Kenya held a Referendum on the 4th August to decide on whether to accept a new Constitution. There had been a strong group opposing the Constitution – a few clauses relation to abortion, Kadhi’s Courts and Land were strongly contested. However, in the end Kenyans overwhelmingly voted for the new Constitution and all the concerns that there could be violence were happily unfounded. The new Constitution was officially launched on the 27th August at a colorful ceremony in Nairobi.
The weather was on the whole dry, with the exception of a few days of scattered rain in the last week of August. The past two months have been the driest since the Conservancy started in 2001.
The County Council of Trans Mara has approved the ten-year management plan for the Mara Triangle portion of the Masai Mara National Reserve. It should be officially adopted in the next month or two. The plan endorses the construction of one or two new eco-lodges and an eco-camp and will allow for different zones within the Reserve. We have already instituted some of the recommendations for the river zone and the major change for visitors will probably be the formal adoption of high and low-use zones – with a premium charged on low use areas. Only recognized 4WD vehicles will be allowed in the low-use areas and mini-busses will be restricted to the high-use areas. More details will be given when the plan is formally adopted.
The migration ebbed and flowed, as animals came and went from the Triangle. There were times when the Triangle was full of wildebeest and zebra, a few days later there were virtually none. However, we expect the animals to be based in the northern Serengeti/Mara until November.
One large lion was found dead on the 23rd near the salt-lick. It had apparently been killed in a fight. This was the second lion found dead this month; the first was killed in a wire snare.
There are two new sets of lion cubs – one near Sankuria and the other in “Izabella’s Ditch”. The first are extremely young and the second are about a month old.
Cheetah were seen on a regular basis throughout the month. Some will probably stay around on the extensive burnt areas as they green up and attract Thompson’s gazelle.
Fires posed a real problem throughout August – we had to contend with three major fires that were started by suspected arsonists along the escarpment. About 20% of the Triangle was burnt in these fires – that included the whole section along the escarpment and along half of the Tanzanian border.
Dr Kay Holekamp has been working with Dr Bilal Butt on remote sensing of vegetation biomass and gave a preliminary report in Dr Holekamp’s latest report. This information is available from the MODIS sensor on the TERRA spacecraft and has been analyzed using Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI). The study compared six different areas in the Masai Mara and compares extensive cattle grazing with areas with fire and areas with no livestock and combinations of the three. The study is designed to answer two different questions:
- What is the effect of burning and grazing on above ground biomass?
- How do these effects affect ungulate abundance?
This is exciting and practical research that will assist us in establishing management strategies both in the Reserve and in the Conservancies outside the Reserve.
John Lutenberg joined his wife, Linda Porter, and another professional dog-handler, Ms Coby Webb, on the 18th. They trained the dogs on a daily basis and had the opportunity to also use them in real deployments.
Morani and Anna were used to follow up on a robbery at Saruni Camp. The thieves broke into a room over the lunch hour and then escaped on a bicycle – Morani followed the tracks to the bicycle and then followed it for several more kilometres before the bicycle was recovered – the suspect escaped.
John Lutenberg accompanied Morani on another deployment to Tipilikwani Camp, along the Talek River on the 28th. One of the tents had been broken into during dinner and cash and cameras stolen. John and Morani were called off another deployment for poachers to assist in tracking the thieves. They arrived at the site at 1.00 am and were able to follow the track to a large traditional village – we left the Police and Narok Rangers to follow-up in the village.
We had one other night exercise on the 30th and just missed arresting a group of poachers at 10.00 pm on a very dark and wet night.
We attended the passing out parade for our 11 rangers on the 26th. They had undergone a three-month para-military training course with the Kenya Forestry Service (KFS). Our rangers did us proud; they were awarded three of the four top awards. Jeremiah Maratim Cheruiyot was awarded best recruit overall, John Kintai was best in class and John Ntoika was best marksman. Well done to them all, and to the others who all upheld the good name of the Mara Conservancy.
Our Community Scouts are not working as well as expected and we will have to make a decision on whether to retain them – this decision will be made in September.
High Season – what a nightmare. We only have three anti-harassment vehicles and they can’t be everywhere at once. It is such a shame that the moment our rangers turn their backs – usually to try and protect an animal like a cheetah from dozens of vehicles – the drivers elsewhere rush in to break the rules. We had situations when the rangers were protecting a cheetah with cubs and 12 vehicles were harassing lions a few miles away – many of the drivers were from supposedly reputable companies like Nature Expeditions, Twiga Tours, Southern Cross and some from all our resident camps and lodges.
Many visitors don’t appreciate the need for some controls. In August alone we had to deal with dozens of visitors who tried to break some of our basic rules and then some who became abusive, or tried to bribe our rangers when confronted with offenses. A cheetah cub was run over and killed on the Narok side of the river on the 20th, as vehicles jostled for a close up of the cheetah – was it worth it?
