Heavy rains coincided with the new moon and continued, sporadically, for the rest of the month. The rains were certainly not as heavy or extensive as anticipated for April.
One vehicle overturned in the Reserve over Easter when speeding. This vehicle was a brand new Land Cruiser VX station wagon. New signs have been made indicating the speed limit of 50 kph have been made and will be put up in May.
One lioness was shot dead by the policeman based at Olonana camp. This lioness had attacked a manyatta next to Olonana and had killed 24 goats before being killed. KWS were informed and dealt with the matter. One lioness was found dead on Oloololo Game Ranch, at appears that the lioness was killed by a buffalo, as there was one large wound on her sternum – this lioness had three cubs. There was a chance that the cubs would be reared by another lioness in the pride but she appears to have no milk. The cubs are being monitored and KWS may be called in to collect them. There was a report that at least one lion had been speared near the Musiara windmill on the other side of the river.
Two hippo were found dead between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge; one possibly killed by lions – they had certainly been feeding on it.
The Mara Conservancy Board held their 8th Board meeting at Mara Serena on the 8th April. Council committee chairmen visited Serena on the same day in the hope of meeting the Board, unfortunately Board members were unable to stay on after the meeting and this secondary meeting never took place.
The Chief Executive met with Dr Richard Hogg, Natural Resources Advisor in the Department for International Development (DFID) within the British High Commission. It was agreed that he return and give a presentation to the Natural Resources section of the High Commission in May. The Chief Executive also met with Mr Lammert Zwaagstra of the European Union, the Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund is fully subscribed and it appeared that this was not a potential source of funding.
12 of the Security personnel, including the Senior Warden underwent a 5 day first-aid training course conducted by St John`s ambulance. It was an excellent course very much geared to problems the rangers may encounter in the field.
The Chief Executive met with 15 local leaders from Kerinkani, led by the area Chief. A number of issues, including watering of animals, were discussed. The local leaders were very supportive of the Conservancy and it was seen as a very good public relations exercise.
The Chief Executive met with General (Rtd) Lengees and the Clerk to Samburu County Council and discussed a possible trip to the Mara by Councillors from Samburu. It was hoped that these leaders would visit Lewa together with Councillors from Baringo but they were unaware of the trip and had other commitments.
The Chief Executive hosted the outgoing and incoming DCIO, CI Wandera, on the 13th April.
We were visited by an inspection team from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) on the 26th. They inspected our radio system, were unaware of Bushmail, and may insist on charging an annual licence fee for each of the 11 Bushmail frequencies.
Occupancy rates in all the lodges and camps fell off dramatically after Easter, many of them have been running at less than 25% occupancy for the last half of April. Mara Serena have held three conferences in their new conference hall, this has certainly helped them fill beds.
A lodge and camp manager’s meeting was held on the 10th April at Kichwa Tembo – this was the best attended meeting to date, with all the lodge managers and the balloon pilot from Musiara in attendance. A number of interesting issues were discussed and it was agreed that if Mr Murray Levitt would design a viewing platform the lodges solicit quotations and would probably club together to raise funds to build this platform. There is some urgency to this as it should be completed before the migration in July. However, it requires approval from the planning and development committee before construction can begin.
Mr Craig Griffiths, a private tour operator, visited the Reserve to check out potential camp sites, he will rteturn to look at them in more detail in the near future.
Five poachers were arrested during the month and one killed. In the first incident, on 12th April, the security section received information from a Tanzanian informer that a hippo had been killed near the Mara Bridge, very close to the Tanzanian Border. The Serena team joined forces with the Ngiro-are team and went to Kokatende in Tanzania to inform the Tanzanians of this information – unfortunately the Tanzanians were out on patrol. As our rangers had a very good idea of the possible poaching site they patrolled along the river until the saw some vultures in trees. They then proceeded on foot and made contact with three wa Kuria poachers in their camp, two were arrested and the third reportedly killed, although no evidence was found when the Chief Executive visited the scene. Over 400 kg of meat, together with spears, poisoned arrows and marijuana were recovered. These prisoners have been jailed for six months each.
