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A large portion of Kenya, a country twice the size of Nevada, was left untouched by the violence. There were no reported uprisings near Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks in the south, or the northern preserves, Meru National Park and Samburu National Reserve. Even Nairobi, the epicenter of early violence, soon experienced relative calm. "I was on safari throughout Christmas, the New Year, and again just now. We haven't seen any problems, none, because you just don't get riots in the wilderness," said safari guide Johann du Toit in February. Somewhat surprisingly, the normally-cautious U.S. Embassy even issued an alert specific to the Rift Valley instead of a countrywide travel warning, advising U.S. citizens to "depart from the cities of Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Naivasha and [to] defer all travel to the remaining portions of Kenya's three provinces—Nyanza, Western, and Rift Valley—which are most affected by the unrest."

Conservationists now worry that lingering turmoil and residual fear among travelers could have lasting effects not just for the tourist industry—which contributed $1 billion to Kenya's economy, far outpacing flower farming and tea—but also for the biological diversity that makes the country so popular with adventure travelers. Given the economic crisis, many unemployed Kenyans may turn to the wildlife as a readily available source of food.

"If the tourists stop coming for a long period, none of the national parks will have the income to be able to sustain their security," said noted conservationist Richard Leakey, a former Kenya Wildlife Service director and current chairman of Wildlife Direct, a Web-based conservation organization. "In those circumstances, people will try to take the land. They will also try to take the meat because they will need it, and without the security, what will happen will happen." By February, the Kenya Wildlife Service, which is almost entirely dependent on tourist fees for its parks, had already suspended road and fence repairs and purchases of new vehicles. According to Leakey, it would require only $150,000 to prop up the Masai Mara in the event that a resolution cannot be reached within the year.

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