The rains continued throughout April and the river rose to the highest levels since December 2006. These have undoubtedly been the heaviest and most prolonged rains for many years – causing extensive flooding and immense damage to roads throughout the country. One person went missing, presumed drowned, when a vehicle went over the Mara bridge at Mara Rianta on the 28th.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) disallowed VAT claims amounting to Ksh 6 million (US$ 60,000). We have contested it , engaged a tax consultant, and produced all the original invoices, together with the attached Electronic Tax Receipts (ETR) for their review. On the 30th KRA instructed the Bank to remit the funds to their account.
Christine Koshal, Administrator for the Main Mara, visited on the 7th to discuss logistics for a refresher training course they are planning for their rangers. We helped the County in purchasing 20 tents for the training.
We met with Stefan Winterboer from Wild Earth on the 7th to discuss filming by their SafariLive crews. SafariLive have made a short film on work done by the Mara Conservancy and showed it to us on the 19th. I attach the link below for those who are interested
The Governor launched a one month cross-border rhino verification project at Keekorok on the 14th. The Serengeti and Mara monitoring teams estimate that there are over 100 black rhino in the ecosystem.
The Tanzanian Government have decided to enforce a 500 metre buffer along the Serengeti boundary and have been surveying the area to be set aside and will then re-locate the people living within the buffer zone along parts of the boundary.
An article on our use of Flir equipment appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of WIRED entitled: (Protect and Survive) by Claire MacDougall. We were also mentioned in National Geographic’s “The New Big Brother” edition of February 2018.
A team from Uganda visited the Triangle during the week of the 16th, to review our revenue collection system. There is a possibility that they will engage KAPS to collect revenue in their National Parks.
Warden Lema Langas reported back on the 11th, after his trip to the United States. He had an amazing trip; starting with a conference in which he gave a presentation on our work with thermal imaging equipment. He then went to stay with Linda Porter and John Lutenberg, where he saw the training and working of dogs, before going to the Flir factory in California. Our thanks to John and Linda, WWF and Jeff Frank of Flir for making his trip so memorable. We hope that he was a good ambassador for the Mara Conservancy, that he learnt a lot and that he will be able to effectively use some of the things he learnt.
The Warden and Administrator visited the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) training college at Londiani to plan for some junior commander training for our NCOs and junior wardens. We hope that we will be able to do this training in the coming months.
Garvey, one of our sniffer dogs has a cancerous sore on one of his legs, we don’t believe that he will be able to work in the high-season and have started searching for a replacement.
Anna, our mature blood/coon hound bitch was mated by one of her sons. The pregnancy will be terminated, she will be spayed and then retired. We will retain three of her last litter and have hopefully found a buyer from Laikipia for the remaining two.
A crocodile killed a child near Mara River Camp, just upstream of the upper Mara Bridge on the 1st. Her mother had just turned away from the river when the child was taken.
A Governors balloon pilot saw an old elephant carcass on the Olpunyatta Plain on the 6th, the tusks were collected on the 7th,
Mytene, one of the large collared elephant was speared and killed in the Northern Serengeti, near Bologonja on the 10th. Mytene had been resident in that area for a number of years and never seemed to leave the Park. His tusks weighed 40 kg each.
Warden A Bett attended a harmonisation meeting on the 20th – aimed at harmonising all the reports on elephant deaths so far this year. We reported seven deaths so far this year, and when the exercise was complete, a total of 16 elephant deaths in Narok County for the first quarter of 2018. Three were killed as a result of Human/Wildlife conflict, one poached for ivory, four were from natural causes and eight were unknown cause of death.
One giraffe was treated near Angama for a slash across a hind leg on the 22nd. Another one was reported injured on the 30th. There are in increasing number of incidents of people injuring animals on the escarpment – we hope that the camps along the escarpment will be able to club together to form a conservancy from Kawai to Kerenkani.
Lion sightings were excellent throughout the month, more and more of our lions are targeting buffalo, several of which were killed.
The Hyena Project report for the quarter ending 31st March recorded a marked increase in the number and diversity of wildlife in the Talek area since cattle were removed from the Reserve.
We held a Lodge Managers’ meeting at Angama on the 20th. It was well attended, only Kilima sent apologies. The two main agenda items dealt with some directives from the County Government and community development projects.
In the first agenda item the meeting was informed that the County Government:
1. No longer want to see saloon cars and, in particular, the Toyota Probox – a relatively cheap but robust vehicle.
2. The county would enforce the Reserve open and closure times. The meeting was reminded that the gates close at 6.30 pm for all entries and that visitors entering through Sekenani Gate should ensure that they are through the gate by 5.30 pm; to allow sufficient time for them to reach Purungat before closure.
Lodge managers, in particular Mara Serena, were asked to ensure that all their visitors were aware of the closure time and adhere to it.
There was a long discussion on Park entrance fees and visitor control, in particular at crossings. The meeting was informed that the Narok County Government were determined to improve the image of the main Mara and had already instituted a number of measures – stakeholders can anticipate many more controls aimed at improving the visitor experience.
