There was heavy rain over most of the Mara from about the 10th, this continued for the rest of the month. These rains affected the Mara River, which came up very high on the 17th and remained high for the remainder of the month.
The Review Team presented their report on the 6-7th August at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi to the Mp, the full Council, some members of the Board and interested parties. There were about 50 participants in all. The report was on the whole well-balanced and forms the basis for a stronger and longer-term management agreement between the Mara Conservancy and the County Council of Trans Mara. We are very grateful to Pact Kenya for supporting the whole process and for covering all the costs of this workshop – the final cost was Ksh 696,000 (US$ 9,000).
The Chief Executive met with Dr Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund at Keekorok, he expressed disappointment at the size of ear tags used on some of the cheetah in the Mara but expressed a willingness to support research on the cheetah population in the Triangle.
The Chief Executive and Senior Warden attended a Tourism Trust Fund meeting in Narok at the beginning of the month. The Trust Fund was soliciting views on a tourism policy for Kenya. They also attended a one-day meeting organised by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that revolved around talks by Dr G Plumb of Yellowstone National Park and Dr L Graumlich of the Big Sky Institute in Montana on the 18th. It was interesting to note the similarities in many of the problems facing both Yellowstone and the Serengeti/Mara. ILRI also presented a brief report on the Mara Count, conducted in November last year. Of particular interest was the fact that the human population is increasing by 4% per year in the Mara ecosystem, wildlife has declined by 70% in the last 30 years and although the cattle population is static there are about one quarter of the livestock required to support the current human population. It was also reported that the number of cattle in the Reserve had increased from 11,000 in 1999 to over 22,000 in 2002 – all of them in the Narok side of the Reserve.
The Senior Warden attended the Masai Mara Management Committee meeting on the 15th, it was poorly attended.
The Chief Executive and Senior Warden met with Mr Justin Hando, Senior Warden Serengeti at Seronera on the 19th July to discuss a number of issues, including improved communication between the Serengeti and Mara Triangle. It was agreed that we could place a VHF radio at Kokatende to enable us to have direct contact with TANAPA.
Ms Alice Kashu vacated shop at Oloololo gate. It has been painted and offered to Earthview for revenue collection on a temporary basis.
The new Mara Siria Community Trust sat on the 18th to deliberate on the distribution of Group Ranch funds for July. The Group Ranch share of July revenue amounted to Ksh 1.3 million and was all allocated to school fees.
Dr Geoffrey Karanja from Moi University conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on our category “B” (residents) and proposed category “A” (professional) camp sites. Dr Karanja did his PhD on the impact of tourism on the Mara and is eminently qualified to do this assessment. He will submit his report in September.
The Tanzanians burnt large areas of the Serengeti, some of those fires came across the border and were stopped along the main road between Mara Bridge and Mara Serena.
Ms Alison Jones spent three days with the Chief Executive, she had just climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro and together with Jackson Looseya of Rekero managed to raise several thousand US$ for the Conservancy. Congratulations to them both.
The new Clerk, Treasurer and Senior Warden from Kilgoris visited the Reserve on the 21st on an informal visit. They will return in early September with Mr E Ogeto the outgoing Clerk.
There was a Board meeting on the 28th to discuss the Review Team report. One of the Directors called for the Chief Executive’s resignation on the basis that he was becoming too involved in community issues and inciting people against local leadership. The Director was asked to substantiate his allegations before the Board makes a recommendation.
The Senior Warden managed to receive a separate firearms certificate for Trans Mara. Previously all firearms in the Triangle were on the Narok certificate. This is a major achievement and well done to the Senior Warden for his perseverance.
The migration moved into the Narok side of the Reserve, crossing Sand River near Roan Hill and most of the animals have remained between Roan Hill an Ol Kiombo. Fairly large herds of zebra moved into the Triangle early on in the month and there were concentrations of wildebeest along the Tanzanian border. However, by the end of the month there were daily crossings and wildebeest concentrations on the burnt areas near Serena.
Three cheetah families have moved back into the Triangle from the Tanzanian border, following Thompson’s Gazelle onto the burnt areas. There were hundreds of gazelle fawns born during the month and the cheetah concentrated on killing fawns, often five or six a day. In most cases the cheetah mothers let their yearling cubs do the killing. Two of the cheetah families are so habituated that the cubs considerable time on vehicles – this we would like to discourage.
One elephant calf was found with a snare on it’s leg near Olonana, Dr Kashmiri was called in to dart it, but the calf and it’s mother moved into thick bush and they were unable to treat the animal. Dr Kashmiri is due to return in early September for another attempt.
Lion continue to be elusive. There were two mating couples around for a week but otherwise lion were difficult to find for most of the month.