We were dealing with difficult and irate visitors on a daily basis – many of them resented that fact that they had to have security in our camps. Sadly, random attacks – such as the one at the end of July – are beyond our control and the risk to visitors can only be minimised if we have armed security in the camps. The decision to have security in camps is not ours, but comes from Government and has to be implemented until we can find an alternative solution. We have decided that next year we will reduce the number of available camps from eight to five – closing those that are seen to be too remote. We will close Campi ya Mungu, Nolmaiman and River Camps.
On the 18th we had a stroke of luck in our hunt for the armed robbers who attacked River Camp in late July. We were able to apprehend one of the armed robbers – the person we believe to have been the leader of the gang – Nelson Segeria (also known as Nelson Francis Marwua). This arrest was the culmination of three weeks of very patient intelligence work and excellent collaboration between the police in Kenya and Tanzania and the Mara Conservancy. Segeria admitted that he was part of the gang and corroborated the statement already given by Paul Parkiswa, the Masai guide who we arrested in July. He was charged with Murder and Robbery with Violence on the 31st. We are still working on apprehending other members of the gang and narrowly missed arresting Chacha Marua on the night of the 30th.
A total of 22 people was arrested for poaching during August; one additional person was arrested for murder. We recovered 532 wire snares and rescued several animals, including seven wildebeest and an eland. We found a lion, giraffe, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, zebra and several wildebeest that had been snared and butchered.
10 wire snares were recovered close to Kinyangaga on the 3rd, one wildebeest had been butchered.
One person arrested on the 4th as he came into the Lemai Wedge to hunt. One other person was arrested on the 7th along the escarpment near Kinyangaga. 15 wire snares were recovered near the Ngiro-are windmill.
On the eighth 89 wire snares were recovered in a sweep that started on the Kenyan side of the border, near Ol Donyo Olpaek and ended near the Lemai Swamp. One lion was found killed in a snare on our side of the border – the poachers had skinned the carcass and taken the claws. Two zebra and several wildebeest had also been butchered and one wildebeest was rescued. Two people were arrested near Kokamange as they came into the Serengeti.
One person, of eleven, was arrested near the Lemai Swamp as they came in to set snares on the 9th, he had six wire snares. A further five snares were recovered in the same area – they had caught and killed two wildebeest.
On the 13th an aircraft flying into the Kokatende airstrip saw a poachers camp. Our Tanzanian counterparts called our rangers for assistance and the combined team managed to arrest 13 poachers in an area known as Nzonzo, across the Mara River, in the northern Serengeti. The poachers had killed and butchered seven zebra, six wildebeest, two eland and five Thompson’s gazelle. 30 wire snares were recovered.
The rangers continue to collect large numbers of snares. Twelve were collected on the 17th, and 176 collected on the 18th. Six wildebeest and one eland were rescued. It is virtually impossible to apprehend these poachers – they have the advantage of height afforded by the escarpment and are able to closely monitor the movement of our vehicles and rangers. The snares are all set within easy walking distance of the escarpment and the poachers are able to come down at night, set their snares, or butcher any animals caught in them, and leave before being discovered.
A combined patrol with the Anne Kent-Taylor/Care for the Wild scouts and our rangers from Oloololo Gate arrested five people on the 18th. They were burning charcoal and had killed one bushbuck.
110 wire snares were recovered on the 26th, one animal was found dead and another five had been butchered. The following day another 79 snares were recovered near Kasarani, in the Lemai Wedge. One giraffe was found dead in a snare and eight wildebeest had been killed and butchered.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested on poacher on the night of the 30th as he and his companion entered the Lemai Wedge.
Revenue and Accounts
I have attached a copy of income and expenditure from the audited accounts for the period ending May 31st 2010; the accounts were audited by Deloitte. There was a considerable increase in Park entrance fees – the result of a 50% increase in Park entrance fees, from US$ 40 to US$ 60 that took effect in July 2009.
STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 MAY 2010
We received our new Case Backhoe/loader on the 20th. This machine will greatly improve our ability to work on the roads, resurface sections and install ditches and culverts. This machine has already been used to sped up our road works on the main Serena to Oloololo Road.
The grader worked on opening up mitre drains on all the main roads and then graded a section of the main road to Purungat that had become corrugated.
We completed the new kennel at Ngiro-are and the mason went on to repair a section of the outside wall surrounding the station. A 20 metre section of the stone facing on the wall peeled off in one of the many earth tremors that affect that area.
We sent our Land Cruiser for valuation in Nairobi and will try and find buyers. The vehicle was valued at Ksh 1.7 million. The new land Cruiser was delivered to Nairobi and will be deployed in the Mara in early September, once we have fitted radios and a vehicle tracking device.
Report on focus for August
Focus for September 2010
· Collect new Suzuki and fit with radio and tracking device. Sell Cheetah II;
· Fit radio and tracking device in new land Cruiser. Sell old Land Cruiser;
· Work on main road to Oloololo;
· Start work on new road from Sankuria to Little Governors;
· Install Culverts;
· Start on kitchen and mess at Oloololo Gate;
· Get environment impact assessment on toilets and platform at the hippo pools; and
· Continue with follow-up on armed robbers.