The rains continued throughout the first three weeks of April; the rains were characterised by clear mornings, heavy afternoon thunderstorms, followed by overnight showers. We then had a week of beautiful, clear weather with strong easterly winds.
Ms Alicia Keys visited Mara Serena on the 8-9th as a guest of the Serena Hotels, Ms Keys supports AIDS programmes at the coast and also visited Mombasa.
We held a meeting with driver guides and lodge managers at Kichwa Tembo on the 10th. The first part of the meeting was to discuss driver discipline within the Triangle and we started off by tabling an article from Africa Geographic titled “Migration Misbehaviour” that highlighted a number of issues relating to driver/guides in the Mara. We circulated the minutes of the meeting to all camps and also to KATO, for them to follow-up with their membership. The second part of the meeting was held with lodge managers and brought them up to date on such issues as the proposed increase in park entrance fees, the development of a ten year strategic management plan and the Conservancy’s ten year mandate to manage the Triangle.
We held a Board meeting on the 12th. Dr E de Memerode from the Africa Conservation Fund gave a talk to the Board on the fund and possible collaboration with the Mara Conservancy.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Michael Wairagu on the 14th. Mr Wairagu is an environmental consultant who was conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment on proposed developments at Kichwa Tembo. We expressed concerns about the disposal of waste water and sewerage at Kichwa in general and would like this issue to be addressed in the current situation and paid particular attention to in any new developments.
His Highness, the Aga Khan visited Mara Serena for three nights from the 17th on a private visit with his family.
Mr P Siampei attended a Masai Mara Management Association meeting in Narok to discuss an application to the Tourism Trust Fund for funding an Integrated Mara Ecosystem Management Plan. The association does not have the full support of the Councils and it really needs their support to be an effective body.
On the whole the Triangle is very empty, although there are small concentrations of grazing animals in the short grass areas near Mara Serena and Mara Bridge.
The large pride of lions that was resident around the salt lick for several months has moved into the Lemai Wedge, where there are still very large concentrations of animals on the short grass ridges between the border and Masanja and Nyanguki. Resident lions in the Triangle are struggling to find enough to eat and the lioness with very small cubs towards Mara Bridge spends all her time hunting. She has lost one of her cubs and now has three.
There were several cheetah at the beginning if the month but again most of them have moved into the Lemai Wedge in search of the very large concentrations of Thompson’s gazelle. One cheetah may have given birth in the middle of the Triangle but we have not located the cubs.
We met with the Community Scouts on the 3rd to warn them on such issues as cattle grazing in the Reserve, poaching, illegal cutting of trees and collection of firewood. They were warned that they may receive their salaries if any of the above activities continued along their sections of the escarpment.
Mr E Nkoitoi took ten days off from the 15th.
We have advertised for the position of Finance and Administration officer through Deloittes. Applications are due in by the 5th May and we hope to be able to recruit someone by the end of June.
We have prepared and circulated staff appraisal forms to the staff and will start the appraisals on the 2nd May.
Mara Serena operated at an occupancy rate of 65% for the month of April and this may reduce further in May. However, given that April and May are considered low season and traditionally have the lowest number of visitors, the Triangle is doing remarkably well. Serena have started briefing visitors on the Park and Park rules which will be of great assistance to us.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in April
There were a total of six arrests during the month, bringing the total to 568. Of the six arrests, two were of cattle thieves from Tanzania and the other four were poachers operating to the North of the Triangle. Sixty six wire snares were recovered. Two zebra and six impala were killed in snares.
There was a general increase in insecurity throughout Trans Mara in April with inter clan-conflict becoming an issue of concern. Although there was virtually no sign of poaching during the month, most of the wa Kuria were cultivating their fields, there was a considerable amount of stock theft between the wa Kuria and Masai or Kipsigis and also between the Masai clans. Stock theft became a major issue throughout the pastoralist areas of the country with constant raids in Trans Mara, Samburu, Turkana, Pokot and Marsabit districts – the after effect of the drought when people are trying to re-stock their herds through cattle rustling.
12 cattle were stolen from one of our community scouts at Kawai on the night of the 10th, unfortunately the theft was not discovered until the following morning and reported to us until 7.50 am. We immediately mobilised the rangers and the cattle were followed through the Lemai Wedge in Tanzania and into the wa Kuria homeland – the rangers were within a few hundred meters of the cattle when we had to abandon them, as we have no authority outside the Serengeti. The Tanzanian police were informed. We had set an ambush along the bottom of the escarpment in anticipation of stock-theft and the rustlers passed within a few hundred yards of the ambush without our knowledge. This incident highlighted the need for good quality night vision equipment.
A further 12 calves were stolen on the night of the 12th from Kawai; again we did not receive the report until the following morning. The cattle were discovered hidden in a valley near Ngiro-are and the community mobilised along the top of the escarpment. We managed to arrest two of the cattle thieves; unfortunately a third was killed by community members before we could save him. The matter was immediately reported to the Police, who then came to inspect the scene and claim the body. A fourth cattle thief was handed over to the Tanzanian police the following day with an arrow in his neck, he subsequently died.
Our patrol from Ngiro-are found two dead zebra in snares below an area we call “watu Kumi” in the Lemai Wedge on the 19th . They recovered 20 wire snares but could not locate the poachers.
The Serena team found 10 wire snares in the same area on the 22nd, again we could not locate the poachers. An ambush was set that night but no one returned to check the snares. On the same day the Ngiro-are team recovered 6 wire snares in an area known as Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge, no arrests were made.
Four Kipsigis poachers were arrested near Kirindon, 15 kms North of the Triangle, on the 29th by a joint, Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service and Anne Kent-Taylor Fund patrol. The poachers had killed six impala and had 30 wire snares, spears, knives and bows with arrows.
The grader was repaired and worked on some sections of the main roads that had been damaged in the rains.
We cut some of the main grass tracks and will cut them all in either June or July, depending on the rains.
The office at Ngiro-are was completed and will be painted once the cement had dried sufficiently.
We up-graded the solar system at Ngiro-are by installing more panels, the system is now working very well.
We made blinds for the staff canteen at Serena and fitted them at the end of the month.
Revenue and Accounts
March revenue remained relatively strong at Ksh 9.8 million for the month. Our accounts at the end of February indicated a cash balance of Ksh 3,739,122. This did not take into account advances of Ksh 3,303,745 made to the group ranches and Council made to assist them during the drought. We will be able to recover this amount by the end of June. We should close the financial year with about Ksh 5 million in the Bank, a reasonably healthy situation and slightly more than we had budgeted for,
The Audit of Earthview continued throughout the month, with a field visit by the auditors between the 11 – 15th. We are expecting their report in early May.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May
· Complete staff appraisals and issue contracts;
· Hold Board meeting and AGM on the 17th ;
· Submit work plan to Board;
· Paint office block Ngiro-are;
· Continue on recruitment of consultant for management plan;
· Gazette new entrance fees in line with KWS; and
· Hold staff welfare meeting.