The rains continued with a vengeance at the beginning of April and continued for most of the month, causing a number of rivers to flood. Several people were swept away on the Mogor River, including Mohamed Farrah, a member of a Somali family that has been trading in Lolgorien for nearly 60 years. Most of the Triangle was waterlogged for the better part of the month, making getting around very difficult. The Mugoro crossing was unusable for about three weeks, forcing drivers to use the main road to Oloololo Gate. There were one or two sections with inadequate murram and these became badly damaged with all the heavy traffic.
We hope that the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto; together with the swearing-in of County Governors, will herald a change in the way this country is governed. We are already seeing some action against corruption and impunity and hope that it will be sustained. The pressure on some of our leaders to accept massive bribes in order to retain the status quo – an extremely corrupt system in which fortunes are made for doing nothing: “selling air” as one leader termed it - are immense and I hope that the leaders will be able to withstand these pressures.
All the members of the County Assembly held a two-day workshop at Mara Serena on the 15-16th. It was an opportunity to meet many of the Ward Representatives who will make up the County Assembly.
We held a Board meeting on the 19th. The Board approved a new contract for revenue collection with KAPS. This decision was based on a favourable evaluation report just completed by Deloitte. This contract will run until April 2015; the end of our management agreement with the Council.
We saw Nashipai, one of the resident female cheetah with four cubs on the 6th. She was first seen with her cubs in mid March. We also had another female, with one cub, near Purungat for a while and then a coalition of four young cheetah appeared in the same area for a few days – these four seemed a little young to be on their own and we will keep a close eye on them.
The area we burned in March attracted large herds of buffalo, Thompson’s gazelle and topi with attendant lion and cheetah. This area provided the best game viewing opportunities and was the focal area for most of our visitors to the Triangle.
The Mara Hyena Research Project produced their first quarterly report for 2013. The largest of their three study clans now totals 55 animals. Most of the collared animals spend a great deal of their time within the Triangle (>90%) but one of their collared animals from the South Clan crossed the Mara River and “commuted” to Musiara for a while. The project is comparing stress levels by quantifying hormonal stress levels in faecal samples – their preliminary results indicate human disturbance may influence hyena stress hormone levels. This is indicated in the difference between hyena in the Triangle and those from Talek. In the Talek clan, where human activity is much higher, the hormonal stress levels are much higher. We look forward to seeing how this study develops.
Mr David Green has prepared a draft manuscript on the burn study. It is an interesting paper, and we have subsequently discussed some of the benefits of a managed burning programme, with a 4-5 year cycle that may not be so apparent in a purely “scientific” paper. I look forward to seeing the final draft. In many respects the Reserve management uses fire as a management tool to replicate the role of heavy grazing by domestic livestock elsewhere in the Mara ecosystem. The Conservancies surrounding the Mara are coming up with some innovative ways of managing community livestock as a grass-management tool. Maybe one day cattle will be allowed into the Reserve to play the same role.
Ms Iryene Senewa resigned to join the new County as a copy typist.
Mr John Ntoika, one of our rangers, died on the 18th whilst at home. He had been ill for some time with a liver condition. Our sincere condolences to his family. We have an insurance policy in place and his family will be entitled to three year’s salary and Ksh 50,000 to cover funeral expenses. He was also on a pension scheme and his family will be able to claim his pension in full.
Corporal Simon Sampura requested a transfer to the County – he has been with the Conservancy since our inception and is excellent in the field – we will be sorry to lose him.
Mr Parmois Siampei completed his field work for his Diploma in Wildlife Management at Mweka and should be presenting his paper in May. Mr Siampei will be leaving us once he has completed his Diploma.
The construction of two new camps on the escarpment, Mara Enkai and Sun Lodge, is virtually complete and they will probably open in July. Both camp owners have approached us to have a road into the Triangle approved – there are a number of concerns about allowing a new road down the escarpment – security and revenue collection being two of them - and the matter has been referred to the County for consideration.
There has been a frenzy of construction in the main, Narok, portion of the Reserve – with new camps appearing along the Mara and Sand Rivers.