Our second agenda item dealt with working with our neighbouring communities. We explained some of the community projects we were involved in and commended the Angama Foundation for joining forces with us in paying compensation for livestock killed, jointly constructing a dam for the Partikilat community and for funding our rhino surveillance team. We also informed the meeting that we have built classrooms, employ 15 community scouts and 10 nursery school teachers. Much of the discussion centred around community projects supported by individual camps – much of it with little, or no, conservation linkage.
It was agreed that the Angama model of requesting clients to pay an additional US$ 10 per guest per day for the Foundation was an excellent model. It was agreed that this could be replicated, maybe at US$ 5 to start with, and the Mara Conservancy management agreed to push for the establishment of a Trust – which would have Camps/Lodges, Conservancy and Community representation on the Board. Cash raised would be used to fund Conservation related projects in the Community and the establishment of a Conservancy along the escarpment would be a priority. This could potentially raise US$ 250,000 a year for conserving areas adjacent to the Triangle and would to an attractive concept for raising matching funds from donors and the Narok County Government.
A total of 19 poachers were arrested during April, the majority for killing hippo – seven hippo are known to have been poached in April. Four wire snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three people who were hunting warthog at 3.00 am on the 2nd near Lugga ya Ngiri in the Lemai Wedge.
Our Tanzanian counterparts called Ngiro-are at 7.00 pm on the 5th, asking for assistance at Lemai. The wa Kuria had killed two hippo and were process of butchering them. One person was arrested, the remainder escaped, some by swimming the river – at that time the river was very high. The killing of hippo that had been swept downstream continued and two more were killed the following day but not discovered until the meat had been taken.
The Iseiya team arrested two people at Olaro Nyioke on the 6th, they were carrying knives and were probably on their way to check snares. The snares were not found.
The Iseiya team left at 2.00 am on the 10th and managed to arrest one person at 5.00 am. He was alone with two dogs and a spear. That evening they went on a late patrol and arrested one more person, also hunting alone, near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge. He was carrying four wire snares.
Six people were arrested by the Ngiro-are rangers on the 13th. Four of them were arrested in a joint operation with our Tanzanian counterparts near the Lemai Swamp, they had spears and machetes. That evening the rangers set an ambush on the Kigonga poachers’ route and managed to arrest two more people, also with spears and machetes.
The Ngiro-are team found where a hippo had been killed and butchered near Daraja Mbili in the Lemai Wedge on the 19th. The following day the Iseiya rangers found a dead hippo near Saina’s crossing, also in the Wedge – it was freshly killed and had been covered with bush. That evening they joined forces with the Ngiro-are rangers and by 8.00 pm were able to observe six people approaching the carcass with a Flir camera. The rangers surrounded the dead hippo and waited until the poachers started butchering it – they sprung the ambush and managed to arrest five of the six. Two of the five had been arrested before – one of them only a week earlier, on the 13th. The other had been released from jail in December 2017. It is very gratifying when everything goes to plan, well done our ranger teams.
Since then at least two hippo have been reported speared, the Ngiro-are rangers chased some hippo poachers on the 23rd but unfortunately they all escaped.
Revenue and Accounts
The Kenya Shilling is trading at its highest level, against the US$, for three years, good for those buying Dollars but not so good for those that sell them.
March revenue was up by about 20% on March 2017 (Ksh 29,898,864 against Ksh 24,852,143 last year).
We are concerned about the reported number of non-paying visitors and have asked KAPS to prepare a proper reconciliation and breakdown on the number of visitors who do not pay and where they are coming from.
Repairs and maintenance
Mr Andrew Aho kindly offered his equipment for one day, to help us repair our roads. They worked on the road to Ngiro-are.
We dug a new soak pit at Iseiya to cope with the grey water from the staff camp.
The Case tractor was out of action for a while as we waited for spares – a bearing had seized in the gearbox. We also replaced the clutch on the Ford tractor.
We had to repair the transfer gear in the Iseiya Land Rover twice and also the one in the Iseiya Suzuki – both damaged as a result of trying to engage four-wheel drive when the vehicle is moving.
We repaired a County Land Rover assigned to Ms Lena Munge – it had partly seized that engine and we had to buy a new block, complete with pistons. The County paid for the repair.
The continued rains made it difficult to repair the roads and meant that we had to move around a lot, avoiding very wet areas. However, we did manage to work on the main roads between Oloololo and Purungat and graded the roads to Little Governors at the beginning of the month.
We completed installing two water tanks at Purungat, painted all the rooms, replaced much of the guttering and built a small bathroom for the Warden.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May 2018
· Develop Annual Work Plan and Budget for 2018/19;
· Work with Narok County on Management Agreement;
· Build a larger enclosure for two cheetah cubs;
· Start on roof at Ngiro-are;
· Sell two dogs;
· Continue with road repairs where possible; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.