected using participant observation and 27 semi-structured interviews.

Main findings: The findings suggest there are various environmental subjectivities among the
Maasai that have been shaped by wildlife conservation frames and practices by the ‘Wildlife
Foundation’ (TWF) and Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) that run NCC and NNP respectively.
Yet, there are also environmental subjectivities that emanate from alternative ways to relate to
wildlife that, in given constellations, mediate and contest such frames and practices of wildlife
conservation. As an exercise of agency, wildlife conservation is re-imagined and practised to
serve a collective purpose of maintaining pastoral Maasai practice and identity which is equally
under threat by land fragmentation and shrinking space as wildlife.