The rains started on the 1st, with one or two very heavy storms before they tailed off again after a week. The rains then returned with a vengeance around the 24th and look set to continue through May.
The Chief Executive and Senior Warden met with community elders on 1st at Oloololo Gate. The main agenda item was compensation for livestock killed by predators. The Chief Executive explained that the amount paid in compensation by the Conservancy had been reduced from Ksh 20,000 per cow killed to Ksh 10,000 because of the tough financial situation faced over the past four years. After discussion it was agreed that the Conservancy would re-institute the Ksh 20,000, pay arrears to January 2016 and also pay for sheep/goats killed by predators at the rate of Ksh 4,000. It was made clear that this was being done in recognition of the support given to the Conservancy by the community. The issue of camps and lodges based outside the Reserve contributing towards conservation in their areas was also discussed and the Conservancy management undertook to talk to owners and managers about contributing towards to protection of wildlife outside the Reserve. The Chief Executive also explained that the Wildlife Act (2103) dealt with compensation and that County Compensation and Conservation Committees had been established in each County to deal with claims. People were encouraged to claim, although it was recognized that the process was tedious and arduous and would deter all but the most determined claimant.
The Chief Executive attended the launch of the Conservation Alliance of Kenya at Nairobi Serena on the 11th. It was very well attended by conservation leaders; and by the American Ambassador, the Canadian High Commissioner, Dr Manu Chandaria (a leading industrialist and philanthropist in Kenya) and the Cabinet Secretary for Environment Dr Judi Wakhungu.
We held a Board meeting in the Mara on the 22nd. A draft Management Agreement between the Conservancy and Narok County was presented and discussed – the clauses on revenue collection and distribution are of concern and we have responded to the County lawyer with some queries and suggestions.
Kenya burnt 105 tons of ivory and 1.35 tons of rhino horn on the 30th – there were 16,000 whole tusks and hundreds of pieces – probably representing about 10,000 dead elephant – a third of Kenya’s current elephant population. There was something extremely sad and poignant about seeing so many tusks together. One can only imagine so many magnificent animals – some died naturally but many of them were killed for those tusks. Burning ivory always creates debate – this was no exception. There are concerns that burning 5% of the World’s ivory stocks will push up the value. However, if we can show that ivory is much more valuable on live animals, and that tusks have no value, we will have achieved our objective. I believe we will.
Mr G Ng’ang’a has been awarded the contract to rehabilitate some of the buildings at Sekenani – he should start at the beginning of May.
Ms J Naitipa started a six-month course in community wildlife management at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute (KWSTI), Naivasha.
Mr O Kabuti was injured when he was working on the gate at Oloololo, he had a deep gash on his leg which required several stitches.
One elephant was found dead in the riverine forest below near the old River Camp on the 7th during a routine patrol – it had been fed on extensively by hyena and there was no way of determining the cause of death.
There were excellent lion sightings on the burn and a coalition of three big males killed at least two adult hippo. However, lions were scarce around Oloololo; they have probably crossed back onto the Narok side of the river, where there are good concentrations of zebra, or gone up the escarpment – again where there are lots of zebra and topi.
We are seeing a reasonable improvement in the number of overseas visitors to the Mara and all the reports are that this will be sustained through the high season. Most operators are recording good bookings for July/August but there are still concerns that we will see a short high season. Although it appears that we are seeing a recovery in tourism there are still concerns that it will not be sustained through 2017 – especially with the next elections due in August 2017.
Twenty-four people were arrested in April, two of them for carrying drugs and alcohol. Thirty-three wire snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 25 snares that had been set along the Kishangaa Lugga and at Nyakunguri on the 2nd.
The rangers went on a night patrol on the 5th and managed to see six poachers with the use of the thermal imaging camera. Unfortunately the poachers disappeared into fairly dense acacia woodland and disappeared. Two nights later a combined ranger team conducted another night patrol in the same area and managed to arrest two people at 11.00 pm – they had killed three impala and a Thompson’s gazelle. The poachers had crossed the Mara River at 9.00 pm from Machechwe and were operating in an area where they were not visible through the camera.
Many of our operations in the Lemai Wedge have been hampered by observation points (OPs) set up by the wa Kuria along the escarpment. One in particular, two people with binoculars and mobile phones, is set up above Kinyangaga and alert people about any movements our Ngiro-are and TANAPA rangers. The OP is set just outside the Serengeti and has been difficult for the TANAPA rangers to deal with. However, on the 8th it was decided to mount a very early morning operation to apprehend these people right on the Serengeti boundary with the community. A combined team from Kinyangaga and Ngiro-are arrested one person at 5.00 am, the person with binoculars escaped.
