For the most part August was dry, with a few thunderstorms towards the end of the month.
We held a lodge managers meeting on the 10th that was well attended. We also invited Dr Stephanie Dloniak to explain her research programme and Dr Cheryl Mvula, who has been working with the local villages on improving their product. Dr Mvula tabled some shocking figures on exploitation of the villages by drivers. Her summary of one months revenue, 18th June to 17th July 2006, to four villages from cultural visits is tabled below:
The above figure shows that the drivers retain 93% of the client’s fee to visit a cultural manyatta and that the village only receives 7%. This clearly explains why visitors are so hustled to buy trinkets when they visit a manyatta. The managers meeting resolved to end this practice by issuing tickets to visit a cultural manyatta and making a payment to village bank accounts once a month.
The Hon Stephen ole Ntutu MP for Narok South, Livingstone Ntutu and J Kemboy visited on the 12th to see the Mara Conservancy and discuss the possibility of the Conservancy managing the Remainder of the Game Reserve. This follows on other discussions that we have been having on the management of a conservation area set aside by Siana Group Ranch.
The District Security Committee held a meeting at Mara Serena on the 16th, to which all the lodge and camp managers were invited. We discussed manning the gates into lodges, keeping a guard at the airstrips and erecting a barrier on the road to the Kichwa Tembo airstrip.
We held a Board meeting on the 25th at which it was agreed that the Mara Conservancy will charge a supplemental for people game viewing in the Mara Triangle but who have valid Narok County Council Tickets. The new fees will take effect on the 1st September and will be charged as follows: Non-Resident Adults and Children US$ 10, Resident Adults Ksh 500 and Resident Children Ksh 250. There will be no charge for vehicles or Kenya Citizens.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Jonathan Scott on the 30th to discuss the possibility of the BBC’s Big Cat Diary filming “Honey”; the BBC may start filming in early September if they can not find a suitable cheetah on the Narok side of the river.
One elephant, a 10-15 year old male, was found with a snare around its left front foot near the Tanzanian border on the 4th, the snare had cut very deep and the elephant was walking with extreme difficulty. Dr T Manyibe from KWS came down on the 5th and treated it, cutting off the snare, cleaning the wound and injecting it with antibiotics. The elephant was found dead three weeks later near Nyanguki in Tanzania.
“Honey” the cheetah with five cubs, lost one of her cubs. It was reported sick one day and had disappeared the next. Another cheetah with two young cubs was seen along the border, towards Mara Bridge. Both cheetah were too close to heavily visited areas and we had a real problem in controlling visitors around them. A third cheetah appeared with two very small cubs in the last week of August, the cubs had obviously just left the nest and were about 4-6 weeks old.
The migration moved in, with very large concentrations of animals around the salt-lick and along the south-western border until the end of the month, when large herds moved towards Mara Serena.
Mr P Siampei completed a one month course on road maintenance run by the Roads 2000 programme and then proceeded on his annual leave.
We invited Mr Charles Ngugi, a prospective Finance & Administrative Manager to the Mara on the 21/22nd to review work in the Mara. Mr Ngugi has accepted the post and will start work on the 15th October.
Visitor numbers normally peak in August and this year was no exception. We started charging visitors from the Group Ranches but still allowed free access from the Narok side of the Reserve. The numbers of day visitors was completely over control, with over 500 visitors crossing the bridge on some days. Large overland trucks were a particular problem in terms of harassing the cheetah and using our toilet and picnic facilities. Table 1 below shows that in August this year we received an average of 722 day visitors, three times the number of people who pay to stay in the Triangle and an increase of 50% over the same period last year. Only 54 people left the Triangle daily to game view elsewhere; a ratio of 13:1.
Tourist numbers have been exceptionally high and we have found that we do not have the resources to adequately monitor driver discipline and anti-harassment issues, with only one vehicle dedicated to the task. Ideally at this time of year we will require at least three “Cheetah 1” vehicles, one for Oloololo, one at Serena and one at Mara Bridge. One of the main problems we have relates to the number of professional or serious amateur photographers; those that want to stay with cheetah and lions for extended periods of time. Some professional photographers who also lead tours of serious amateurs can control convoys of several vehicles and these can effectively bar tourists from viewing animals. Many of the larger tour companies send a fleet of vehicles that insist on following each other in a convoy – we need to do more work with the drivers to get them to appreciate the value of not harassing animals and only having five vehicles around an animal at any one time.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in August
Twenty three wa Kuria poachers were arrested during the month, all of them in Tanzania. This brings the total number of arrests to 652. We recovered over 200 wire snares and saved a number of animals that had been caught.
