We had a few days of light rain, starting the 17th. It was good rain for the grass but not sufficiently heavy to fill our rainwater tanks, pans and watercourses. The prognosis is for some reasonable rain in the first week of May but this will probably be insufficient to recharge the river and our water pans. The long-term outlook is for the drought to continue in most parts of eastern and North-eastern Kenya until November. If this is the case, we will continue to have severe water shortages in Nairobi and a humanitarian crisis over much of the country.
The Chief Executive met with Governor Tunai and Mr Moses Chelanga on the 4th to discuss options on the Management Agreement. It was agreed that a presentation and critique would be made the following week. There was a follow-up meeting on the 19th and a new draft was reviewed on the 20th. This was then sent to members of the Board and an independent lawyer for their input.
We held a Lodge Managers’ meeting on the 13th, thanks to Serena for hosting it. We appreciated that Angama, Mara Engai, Mpata and TransWorld had representation and were disappointed that Kilima, Mara Siria, Kichwa, Little Governors, SkyShip, Olonana, Mara West and Sun Lodge didn’t feel it important to attend. Yet it is these same properties that are the first to clamour for assistance and concessions from the Conservancy – as did Kilima camp after a robbery on the 23rd.
Ms Kuki Gallmann was shot and wounded on her ranch in Laikipia on the 23rd; she was airlifted to Nairobi. The ranch, The Laikipia Nature Conservancy, has been having major problems in recent months; with members of her family shot at and the destruction of property, including two tourist camps. I worked there in the early 1990’s.
Mr O Kabuti lost his mother to cancer – our commiserations to him and his family. Kabuti took his compassionate leave and will then proceed on his annual leave.
Warden Robert Maita and Mohamed Moguche returned to the Conservancy after being deployed in the County for over two years. Three of the latest rangers have requested re-deployment to the County and this will be effected in May.
We lost two days work through nominations during the month.
There has been excellent game viewing throughout the month, despite the long grass – we are probably the only place in Kenya that can boast of having grass.
Two elephant crossed into Tanzania along the top of the escarpment on the 28th; one was killed by the community and the other had severe spear wounds. The Mara Elephant Project (MEP) tried driving the surviving animal into the Lemai Wedge, without success.
We had two incidents of people overstaying – their tickets had expired, and they were trying to leave without paying. We also had one client who fraudulently used another person’s passport to claim residency, when he was in fact a non-resident. Both incidents were over Easter. We had a lot of problems with the ticketing system and internet connections over both busy weekends and hope this can be resolved before the high season.
We had an incident on the 28th, where tourists were photographed out of their vehicle, with an elephant in the background. This was posted on social media and caused a storm. When we followed up on the incident; the tourists were in a hired car and were supposedly in transit to Keekorok Lodge, but had subsequently decided to stay at Serena, despite not having a valid ticket. They were fined, wrote an apology and were made to pay full Park fees. They had copies of the Park rules in their car!
Tourist numbers were good over the Easter and Labour Day weekends and this will probably push up our revenue for April.
The Hyena Research project submitted their quarterly report for the period ending 31st March and in it attached a paper (in Review) by:
David S. Green, Lily Johnson-Ulrich, Hadley Couraud, & Kay E. Holekamp; Anthropogenic disturbance induces opposing population trends in spotted hyenas and African lions. Biological Conservation.
The paper documents how increased human activity through: tourism activities; exponential human growth; and livestock both inside and outside the Reserve around Talek have led to a significant decline in the lion population and a corresponding increase in the hyena population. Research findings should be taken very seriously because they provide proof that uncontrolled human activity will have a very detrimental and long-term impact on wildlife populations in sections of the Mara. Nothing could highlight this more than the fact that three lions were killed in the space of 10 days along the Reserve Boundary (two near Talek, one in the Reserve near Sopa Lodge and one in the Reserve near Musiara), the fourth was injured and had to be treated, all around the end of March this year.
Mr Stratton Hatfield gave a report on his work with Martial eagles in the Triangle; they found a new nest near Ngiro-are and also saw the pair mating. This gives us seven different pairs operating in the Triangle. They also identified a number of unusual and interesting birds that a casual observer would probably never notice.
A total of ten people were arrested during the month, six along the Kenya/Tanzania border and one on the Narok side of the Reserve near Ngerende camp. As usual at this time of year, they were targeting hippo – several were butchered; warthog and Thompson’s gazelle.