A joint patrol crossed the river on the 10th and managed to arrest seven people. The first three were arrested near Ngira, downstream from Kogatende. They were fishing. During the patrol the rangers came across another poachers’ camp but did not find anyone. That night they set up an ambush on one of the main poacher routes into Ngira and managed to arrest four people at around 9.00 pm, two escaped. The four were on their way to camp near Kogatende and were carrying their supplies for several days. They had spears and knives and were probably going to hunt hippo.
The Oloololo/Anne Kent-Taylor rangers recovered five wire snares set for giraffe in the Nyakunguri thicket inside the Triangle on the 12th.
Both teams joined up with some TANAPA rangers from Kinyangaga on the 13th and patrolled the far side of the Mara River. They came across five poachers near the Bologonja River in the morning and managed to arrest two of them. They had a well-established camp and had killed four impala, a Thompson’s gazelle and a warthog. The same evening the team set an ambush on the main poacher route from Machechwe towards Ngira and managed to arrest three poachers on their way to hunt just after dark. They had bows, poisoned arrows and three wire snares.
The rangers joined forces with TANAPA rangers and arrested four near Ngira people on the 17th. The poachers were on their way to hunt with spears and dogs. Two days later the Ngiro-are rangers arrested two people at 6.00 am in an area known as Kichwa ya Ndovu in the Lemai Wedge – as the poachers returned from hunting gazelle. They were carrying two Thompson’s gazelle.
The Ngiro-are rangers then arrested one person on the 21st right on the Kenya/Tanzanian border for cutting logs in the Park. He had also killed a francolin and was taken to Lolgorien.
Two people were arrested by one of our community scouts, together with a Police officer from Oloololo Gate, for being in possession of Bhang (Marijuana) and 20 litres Changaa (an illegal alcohol brew) on the 22nd.
Revenue and Accounts
The Board approved the Audited accounts for the financial year ending 30th June 2015. They were not good reading, the losses continue to pile up and Deloitte, the Auditors, voiced reservations about the ability of the Conservancy to continue as a going concern. Not only because of the accumulated losses, but also because the Mara Conservancy no longer has a formal Management Contract with Narok County. I believe that we have turned the corner, at least for this year, and would have echoed the Auditors’ concerns were it not for the amazing support from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and for the fact that the Chief Executive is not clamouring for the US$ 160,000 (Ksh 16 million) owed to Seiya Ltd for management.
The Table below highlights the dire situation recorded in the Audit.
Total income declined by 34% but we only managed to reduce expenditure by 6%. The major expenditure items included staff costs and salaries at Ksh 87,354,700 (65% of the Total expenditure), down by Ksh 2 million on the previous year; commission to KAPS for revenue collection; motor vehicle and machine running; Chief Executive’s emoluments (not taken but expensed) and the expensing of bad debts.
Revenue continues to improve on last year and this March revenue increased from Ksh 12.6 million last year, to approximately Ksh 20.3 million – an increase of around 62%. The recovery seems better than expected and we will probably reach 2013/14 levels of income if it is sustained at these levels. However, we still need to keep things in perspective – our share of revenue for March stands at around Ksh 9.1 million – well below our monthly average expenditure of over Ksh 14 million; and we are going into the two worst months of the year – April and May.
Repairs and maintenance
We installed an Inverter system for the office to enable us keep the office running when Serena switches off power; now between 10.00 am – mid day, from 3.00 pm until 6.00 pm and again from midnight to 4.00 am.
We sprayed Parthenium with Tordon to try and keep it in check. Parthenium is an invasive weed that is taking over large areas in Nairobi, Kajiado and parts of the Mara.
We fitted a running board on one of our Land Rovers.
We repaired six firearms at a cost of over Ksh 226,000.
We continued with road repairs – just keeping up with the damage caused by the rains. We have managed to keep our roads in good condition despite five months of rain and some exceptional storms. The roads into the Mara have been badly damaged and will require considerable work on them, hopefully before high season in July.
We sent considerable time in repairing the buildings at Oloololo Gate and have purchased paint to paint the exterior walls.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May 2016
· Continue rehabilitating buildings and paint exterior walls;
· Continue with road works;
· Prepare annual work-plan and budget for 2016/17;
· Work on Management Agreement with Narok County; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.