We had 100% occupancy in Mara Serena for most of August, with occupancy rates declining slightly towards the end of the month. The other lodges in Trans Mara also recorded very good occupancy rates for August. The forecast for September shows a significant drop in tourists but we hope that business will pick up, especially if the migration moves into the Triangle.
We have had a very positive response to our resident camp sites and the public camp sites have also been heavily used.
The Chief Executive wrote a brief promotional note for Serena on the migration.
A total of six poachers were arrested during the month, bringing the total arrested by the Mara Conservancy to 222. A further two wire snares were also recovered.
On the night of the 11th, at 10.00 pm, we received a report that a vehicle from Intrepid’s at Ol Kiombo had been held up at gunpoint and four tourists robbed of their possessions. We immediately deployed rangers at potential crossing points along the Mara River and the following morning sent the Senior Warden and a team of rangers to Ol Kiombo. Our team was involved in a security operation on the Narok side of the river that arrested the two armed robbers – they had one AK47 rifle with one round of ammunition. The two were arrested on a tip-off, in a matatu as they were heading towards Sekenani Gate. All the stolen items were recovered, as was the firearm. The two robbers were Masai; KWS rangers based in Tsavo East National Park and they claimed to have acquired the firearm from Somalis at Kiunga on the Kenya/Somali border. It is more likely that they acquired the firearm in Tsavo East. It is apparent that the two had been involved in a series of robberies, including one at the Hyena Research camp.
On the 14th three wa Kuria poachers were arrested between the Salt Lick and Mlima Tatu, on the southern boundary. These poachers had been camped along the Mara River between Mara Serena and the Bridge and had killed a buffalo, one of the poachers escaped. They were arrested as they were leaving the Reserve. They were each jailed for two years and two months. At the same time we received information that a large group had entered the Triangle, this was conformed by the three who reported that another 19 poachers had entered the Triangle but had crossed into the Narok portion of the Reserve. We conducted a joint operation with Narok rangers but did not find them. This group crossed through the Triangle as they left a week later but no one was apprehended.
On the 25th one poacher, in a group of five, was arrested in a night ambush as they returned home along the Tanzanian border. 1 spear and 2 wire snares were recovered, together with some dried meat. This poacher has pleaded not guilty and the case has been set for the 9th September.
On the 27th two, out of a group of five poachers, were arrested near the Salt Lick, well within the Reserve. One of the two, James Mwita Choronga, was also arrested last year. They had not killed anything, although they had a rawhide rope made from Buffalo hide.
On the morning of 1st September M/s Earthview Management offices were raided by four armed robbers and approximately Ksh 1.2 million of Mara Conservancy funds stolen. The robbers shot two bystanders, killing one as they attempted to escape. In turn, two of the armed robbers were shot and killed by police and one member of Earthview staff was apprehended. At the time of writing none of the stolen money had been recovered
Mr E Nkoitoi, Security Warden went on leave and is due to report back in mid-September.
One ranger, Mr P Rotich, appears to have absconded; he has not reported since his father died in early July. One Corporal, Mr D Bett, will be transferred to Kilgoris in September.
The Chief Executive took three days off in August.
Work is proceeding on the Barrier at Mara Bridge and this, together with a small guard post will be completed in September. Thereafter, we will be able to monitor all vehicles into the Triangle and record the number of vehicles and clients who visit the Triangle on a daily basis.
Cheetah 1, the Maruti Suzuki arrived in the middle of the month and has been used to check on animal harassment – especially of cheetah and at crossings. A number of errant drivers have been identified and warned.
Most of the buildings were repainted and repaired as necessary. The sanitation was repaired at Oloololo gate – one of the sewer pipes was broken and had to be replaced. We still have to complete some plumbing repairs and paint the buildings at Ngiro-are.
The grader compressor was overhauled and refitted at the end of the month.
Mr D Watson has produced a draft map of the Mara Triangle for comment. The map looks excellent and I would like to thank Mr Watson for all the time he has put into this project. Each map will cost £ 3 to produce and we expect to sell them for £ 6 (US$ 10) each.
Revenue and Accounts
As expected, July revenue was well down on July the previous year. However, August should be almost as good as August 2002. For some reason, September projections are not looking that encouraging and we can only hope that the migration will come into the Triangle in full force during September and attract more tourists.
The County Council of Trans Mara have paid off their loan, incurred when the Conservancy first took over management of the Triangle.
M/s Deloitte & Touche will commence their audit in the middle of September and we hope to have a new set of audited accounts in October.
Report on focus for August
Focus for September
- Complete work at Mara Bridge;
- Complete repairs to buildings and plumbing;
- Start work on 2002/3 Audit;
- Review progress on the 2003/4 Annual Work Plan;
- Install radio at Kokatende;
- Issue ID cards to all security staff; and
- Repair roads damaged by August rains.