We arrested 7 wa Kuria poachers on Miungu (a small hill on the Tanzanian side of the border) on the 6th. They were in two groups of three and five, one escaped. One group had just arrived the previous night and had only set their snares, the other group had been in the area for a week and had killed two wildebeest and one impala. We recovered 29 wire snares, bows and poisoned arrows.
About 40 wire snares were recovered over a four day period in the middle of the week.
Four wa Kuria poachers were arrested along the Bologonja river in the Serengeti on the 12th by a combined Ngiro-are/Kokatende patrol. 26 wire snares were recovered and three wildebeest found butchered. Numerous wire snares were also found the same evening and the team returned later that evening to ambush the area.
The Serena team recovered 15 wire snares on the 13th and released two wildebeest that had been caught.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three wa Kuria poachers along the Bologonja River on the 15th. They recovered 15 wire snares and found two dead wildebeest.
The Serena team arrested one poacher on the 16th and then a combined Ngiro-are/Kokatende/Serena team arrested a further three poachers on the 17th. All the poachers were arrested on the far side of the Mara River, near Wagakuria. On the first day 1 zebra and 2 wildebeest were found dead in snares. On the second day three wildebeest were released from snares and one kongoni was found butchered. Over 20 wire snares were recovered in the two days.
A combined Serena/Ngiro Are team arrested three, of eight, wa Kuria poachers in the Ngiro-Are swamp on the 23rd. They also recovered 15 wire snares. The poachers had arrived the previous evening and had not yet killed.
The Serena team arrested one wa Kuria Poacher on the 24th. He was hunting alone and had arrived that morning with 2 wire snares. A further 15 wire snares were recovered on the same day.
There were a number of armed robberies on the Narok side of the River, the last one being on Porini Camp on Ol Kinyei. Mugie Ranch offered their tracker dogs and the robbers were followed to a main road, where they got onto a vehicle. There was a theft at Saruni Camp on the night of the 29th. A safe with over US$ 12,000 was stolen; we took the dogs over to assist them on the morning of the 30th. The dogs followed the trail to a house in a nearby village, two people were arrested and were helping the police trace the stolen safe, which had been transported to Nairobi that morning.
The Ngiro-are team arrested one poacher in the early morning of the 28th in Tanzania. He was hunting alone and had not killed anything; 15 wire snares were recovered.
A patrol on the 29th along the Ngiro-are swamp and Miungu recovered over 30 wire snares. One hyena and one wildebeest were found dead in the snares, one other wildebeest was released.
Mr Jeff Greene, a security consultant came down to the Mara on the 28th to start some basic ranger training, he spent two days at Ngiro-are and is developing a training syllabus for the rangers that will start with weapons and range training.
Revenue and Accounts
Revenue in July, at nearly Ksh 25 million, was 25% higher than ever recorded for July, a reflection on the increased Park entrance fees. All the indications are that August revenue will be even higher.
We purchased and installed a new VSat system in the Mara that will greatly improve communication, we can now access the internet and use the phone when all other systems are down.
We continued to burn the area set aside for burning this year, the grass was very green, giving a very light burn as we hoped. The Masai set fire along the escarpment; the fire was put out but not before it had burnt a considerable area.
The new tractor a New Holland TS90 was delivered on the 18th, the trailer was delivered on the 21st and the trailer delivered on the 27th. We arranged to have our old trailer overhauled by CMC and sent it back on the lorry that brought in the new one.
There was a considerable delay in receiving the new Land Rovers. We had delivered KAN 707K to CMC as part of the exchange on the 19th July, on the assurance that the new Land Rovers would be ready for delivery he following day. However, it transpired that the vehicles were still in bond and we still had to go through the process of registration. The first Lard Rover was delivered on the 25th and came down to the Mara on the 26th, unfortunately a wildebeest hit the passenger door as the driver was approaching Mara Bridge – the door was badly bent and we sent the vehicle back to Nairobi the following day. The second Land Rover should be ready for delivery in early September.
We renovated the NCO’s house at Mara Bridge and also built a shelter for Earthview. We purchased a solar panel and battery for the gate house at Mara Bridge and Earthview provided the radio and antenna.
Report on focus for August
Focus for September
· Start annual audit on 4th;
· Implement new “Game Viewing” fee for Narok visitors;
· Collect new vehicles;
· Complete contract for new Finance/Admin officer;
· Complete house and build new kitchen at Mara Bridge;
· Order solar system for Ngiro-are office and Oloololo; and
· Start security training.