There was heavy and widespread rain for the last three weeks of April, thoroughly soaking the ground and severely damaging the road from Oloololo Gate to Mara Serena. The Mara River has been extremely high for the last week in April, forcing Governor’s Camp to stop their boat service across the river.
The Member’s meeting was held on the 30th April in Nairobi and five Board members removed. The next step will be to call a Board meeting, at which nominees for Board positions will be deliberated upon and invitations sent out. One condition imposed by the Members is that each Board member should provide a Curriculum vitae detailing their relevance and qualifications on the Board.
We hosted all but one of the Councillors from Trans Mara, together with the new Clerk to Trans Mara, Mr Ogeto, the new Treasurer, the District Commissioner and senior police officers for two days on the 7-8th April. The MP, the Hon Gideon Konchella visited on the 8th and addressed a four hour meeting of the above participants and members of the Mara Conservancy staff. This was seen as a good public relations exercise for the Conservancy, as many of the Councillors and none of the new Officers had ever been to the Mara Triangle..
The review team arrived in Kilgoris on the 29th April and are scheduled to arrive in the Mara Triangle on the 1st May for three days.
We held a lodge manager’s meeting at Kichwa Tembo on the 10th April – this was preceded by a demonstration and talk on constructed wetlands by Ms Dee Raymer. The demonstration was very interesting and we hope that it will lead to other camps and lodges considering constructed wetlands on their properties as a means of waste water management.
We tried to burn a section of the Reserve, an area between the Oloololo to Mara Serena road and the Mara River known as Ol Punyatta. Unfortunately the rains started in earnest on that day and we only managed to burn a firebreak before the fire was put out by the rain.
The Barbara Delano Foundation informed us that the have no facility for emergency funding; our request was for support to cover the revenue shortfall between March and July. However, they welcome a proposal for longer term support before they next review applications in October 2003.
Mr Simon King, one of the presenters on the BBC Big Cat Diary, has raised Sterling £ 4,850 towards the cost of a vehicle that will be dedicated to monitoring wildlife and controlling incidents of animal harassment. We have been asked to invoice the BBC. This has been done and we are awaiting receipt of the funds. We are very grateful to Simon King and the BBC for their support, and to Jonny Baxendale for promoting the concept and coordinating with Simon and the BBC for this donation. CMC Motors Ltd have identified a suitable vehicle and are prepared to give us good terms on payment of the balance – we hope to have this vehicle in time for the high season.
The female rhino returned with the male on the 31st March and both have remained in the Triangle since then.
One lioness living near the Oloololo Gate appears to have lost one of her two cubs. This lioness was hunted by Masai Morans on the 16th – fortunately the morans were unsuccessful but the cubs were separated from their mother for a while. Both cubs were later seen with their mother but a week later only one is being seen. The morans were seen by a driver from Kichwa Tembo early in the morning as they came down off the escarpment; unfortunately the report took two hours to reach the Conservancy. The Senior Warden and Chief Executive met with community leaders over the issue and the leaders have assured us that there will not be a repeat.
The crocodile at Little Governor’s appears to have moved at the onset of the rains. One warthog with a broken leg was shot at Little Governor’s.
The KWS research team from Sekenani gate spent several days in the Mara Triangle looking for cheetah, they only found one female with her two cubs during their stay. One other male and two females have also been seen. A cheetah that was reported to have six cubs has disappeared and not been seen for three weeks.
Tourist numbers for March were approximately down by 30% on the same period the previous year, April looks no better and May even worse. However, with the end to the war in Iraq bookings are coming in for the next season and things look promising from July.
We are still awaiting a proposal from Serena Lodges and Hotels for the construction of a tented camp in the Mara Triangle. In the meantime the Tourism Officer, Jonny Baxendale, has prepared a proposal for four different categories of camp-site and will present this to the planning committee for approval. We hope that we will be able to invite professional camping safaris into the Mara Triangle for the next season starting June or July.
No signs of poaching were recorded in the Mara Triangle during the month. However, a total of 12 poachers were arrested during the month and 12 wire snares recovered. A further eight Masai were arrested, on two different occasions, for illegal grazing, they were released after a warning. This brings the total number of poachers arrested to 204 since the Conservancy started. 150 of these arrests have been made in the 12 months, an average of over 12 per month.