In the second incident on the 18th April three wa Kuria poachers were arrested at night in a joint operation with the Tanzanian Rangers along the border near a well known poacher`s thicket, Nyanguki. The poachers came down from the escarpment soon after dark and arrived in their hunting area at about 10.30 pm. Initially two people were arrested as they caught a Thompson`s gazelle with dogs, whilst these two were being arrested another group of torches were seen operating in the distance – they were followed on foot at night for about four kilometers and one other poacher arrested at 1.30 am. They had killed three Thompson`s gazelle, again using dogs. At this time of year hippo and Thompson`s gazelle are the most commonly hunted animals.
One poacher`s camp was found in the reserve near Mlima Tatu on the border on the 26th April, it had been used for two nights earlier in the month. There were no other signs of poaching within the Reserve.
A group of 12 security personnel went to Lewa Downs on a one-week course, to see the Lewa security operation. The personnel selected were amongst the best in the Reserve and we hope to establish a field force using this group with the knowledge gained at Lewa.
On the 26th April the GSU resident in the Reserve were heard to fire a shot at about 6.30 pm – an investigation revealed that they had almost certainly shot an animal near Mara Bridge – blood was seen in the back of the vehicle but the animal had been disposed of. The Sergeant was warned that if there was a repeat, the report would be taken to the Commandant of the GSU.
The first tranche of funding for community scouts has been received from J Butler-Kent, we hope to select the first group of scouts and equip them in May.
The Commandant, the GSU, has indicated that he will visit the Mara in early May, this visit should pave the way for training to commence.
Mr Edward Ngoitoi returned from his annual leave, he spent several days in Nakuru trying to see the Provincial Police Officer on issuance of Kenya Police Reserve identification cards to the security personnel.
The Chief Executive has offered to resign over the issue of a poacher reportedly being killed. This offer comes in the wake of a series of differences with the Chairman beginning within two days of the Conservancy taking over management of the Reserve. The issue will be resolved at an emergency board meeting on the 29th April.
Work has been completed at Ngiro-are. A new outside toilet was constructed, all the houses have been completely renovated and repainted.
Both windmills were serviced.
The roads to Ngiro-are have both been graded, there is still some work to be done on these roads but they are considerably better than they were.
A short road from near the airstrip to the river was rehabilitated – this had completely disappeared in parts.
A new track was made to the potential camp site overlooking the Tanzanian border.
Two fire breaks were burnt by back-burning against a track and one area near Mlima Mbili was burnt.
Ten new ruck-sacks, with billy cans and water bottles were purchased for the security section.
The emphasis during April was to clear culverts and patch up the main roads – to at least keep them passable during the rains. The road from Mara Bridge to Serena is in good condition biut more work needs to be done on the road to Oloololo gate.
Revenue and Accounts
Anticipated gate revenue for April will be around Ksh 3,000,000 and will probably fall below that for May. Most of the Lodges have paid for their annual vehicle passes – approximately Ksh 750,000. TransWorld appear to be the only operator balking on paying for their vehicles. Administrative vehicles are currently given complimentary entry and are registered as such. Each registered vehicle is issued with a windscreen sticker, allowing them free entry into the Reserve. Any vehicle without such a sticker will be expected to pay as from 1st May 2002.
We have not received any balloon revenue for flights since December, this matter will be followed up.
The Conservancy has advertised for pre-qualification to Tender for revenue collection on the 25th April. The closing date for applicants is 15th May.
Area of focus for May
- Work on the road between the Kichwa Tembo airstrip and Little Governor’s.
- We will identify, pay and equip four community scouts from along the western border of the Reserve.
- Initiate the Planning and Development Committee and hopefully hold it’s first meeting.
- Host Murray Levitt and get a plan for a viewing platform for approval by the Planning and Management Committee.
- Meet with the Natural Resources section of DFID to follow-up on possible funding
- Invite members of the Samburu County Council to the Mara.
- Host the Commandant, the GSU.
- Review pre-qualification bids to Tender and invite qualified bidders to submit their Tender to collect revenue.