April 2008


We had ten days of beautiful, sunny weather before the rains returned on the 10th for two weeks. 


Dorman’s Coffee have agreed to market a brand of their coffee as “Conservation Coffee”, the profits will be passed on to the Conservancy.  Mr Will Deed has been working on the packaging and we expect the brand to appear in the shops in June.  Will has also had success in his scheme to sponsor rangers.  This will cover all their costs, including:  salaries, rations, allowances and medical.  To date 12 have been sponsored for two months each. 


The Chief Executive met with Dr Cheryl Mvula on the 3rd, to discuss developments on licensing and training driver/guides.  The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) intends to insist that all tour drivers have a valid license from July 1st.  This is a Ministry of Tourism requirement that has never been enforced.  Within one year all driver/guides will be required to have an accredited qualification in guiding in order to get a license. In the meantime Dr Mvula will run training courses on responsible guiding for drivers resident in the Triangle.  This follows an evaluation on 20 resident drivers she and her husband did in November.  The results were disappointing, showing that our resident drivers engaged in some very bad practice and required a lot of training to meet minimum required standards. 


Reuters sent a news team down to the Conservancy to cover some of activities between the 2nd and 4th.  This was very well covered in the international press; with articles in The US Daily News, The Boston Globe, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Scientific American, ABC News and AOL News.  Unfortunately the Wildlife Direct web site was down on the day of release, it was then followed by a problem with Paypal, the internet payment system for three days.  This meant that we probably missed out on a number of possible donations.  In addition we had news items in BBC, The National (UAE), The Independent, Plein-Vie (France) and Nice Matin (France).


Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) were unable to meet our funding request but very kindly passed on our proposal to WWF in Germany who agreed to provide US$ 75,000 to cover our shortfall.  We are most grateful to Markus Borner, FZS and WWF Germany for their support. 


We held a third tourism sector meeting for the 10-year management plan on the 10th in Nairobi.  The meeting focused on the proposed zonation scheme, proposed developments and fee structures for the Mara.  The zonation scheme received broad approval, as did the proposed developments.  There was a lot of discussion on proposed differential fees for different zones, and for visitors based in camps outside the Reserve. 


There were a number of meetings held by senior staff during the month. 

  • Mr Nicholas Sarisar represented the Conservancy at a Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources meeting in Kericho to discuss the development of a National Environment Policy for KenyaThe meting focused on issues relating to the South Rift Valley region. 
  • M/s Sarisar and Kimojino attended a meeting in Talek to discuss a proposal by a new organisation called the Kenya Cheetah Foundation to build a cheetah sanctuary on Koiyaki.  They propose to build a sanctuary on 90 acres of land in which they will take on orphaned cheetah, raise them and then release them into the wild.  It would appear that this will be in conjunction with a tourist enterprise. 
  • Mr Edward Nkoitoi attended a cross border meeting between security and protected area managers in areas adjacent to the Kenya/ Tanzanian border.  It was a fruitful and important meeting to enhance cross border co-operation.  The collaboration between the Mara Conservancy and Serengeti was hailed as an example to emulate.  It was gratifying to see that our arrangement had wider support from the conservation and security bodies than we had imagined.


The Chief Executive met with Mr Asgar Pathan of Care for the Wild on the 29th.  Care for the Wild have been assisting us in administering funds that Anne Kent-Taylor send us for the Community Scouts.  We discussed possible additional support.



The injured elephant at Little Governor’s became extremely weak;  she was examined again by Dr D Mijele on the 2nd April.  It was decided that the infected leg could not heal, that the elephant would not survive and that her two-year old calf should be rescued.  It was arranged for the calf to be airlifted to Daphne Sheldrick’s orphanage and to put the mother down. 


One young male lion, about two and a half years old, was reported struggling to walk on the 3rd, we decided to observe it and by the following day both this lion, and its brother were virtually paralyzed.  We immediately suspected poison, tick paralysis, canine distemper or rabies and asked Dr Dominic Mijele to come and investigate.  One of the two lions was euthanised and samples collected.  There were no overt post mortem signs - most of the organs looked normal.  By the 6th we had two young male lions, both from the same pride, in a similar state of paralysis.  The animals looked alert, they were just unable to move.  One common factor with these lions, they had all fed on a dead hippo.  We monitored these lions for several days and on the 12th the stronger of the two lions moved and we were unable to find it.  The weaker animal seemed to be getting stronger, but was till paralyzed, and was treated against all internal and external parasites by Dr Mijele.  We continued to monitor this animal but on the morning of the 15th it was killed by two nomadic males which had probably crossed the river.   We did another post mortem on the lion and took samples for analysis.  In the meantime we received the toxicology results from the Government Chemist.  There were traces of Carbofuran (trade name Furadan) in the first lion’s stomach, together with traces in two soil samples.  There were also traces of carbamate in the stomach contents of a hippo that had died.  It would appear that the hippo had ingested carbamate from grazing in an area contaminated by the chemical, had died and had then been eaten by the lions.  It is well documented that carbamate in high concentrations is a very potent poison that kills very rapidly.  In low doses it has been known to act in a similar manner organophophate compounds and cause paralysis within a few days of exposure (Toxicological Reviews Vol 24(1) 2005 pp 37-49 Organophosphate – Induced Delayed Polyneuropathy).  There is no known reversing agent once the nervous system has been affected but carbamates differ from organophosphates in that there can be a degree of spontaneous recovery to the nervous system with minimal exposure to the poison.  Experimental work on rats indicates that N-acetylcsteine (NAC) may offer some protection.  NAC is available in Nairobi but one treatment on a lion would cost in excess of Ksh 200,000 (US$ 3,300) and would offer no guarantee of success. 