Nine people were arrested during the month: one for killing Heritage, the elephant, two in the Lemai Wedge and six in the Triangle. The six had killed two hippo. The number of arrests now totals 2,066.
The Board has approved an intensive training course for a proposed rapid deployment force. Although our rangers are some of the best anywhere at apprehending unarmed poachers – the figure above can attest to that – we are increasingly having to deal with poachers and bandits armed with automatic weapons. We need to ensure that we can meet the challenge and that our rangers have the requisite skills and are both confident and willing to take on people with sophisticated weapons.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 25 wire snares near Miungu on the 2nd and a further five a few days later.
Our rangers arrested Konee Nkoiyiei on the 6th, he was the prime suspect in the killing of Heritage, our large collared elephant. He would not divulge the whereabouts of his firearm and has been released on bond. We have a major problem in that the community closes ranks around their own. Time and again we are confronted with a wall of silence when it comes to arresting and prosecuting members of the local Masai community – this encourages further insecurity and emboldens people to break the law. What terrible incident will be required to make people realise that they are not helping anyone by hiding and protecting murderers, bandits, thieves and poachers? The argument that people require firearms (mostly illegal) to protect themselves and their property does not hold. The Chiefs know, and it is time that the administration took firm action against people with illegal firearms – to curb the escalation in poaching but also to stop the temptation to use these guns in armed robbery and general banditry.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two, of six, poachers on the night of the 13th. They were hunting Thompson’s gazelle on the plains near Daraja Mbili, in the Lemai Wedge, and had killed four gazelle by the time they were arrested.
The Iseiya team recovered 26 wire snares along the Kenya/Tanzania border on the 23rd – no animals had been caught.
A routine patrol in the BBC Lugga/Nyumba Nane area of the Triangle on the 26th saw six wa Kuria poachers trying to escape. A long search for the poachers managed to result in the arrest of five of the six – several kilometres from the original sighting. The poachers had arrived the previous day and had already killed one hippo and were in the process of laying out the meat to dry when they were first seen. Morani, one of our dogs, was instrumental in the apprehension of the first poacher.
The rangers returned to the same area on the 29th and came across more poachers along the BBC Lugga. They had also just killed a hippo and were in the process of butchering it. The poachers had seen the rangers at a distance and it took several hours to finally locate and arrest one of the three; he thought that he had evaded arrest and had come back to take meat off the hippo. The rangers also found another camp that had been vacated a few days before – the poachers had killed and skinned a python.
There was a bandit attack East of the Mara, in a place called Olpusimoru on the 29th. One person was shot dead and another wounded by the bandits. Our dogs were called in but the area had been badly contaminated by hundreds of people who had visited the scene and the dogs were unable to find a track. These bandits seem to be operating on both sides of the Kenya/Tanzania border and it will take a concerted, and joint effort to apprehend them. Incidents like this one reinforce the need for us to have extremely well trained, equipped and mobile units.
Revenue and Accounts
The total revenue collected in March dropped by 42.07% on February (Ksh 15,295,531 against 26,405,308 in February) and it dropped by 11% on March 2012. We can expect a similar trend for the remainder of the low season. However, all the projections are for a normal, or even above normal, high season and we can expect revenue from July to increase.
Based on our management accounts for the period ending February 2013: we require Ksh 12.75 million a month to cover recurrent expenditure – our share of revenue for March was Ksh 5.4 million – a shortfall of over Ksh 7.3 million (approximately US$ 90,000). We were fortunate to have reserves, but at this rate they will be exhausted within a few months. Let us hope that the projections for the high season are correct.
The incessant and heavy rain hampered our ability to work on the roads. However, we did manage to fill in some of the ruts and potholes developing along the main road from Purungat to Mara Serena.
We completed the office extension and moved into the new offices by the middle of the month.
We purchased a set of LED lights that can be placed along the airstrip, in case there is a need for an emergency evacuation.
We collected our Land Rover from CMC – nearly seven months after it was involved in an accident whilst chasing poachers. The car still seems to have a problem.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May 2013
· Get new signs and install before high season;
· Start selection and training for rapid deployment units;
· Start on Annual Work Plan and Budget;
· Work on Mugoro by-pass – weather permitting;
· Start work on roads; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.