We had typical August weather with sunny days and occasional thunderstorms in the evening. There were two days of quire heavy rain on the 17th and 18th – the storm on the 17th actually replenished water in some of the watercourses around Oloololo and near the Tanzanian border.
The big camp that was set up for Mr Jack Ma remained for a group from the Paradise Foundation; they left on the 5th.
Kenya’s General Elections were held on the 8th. On the whole, the elections were conducted in a peaceful and transparent manner but the Presidential count was challenged by Mr R Odinga. This created a great deal of tension for days; with Kenya losing billions of shillings, not only in the cost of the election, but in lost productivity. The country virtually shut down for over a week- the cost to this country was astronomical. We saw it in the Mara with a definite drop in tourism over the election period. A comment by Mr John Kerry said it all when reacting to Mr Odinga’s challenge “If you respect the process there is a winner and a loser. You have many candidates and not all are going to win. If you are a real leader and you care more about the people than about yourself, then you should accept the outcome of a process that is free, fair and transparent.” Corruption has become so pervasive that, sadly, no one in our country actually believes that things can be open, transparent and honest. By all accounts these elections were the best, freest and fairest that have been held in Kenya and credit must go to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for pulling them off. Mr Odinga has gone to the Supreme Court to contest the results and we await a ruling on the 1st September.
At County level Mr Samuel Tunai was re-elected as Governor – he won by 53,000 votes and the result was not contested. He was sworn in on the 21st. We look forward to stable National and County Governments for the coming five years. The Chief Executive met with the Governor on the 28th to discuss issues affecting the Mara.
All cooks were given a medical check-up at the beginning of the month.
A number of our staff went absent around election time – they have been disciplined.
Mr Thomas Siapei, one of the road team, was mauled by a leopard on the 19th. He went to relieve himself in a bush, only to be confronted by a leopard on a kill. He turned to run and was swiped across his left leg by the leopard. Fortunately, the wound was very superficial.
We have been seeing a fair number of blue swallows (Hirundo atrocaerulea) along the Kishangaa lugga. These are very rare birds that migrate up from South Africa and the fact that they are being recorded in the Triangle is very exciting. We first noted them about three years ago but this year over 100 birds have been seen roosting in the tall grass near Ngiro-are. Such sightings are an excellent sign of a healthy ecosystem.
A cheetah with three cubs was first seen near the cattle trail on the 10th. She and the cubs seem to be doing well.
The wildebeest migration has been phenomenal, we have probably had more animals in the Triangle than at any time in the recent past. We often estimate that we have half a million animals, this year the estimate must be closer to a million animals for a short period of time.
Naeku one of our rhino disappeared on the 31st July, only to reappear on Enonkishu on 18th. Enonkishu is the most northerly Conservancy in the Mara ecosystem – a distance of around 40 kilometres from the Triangle. This is not the first time she has gone walk-about and she must be considered a very high-risk animal that is in need of some tracking device. One other rhino, Seleiyan has had a calf.
One wild dog was seen in the Triangle on the 18th and again on the 19th. This is an animal collared in the Serengeti. These animals wander over huge distances; they appear for a few days and then disappear for months.
There was a slight dip in tourist numbers over the elections. August is traditionally the busiest month of the year, it will be interesting to see if this is the case this year.
Four resident tourist vehicles were caught in the Serengeti by Mr Daniel Mweta, the Tourism Warden for the Northern Serengeti. The incident was dealt with in-house but we must reiterate that it is illegal to cross over into Tanzania without valid documentation. A subsequent meeting was held between our tourism officers and their counterparts from Tanzania on the 20th. It was agreed that there would be no cross-border incursions allowed on either side of the boundary. It was also agreed that there would be severe penalties that included:
· Vehicles would be taken to the nearest pay point – the Serena airstrip on our side and Kogatende in the Serengeti.
o There they would have to pay Park fees, plus
o A penalty amounting to 50% of the Park fee; and
o A further US$ 200 for trespassing.
We have ordered signage to place at commonly visited border beacons alerting people not to enter Tanzania without authority.
The Mara Lion project collared sub-adult male lion on 16th, this is a young male that came across from the Cheli pride on Mara North. The lion project has collared six sub-adult males to try and understand what happens to them. Of the six, only one has survived. They have either been killed in fights with mature males or as a result of conflict. These young males move considerable distances, often outside any protected area, and are under constant threat. One other sub-adult lion was treated for injuries near Maji Machafu – a clear indication of the treat to these animals.
Anna gave birth to 10 puppies, she went off her food and became increasingly weak, so she was taken to Nairobi where she and the pups could get good care. She has improved and nine of the puppies are doing well.
Morani, our original dog, is virtually blind and has been retired. We are looking for a good home for him.
The new puppy, Tassia, is doing well and can already follow an hour-old track.