Six potential community scouts spent 10 days working with our security team on a training and evaluation exercise. They have all been evaluated and four of the six will be selected in early May and equipped with radios.
On the first of April a night operation between the Serena and Ngiro-are teams arrested one poacher, out of a group of four, on the Tanzanian border in an area known as Mlima Konyoike. No animals were killed and two snares recovered.
On the 5th April a routine patrol along the Ol Are stream, in an area known as Daraja Mbili on the Tanzanian side of the border came across three freshly set wire snares at 1.00 pm. A group comprising three rangers and six trainee community scouts remained in an ambush and arrested two people at 6.15 pm, when they returned to check their snares. One of the two claimed to have been arrested four times over a period of about fifteen years of poaching. The two also reported the presence of another gang of six poachers – we returned the following day but unfortunately the poachers saw us from some distance and escaped.
On the 7th a joint night operation with our Tanzanian counterparts arrested two wa Kuria poachers in Tanzania. No animals had been killed.
On the 19th a joint patrol with the Tanzanians arrested six wa Kuria poachers on the Naima Lumbwa hills in Tanzania.
On the night of the 27th two poachers crossed the Mara Bridge at 3.00 am, heading towards Keekorok. The following morning our patrol team followed the tracks, they were joined by a ranger team from the Kokatende outpost in Tanzania, and apprehended one of the two poachers poachers as they were sleeping in a thicket along Sand River. Nine wire snares were recovered.
On the 28th, the Senior Warden and J Baxendale saw three Masai grazing their sheep in the Reserve. The three were apprehended and later released after writing a statement.
The Chief Executive managed to take six days off over Easter.
Ms Carter Ong completed a prospectus for the Chairman’s visit to the United States. She is now working on a concept paper for submission to the Kenya Tourism Trust Fund for financial support. We will use our new newsletter format of this report for circulation to non-Board members.
Jonny Baxendale’s funding comes to an end in June. Jonny has been instrumental in developing a tourism development plan – that now needs approval and implementation. He has also been invaluable in settings standards for driver guides and supporting the registration of resident drivers as Kenya Professional Safari Guides.
The grader was stopped for the month, we used the opportunity to undertake some repairs so that the machine will be ready to start operating in June/July. The roads, especially from Oloololo Gate to Mara Serena, have been very badly damaged by days of continual rain.
The road team have repaired sections of the new escarpment track, filling in depressions and cutting channels for water to drain off the road. They have also repaired the main road from Mara Bridge to Mara Serena and cleared all culverts. This road is holding up surprisingly well.
We have rolled the Serena airstrip twice and filled in small depressions with murrum.
Revenue and Accounts
The arrangement to start collecting revenue from Kichwa Tembo camp on Oloololo Game Ranch never materialized. We have been informed that an agreement may be reached by June for us to start collecting revenue.
As expected, March revenue was well down on our projections for the month. This has made an already difficult financial situation worse and we can only expect to generate just enough revenue to pay salaries in the months of April, May and June.
We have done a simple reconciliation of Earthview’s stated revenue against lodge occupancy at Mara Serena and noted a possible discrepancy. Earthview have been asked to review our findings and report back to us before we possibly take further action. One option under consideration is to commission an external audit of the revenue collection.
There was one reported payment for balloon revenue to the County Council of Trans Mara from Musiara Ltd for the month of December. There have been no other payments for balloon revenue since January for Musiara and December for TransWorld.
The Balance Sheet and Profit/loss accounts are almost complete up to March 2003, there is a delay in trying to reconcile the Earthview account and we hope to resolve this in May.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May
- Host review team from 1-4th May;
- Hold Board meeting and invite replacement Directors. Approve 2001/2 accounts, review contract with Earthview, pass corporate Governance papers;
- Complete Annual Work Plan and Budget and present to Board;
- Complete staff appraisal forms in preparation for appraisals in June/July;
- Appoint community scouts and equip them in June;
- Remove Ms Alice Kashu’s curio shop from Oloololo;
- Reconcile Earthview’s revenue account;
- Follow up on funding for wildlife monitoring vehicle and purchase
- Re-licence all vehicles.