The rains continued throughout April – with some heavy storms from the 11th. By the end of the month there had been considerable damage to our roads and most of the Triangle was waterlogged. There was a major outbreak of Croton caterpillars (Achaea sp?) over most of the Triangle after the onset of the rains. There were literally millions of caterpillars and by mid-month they had denuded virtually every Croton (Croton dichogamous) bush, the predominant shrub in most of our thickets - it looked as if the thickets had been burned.
The Kenya Bureau of Statistics released their official figures state of Kenya’s economy for 2014. As expected, the tourism and agriculture sectors recorded 7.3% and 3.4% declines respectively over 2013. There was an 11.1% decrease in international visitors to Kenya– down to 861,400 (in the Triangle we recorded 23% less overseas visitors in 2014) - those who did come spent, on average, less time in country by one day. Coastal tourism was very badly affected – it shrank by nearly 40%, with at least 20 hotels closing and over 4,000 jobs lost (source: Nation and Standard newspapers). The decline in these two pillars of Kenya’s economy, and major foreign exchange earners, are impacting the value of the Kenya Shilling and it is now trading at nearly Ksh 94 : 1 US$; effectively an 8% devaluation in the past year.
We held a Board meeting on the 10th to discuss the way forward.
A very heavy storm on the 28th caused extensive damage in Narok Town, resulting in the death of at least 15 people and the destruction of vehicles and property. Years of neglect by the old County Councils resulted in a perennial flooding problem and the County has contracted a company to redesign and build a completely new drainage system – they were about to start work.
We received the Hyena Project’s quarterly report. They reported a case of infanticide and a number of deaths in young, emaciated, hyena. Maybe they were fortunate that the extended dry period resulted in the influx of large numbers zebra and wildebeest in March – and a corresponding increase in the food supply. The project put two GPS collars on young males four adult females, and removed three collars.
A paper has recently been published by Medani Bhandari: Is Tourism Always Beneficial? A Case Study from Masai Mara National Reserve, Narok, Kenya. The Pacific Journal of Science and Technology. Vol 15. No 1 (May 2015). The paper discusses the negative effects of unregulated tourism on people, wildlife populations and the impact off-road driving. Although, very recently published, the paper is dealing with data up to 2003. Many of Bhandari’s observations are as relevant today as they were 12 years ago; just more so. Even he can’t have envisaged the exponential growth in population, livestock and tourism facilities since the early 2000’s and the devastating effect this has had on the Reserve, it’s wildlife populations and ecology. To put things in perspective: Bhandari quotes the Mara Count (2002) in which there are 72 tourist lodges and camps in the Mara – there are now 170, and increasing. David Green, who has been working with the Hyena Project, studied the Talek area of the Masai Mara and in 2014 he provided some data on livestock and human settlements around Talek – these figures are representative of the whole region and are horrifying.
Greens’s two graphics above are illustrative of the increase in human settlement and tourist camps (1988 – 2013) around Talek and the increase in the number of livestock grazing inside the Reserve. David Green also studied wildlife trends over the same period and there were significant declines (50 – 70%) in almost every species counted, with the exception of hyena.
We received six rangers from the County. They replace six of our rangers who were deployed in Narok.
The Chief Executive was appointed to the Board of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
A cheetah with three small cubs was seen along the border, near Myles Turner’s hill. Nashipai was then identified with three small cubs around Egyptian Goose; we believe that she is different from the cheetah seen near Myles Turner’s hill. Mlima, the other female with four cubs spent time around Nyati 1 before moving towards Purungat.
The rangers found where a leopard killed a python in Nyumba Nane on the 4th, there were very fresh tracks and a drag mark, where the python was being dragged into a thicket. Two day later we found a pelican that had hanged itself – it had obviously got fishing twine around it’s neck (probably from Lake Victoria or Lake Naivasha), had roosted in a Balanites tree and the loose end of twine had become entangled in the tree. When it tried to fly off it was restrained and was strangled.
The zebra and wildebeest that had crossed into the Triangle when it was so dry started returning towards the Loita Plains at the onset of the rains and by the end of the month there was hardly a zebra left.
The rangers found a section of elephant trunk a little more than a foot long in Tanzania – obviously cut off in a wire snare. We also saw an adult with a snare around its front leg – the snare had cut through the skin. Unfortunately it disappeared before it could be treated. Two big elephant were speared and killed between Aitong and Lemek on the night of the 18th. Omondi, one of the bulls had a collar and had been speared, and treated, once before. A joint Mara Elephant Project (MEP), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Conservancy patrol followed the tracks for hours using our dogs but the poachers managed to escape.
Angela Yang developed a powerpoint presentation with David Aruasa and Alfred Bett for presenting to groups at Mara Serena. The first presentation was made on the 16th April and well received by the audience.
We held a Lodge Managers’ meeting on the 25th at Mara Engai. It was well attended and we left with a feeling of real progress and support. Hopefully we will work with some of the managers to improve the information at our gates.
Eleven poachers were arrested in April and 238 wire snares were recovered. The poaching incidents declined once the rains had set in. Two main reasons: the zebra moved away and people started concentrating on their farming.
Thirty-six wire snares were recovered on the 31st March between Nyakunguri and Maji ya Suya, in the Triangle. One eland was found dead in a snare. A further 71 snares were recovered between the Ngiro-are swamp and Maji ya Bett on the 2nd – one zebra was rescued, two were found dead in snares and a further two had been butchered. Thirty-five more were collected in the same area the following two days.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two people with 11 wire snares on the 8th during a late patrol and then recovered five more snares on the 10th near Miungu. A further eight snares were recovered on the 14th near Maji ya Bett.
The Iseiya rangers patrolled from Sand River to Kokatende on the 15th and came across signs of poachers near Sand River and again near the Bologonja River. They managed to arrest two people who had killed a warthog.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three people on the 17th at 9.00 pm during a night ambush in the Lemai Wedge – they were carrying seven wire snares and were on their way to set them. The following day the Iseiya rangers joined forces with their TANAPA counterparts from Kokatende and arrested one person with 30 wire snares. That evening they set an ambush and arrested three more people with 51 snares. On their way back they came across two elephant tusks on the road near Saina’s crossing – the tusks, each weighing 2.5 kg had been pulled from a carcass, not hacked out and we presume that poachers had found a dead elephant and taken the tusks. However, the vehicle must have scared them off as it approached and they decided to abandon the tusks – rather than risk being caught with them.
The Oloololo/Ol Kurruk rangers arrested three cattle thieves on the 20th near Partikilat and took them to Lolgorien.
Revenue and Accounts
Our March revenue came in at Ksh 12.5 million - 27% down on March 2014. Our share was Ksh 4.5 million – insufficient to cover salaries, let alone cover other costs. We are going through a very severe financial crunch and it will be difficult to meet our staff costs at the end of May.
The auditors are awaiting vendor confirmations before finalising the audit.
We finally fixed one of our Land Rovers that has given constant problems.
Our road tem concentrated on repairing the lower river road to Oloololo but toward the end of the month heavy rains virtually stopped all Work on the roads.
We continued with minor repairs to buildings.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May 2015
· Finalise Audit;
· Work on new agreement with the County;
· Start new schedule for unpaid leave; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.