Two of our Wardens, J Kimojino and J Naiguran, held meetings with members of the local community on the 1st and 3rd to discuss predator protection and compensation for livestock killed.  This meeting was held in response to threats by the local community to kill stock-killing lions.  After initial hostility the Masai began to appreciate our financial situation and understand that we were trying to do all we can to assist them – and raise money to compensate for cattle killed.



The Chief Executive took a week off from the 18-25th.


Congratulations to Charles Gitau on his marriage on the 19th.  We wish them both a very happy life together.


Mr Johnson Leiyan was shot twice and wounded in his thigh during an attempt to recover cattle stolen by the wa Kuria from the Kipsigis.  Leiyan is out of danger.  I would like to commend all the security staff for their restraint and professionalism in dealing with this incident.



Tourist numbers continue to be well down.  Projections for the high season;  starting July are good, but not as good as for the past two years.  A few days of lawlessness in Nairobi in the middle of the month did nothing for tourism, especially as they coincided with a Government and industry push to promote Kenya’s tourism potential by hosting 200 international journalists.



We arrested 14 poachers in April and recovered 6 wire snares.  This brings the total number of poachers arrested to 1,029.  At this time of year the method of poaching tends to change away from snaring – to the use of dogs and spears.  The preferred prey species are hippo, warthog – both speared;  and Thompson’s gazelle – hunted at night, with dogs.  A lot of poaching is done at night and we have been severely constrained in setting up ambushes by the shortage of funds.


On the third we followed-up on the Luo poachers who had been arrested in late March and arrested a third member of the group in his home near Lolgorien.  He was with three other people and had some of the dried hippo meat in his house.  After some investigation we released the other three and prosecuted the house owner.


The rangers arrested three poachers on the 9th just after they had crossed into Tanzania.  The rangers picked up their tracks near “Egyptian Goose” and followed them.  The poachers had been camped along “Benjamin’s Lugga” for 10 days, hunting along two seasonal water courses flowing into the Mara River and had killed a hippo.  One of the poachers had previously been arrested in an ambush when carrying ivory across Mara Bridge in June 2003.  It was surprising that we had not found the poachers earlier, two patrols had been mounted in that general area in those ten days, one of them passing within a few hundred metres of the poacher’s camp.


The Serena team arrested all three poachers in a group that were hunting warthog along the Mara River on he 24th.  This group had arrived in their camp, between Mara Bridge and Kokatende in the Serengeti, the previous day and had not killed anything.  We recovered three spears.


There is one group of poachers that we have missed on the Kenya side of the border for the third time.  They come in and hunt warthog about 2 kilometres into the Triangle and then leave.  We will set up a permanent observation post to try and arrest them.


One of our rangers, Mr Johnson Leiyan, was shot and wounded on the afternoon of the 28th, during an exchange of fire with armed cattle rustlers.  The rustlers had stolen cattle from the Kipsigis and were being followed by them and a contingent of Anti-Stock Theft police.  It would appear that our rangers heard the report and were investigating some cattle seen on the escarpment when they were fired upon.  The Kipsigis then took about 50 wa Kuria cattle in retaliation.  Leiyan was airlifted out by the Flying Doctor and hospitalised in the Aga Khan Hospital – he is out of danger and his condition has stabilised.


The Ngiro-are team arrested 7 wa Kuria poachers on the night of the 29th, and early morning of the 30th.  The team were alerted by our neighbours at Kinyangaga that there was torch activity near Daraja Mbili, in the Lemai Wedge.  They immediately joined the Tanzanian Rangers and arrested one poacher at 3.00 am.  They then came across another gang of poachers and arrested a further 6, out of 28.  The poachers had killed 37 Thompson’s gazelle.


Revenue and Accounts

We banked US$ 23,000 from Wildlife Direct and a further US$ 25,000 from Dr Asuka Takita.  I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Asuka for raising in excess of US$ 50,000 for the Conservancy.  We have received pledges from M/s Leslie Roach and WWF (through the Frankfurt Zoological Society) but the funds have not been forthcoming as at the time of writing.  The donations we have received to date allow us to meet our primary objectives but leave us nothing in reserve for May and June.  We will require at least US$ 75,000 to meet our financial commitments during this time.




We worked on the Serena airstrip and filled in a few small pot-holes and damp patches that appeared after the heavy rain in March.


Mara Bridge was repaired on the 7th-8th by the Provincial Roads team.  It was agreed that the contractor working on the road between Oloololo and Serena would repair the damaged approach.


The Contractors working on the road between Mara Bridge and Mara Serena completed their work and are awaiting approval.  There is a need for Government contractors to rehabilitate excavation sites after they complete their contract.


We repaired the roofs at Ngiro-are and Oloololo Gate.


We continued with re-surfacing work on the river road between Serena and Oloololo Gate.  We have two flooded sections remaining before this road can become an all-weather road.  We also graded part of this road.


Report on focus for April


Focus for May

·       Hold meeting for 10 year Management Plan on 8th;

·       Consultants to present preliminary report to Council Executive Committees;

·       Complete Six month plan;

·       Complete staff appraisals; 

·       Meet with Board members from the Ngoro-Ngoro Conservation area;  and

·       Work on car shade for vehicles at Serena office.