The April rains appear to have failed and unless we see any substantial rain in May we can expect a severe drought – we can expect intermittent storms between June and November, but they will probably be insufficient for significant grass growth. The pressure from livestock grazing in the Reserve and Conservancies will increase and there are bound to be a substantial number of cattle deaths. This comes on the back of an extended dry season in 2013 – when thousands of cattle died. Those that did not die have not fully recovered and are still in very poor condition.
We are beginning to see a concerted effort by Government to deal with the security situation. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been arrested for being in the country illegally – many of them from neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia. Caches of arms and bomb-making items have been found in the crackdown. The initial focus for the operation was in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Eastleigh – the focus for much of the insecurity in the recent past. This led to an uproar from the Somali community in Kenya. However, the operation expanded to most towns and centres in the Country and started finding illegal immigrants from all over Africa. There are still people out there with bombs – one was set off in a car on the 24th, killing four people, including two policemen.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) suspended six senior members of staff, including two who represent the face of their security and elephant programmes, in an attempt to deal with perceived corruption within the organisation. The KWS Director came to Narok County and said that more elephant were being poached in Narok County than anywhere else in the Country – over 20 have been killed this year to date. KWS feel that most of the elephant poaching is happening on the Conservancies and in the Reserve – this is not the case. The truth is that these elephant are being killed on the periphery – where landowners feel they get no benefits from Conservation and the animals are competing for resources.
Narok County is planning a stakeholder’s meeting in the Mara for early May. The County will use this meeting to outline their concerns about the Mara; will inform the public of suggested changes that will be taking place, and may even use the forum to institute some of these changes.
The Kenya Wildlife Service veterinary team darted several buffalo around the 16th – to check them for Trypanosomiasis.
Chris Dutton and Amanda Subalusky have returned to the United States, after an extended period in the Mara. They are hoping to return in August, before Amanda returns to finalise her PhD dissertation on the Mara River.
At least eight hyena and several jackal were poisoned around Talek this month. There were unconfirmed reports that lions had also been poisoned around Mara Simba as well.
Wildlife sightings in the Triangle have been excellent; a lot of lions and a few cheetah. Elephant have been numerous, especially in the areas that were flooded in March.
Deloitte were contracted by Narok County, they came to the beginning of April to interview all members of staff seconded by the County to the Mara Conservancy.
Mr Richard Corcoran, MD of Liberty Africa Safaris sparked off a debate on factors affecting tourism in a letter to Travel News. Many of his points mirrored our sentiments – maybe not as succinctly put, but articulated all the same, in recent monthly reports.
The bottom line: tourism is going through its worst downturn in recent years, the decline is at least as great as after the post election violence in 2007. However, the downturn will continue for much longer – at least through 2014 and into 2015, or until the Government addresses the fundamental issues:
- Corruption and insecurity go hand-in-hand – one of the major reasons for insecurity is the corruption surrounding immigration and the security services.
- Cost – Kenya is now an extremely expensive destination and tourists are going to destinations with better security, services and infrastructure, and excellent beaches and game parks – at a fraction of the price.
Sadly, conservation cannot be de-linked from tourism. A 30% downturn in tourism translates to a 30% decline in Park revenue – crucial in protecting our biodiversity, environment and wildlife. It is a vicious cycle – less revenue means fewer resources to protect Kenya’s wildlife, this in turn leads to a diminished value on wildlife and more competition for resources; resulting in further loss of wildlife, which will in turn lead to fewer tourists.
Six people were arrested for poaching during April, one of them was trying to sell ivory.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three poachers near Kokamange, in the Lemai Wedge, at 7.00 pm on the 7th, a fourth person escaped.
The Iseiya rangers found a zebra caught in a snare near Lempise, in the Lemai Wedge on the 8th – they set an ambush but no one came. Two days later the same team recovered six wire snares in the same area.
On the 9th we received information that three people were trying to sell ivory on the escarpment. We used our informer to arrange a purchase on the 10th and managed to arrest one person and recover 4 kilograms of ivory in a joint operation with the GSU policemen based at Oloololo Gate.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two, of three, people near Lempise during a late patrol on the 11th. The two were armed with spears and machetes.
We found a partially butchered buffalo calf on the 23rd near Kishangaa in the Triangle. Our rangers had been called out on a false alarm the previous night and had probably frightened off the poachers.
Our Tanzanian counterparts reported that three armed men had crossed into Kenya along theSand River on the night of the 23rd. The Narok rangers were unable to respond and so we sent two patrol teams – they found no sign of the bandits but did come across staff from Ashnil cutting down African Olive trees for firewood on the Tanzanian side of the border. The camps all prize the African Olive for their campfires because of it’s high oil content, and it burns very well. If we have 60 camps in the Mara all cutting down Olive trees there will be none left – presumably Ashnil have depleted all the trees near their camp.
The rangers patrolled sections of the Narok portion of the Reserve on the 25th and found a recently poached hippo and a vacated poachers’ camp. There are obviously people coming across into the South western portion of the main Reserve.
The Mara Elephant Project arrested a poacher with a G3 rifle and 15 rounds of ammunition on the night of the 27th near Lolgorien.
Revenue and Accounts
Our share of revenue for March was considerably less that the funds required to pay salaries – currently running at just under Ksh 8,000,000 (US$ 93,000) - let alone all the other expenses incurred in running the Triangle. The Chief Executive has been unable to take a salary for March and April and the situation for May looks much worse. We will be very hard pressed to meet our salary obligations in May.
We completed a soak pit at Ngiro-are for kennel waste.
We patched all the damaged sections of our main roads and will continue to fill in minor potholes.
We used the grader for four days to touch up damaged sections of road – especially areas around Oloololo Gate and down to Little Governors.
We have almost completed an extension to the dog kennels at Iseiya – this was paid for from a donation.
We repaired our welding machine and had to purchase a transfer box for the old TDI Land Rover.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May 2014
· Complete dog kennel;
· Possibly burn one small block;
· Continue with road maintenance;
· Hold Board meeting;
· Work with County on stakeholders’ meeting; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.