A hippo was seen with a spear in it at Purungat on the 8th – a thorough search of the whole area yielded nothing, but there were two-day old signs of people along Sand River and another, fresher, camp well downstream from Purungat.
The Ngiro-are rangers set up an ambush on the night of the 8th very close to Kinyangaga. They were using the Flir and saw four people with dogs enter the Serengeti at around 8 pm but they were too far away to apprehend them. Two hours later three more people were seen entering the Park and the rangers managed to arrest one of them – they were on their way to camp in the Park and had dogs, spears and food with them.
The rangers spend Monday 10th looking for the four people they had seen the previous night without success. However, they did succeed the following day, the 11th. They found and arrested four people along the Kenya/Tanzanian border below Myles Turner’s hill, who confirmed that it was them who passed close to Kinyangaga on Sunday night. They were camped under a fallen tree along a watercourse and had killed two warthog the night before.
The rangers patrolled along the Mara River on the 12th and quickly came across a new poachers’ camp on the Narok side of the river, slightly upstream from the Ngerende camp. One person was arrested, sadly five managed to escape. They had arrived the previous night, at 4.00 am and had not started hunting – they were targeting hippo. We were assisted in the search by Karsten Ree’s/MEP (Mara Elephant Project) helicopter but the poachers disappeared into the riverine forest. That night we set up ambush sites and one person was observed in the Flir but he then disappeared before he could be apprehended.
The Ngiro-are rangers came across a butchered hippo along Saina’s Lugga in the Lemai Wedge on the 19th. They followed the poachers’ and donkey tracks carrying the meat and came across a place where elephant had obviously chased the donkeys – all the meat had been discarded.
The rangers were on ambush on the 23rd when they received a call that Kilima Camp had been robbed; a tent broken into and two suitcases stolen. We broke the ambush and the team went with dogs to Kilima. The tracks were followed to the road at the bottom of the escarpment where the thieves obviously got onto a motorcycle. The following day the bags were found along the trail – it would appear that nothing of value was stolen.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person on the 28th. He was seen across the river near the VIP camp in the Lemai Wedge, our rangers crossed the river and managed to arrest him. He was alone, and had set 30 fishing lines. He had caught five fish and was camping alone near the island.
The same night the Iseiya rangers arrested two people at Ol Donyo Nasipa. The rangers had set an ambush in an area we call Sampura in the Lemai Wedge and at around 8.00 pm started to see torch activity on the Kenya/Tanzania border near Ol Donyo Nasipa. They repositioned in the dark – a distance of about ten kilometres and were able to arrest the two. There were two groups, one of six and the other of three, hunting Thompson’s gazelle and they had already killed 18 -20 gazelle when the rangers arrived.
The Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush on the 29th and managed to arrest one person, of four, near Masanja in the Lemai Wedge. They were hunting with dogs and had killed some francolin. The poacher had a hippo spear, so they were probably also hunting hippo. That same day a speared hippo was seen near Lemai, it had been dead for two or three days.
Revenue and Accounts
As expected, March revenue was well below February’s but we continue to do better than the previous year – we were up by 20% on last year.
The effect of increasing our ranger force by 30 people is really beginning to be felt, not only in increased allowances, but in the increased cost of housing and transportation. We have had to spend a considerable amount on improving housing and now have to run an additional two vehicles. Our third quarter accounts show that by the end of March we were 13% over budget in our recurrent expenditure but only 7% above on our income – see Table 1 below.
Repairs and maintenance
We sent the CMC Suzuki down to the Mara just before Easter.
We continued patching up the roads and focused on the roads nearest the River. However, we continue to have problems with the Case backhoe loader. We had just got it working when a hydraulic ram and hose had to be repaired.
We installed gabions in the badly eroded portions at the main crossing point so that more vehicles will be able to get good views.
We managed to install the guttering and water tanks at the new base at Kilo 2 – this will enable us to collect nearly 30,000 litres of rainwater – sufficient for the base. We also built a toilet and shower and painted all the buildings.
We cleaned out the well at Purungat and cleaned out the water tank and pipes – we now have reasonably clean water and plentiful in the toilets.
We have finally sorted out the water problem at Oloololo Gate.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May 2017
· Complete Annual Work Plan;
· Complete plumbing at Dr Takita’s house;
· Install new signboards;
· Continue with road repairs – especially the one to Little Governors;
· Construct a small dining area at Kilo 2; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.