A total of 57 people were arrested during the month, two of them in Kenya, outside the Triangle, and the remainder in Tanzania. The majority were arrested late evening, early morning, or during the night, some as late as 3.00 and 4.00 am. Our TANAPA counterparts from Kinyangaga and Lemai joined us on many of the night ambushes – showing more interest than ever before. There is no doubt that the thermal imaging cameras contributed immensely to our successes and the hand-held cameras are becoming indispensable. We collected 2,747 snares, slightly more than in July, and rescued 26 wildebeest. We found where 66 wildebeest had been butchered and also found where two buffalo, one impala and four zebra had been slaughtered. Twelve wildebeest were found dead in snares, as was one topi.
Our combined teams collected 131 snares in the Lemai Wedge on the 30th July and the Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person in Lempise just as it got dark. A further 129 snares were collected the following day, one wildebeest had been slaughtered.
The Iseiya team went on a late patrol on the 1st and managed to arrest one person at 5.00 pm near Lempise. They continued with their patrol and managed to arrest three more people. One of the three was a notorious hippo poacher – indeed their equipment indicated that they were out to hunt hippo not wildebeest – our TANAPA counterparts were delighted with his arrest and it appears he was responsible for killing many of the hippo in the lower reaches of the Mara, before it leaves the Serengeti. A total of nine snares were collected and one wildebeest rescued.
A total of 86 snares were collected on the 2nd and one more person arrested on the 2nd near Lempise. On the 3rd the rangers patrolled Kisumu Ndogo in the Triangle – saw no signs of poaching. The Ngiro-are rangers patrolled the Lemai Wedge and collected 228 snares close to the Kinyangaga outpost – four wildebeest had been butchered.
A total of 160 snares were collected on the 4th, 112 by the Iseiya team and 48 by Ngiro-are rangers. Six wildebeest were rescued and an estimated 20 had been butchered. The Iseiya rangers managed to arrest one person. The rangers went out at 2.00 am that night and set an ambush at Lempise managed to arrest two people at 4.00 am as they carried away meat from one wildebeest. They were seen in the distance with the big Flir but the rangers are becoming increasingly adept at using the hand-held cameras and caught the two by using them. Six snares were recovered and two wildebeest were dead in snares – one more person was arrested as he came in to set his snares later that night.
The next day, the 5th, the rangers crossed the river and joined forces with their counterparts from Machechwe in a late patrol. They arrested two people just after dark. They continued their patrol and managed to arrest two more people below Mlima Hotel. They were not hunting with snares but carried machetes, to slash hamstrings or spines in order to immobilise animals before killing them. The Ngiro-are rangers also managed to arrest one person in the Lemai Wedge, one escaped.
A total of 64 snares were recovered on the 6th around Olaro-Nyioke in the Lemai Wedge; four wildebeest had been slaughtered, two were dead and two were rescued. One topi was also dead in a snare. The following night our rangers were joined by the Warden Lemai after they had found 169 snares in the Lempise/Kokamange area. They set an ambush and watched two people enter the Lemai swamp at 7.00 – they stayed in the swamp until 9.00 pm before venturing out. They were both arrested – one was shot in the heel by a TANAPA ranger – supposedly as he tried to escape.
Five more people were arrested on the 9th. In the first instance our rangers left at 2.00 am, joined forces with Ngiro-are and managed to arrest one, of four, as they returned from hunting near Kokamange. They had killed three wildebeest and were carrying the carcasses. A total of 53 snares were recovered and one wildebeest was rescued, one other was dead in a snare. The rangers then went out again on a late patrol and joined forces with their TANAPA counterparts from Lemai in the same, Kokamange/Lempise area. They set their ambush at 6.30 and by 7.00 pm seven people walked into the ambush – four of them were arrested. They were carrying six snares.
Another four arrests on the 10th – three by the Iseiya team and one by our Ngiro-are rangers. The Iseiya rangers crossed the river and patrolled around Machechwe with their TANAPA counterparts, they collected nine snares. That evening the set an ambush and managed to arrest the three, one of them carrying wildebeest meat. The Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush near Kokamange and arrested one, of nine people, they had killed, and were carrying, three wildebeest.
A total of 116 snares were recovered on the 11th and 12th in the Lemai Wedge; three wildebeest were rescued, two were dead. The rangers also rescued a cow belonging to the wa Kuria.
Thirty two wire snares were collected on the 13th by the Ngiro-are rangers; two wildebeest were rescued and two were dead in the snares. The following another 108 snares were collected by the Iseiya rangers near Kokamange, one wildebeest had been butchered. The same day the Oloololo/Ol Kurruk rangers arrested two people at Ngilai near Olopkidongae with buffalo and impala meat. They were taken to the police in Lolgorien. The same night our rangers joined forces with the TANAPA rangers and arrested two, of three, poachers at 10.00 pm. They were carrying wildebeest meat from one animal.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 50 snares along the escarpment on the 14th. The next day they went across the river and patrolled with the rangers from Tabora B. They arrested one, of two, people as they came in to hunt with machetes.
A total of 218 snares were recovered in the Lemai Wedge between the 16th and 21st – two wildebeest were rescued and five had been butchered. Apart from that there were very few signs of poaching. Although one injured elephant was seen on the South side of the river, near Lemai. It had been speared. Three zebra were killed and butchered on the escarpment, outside the Reserve, in an area called Osero Sambu. An ambush was laid but no one came in.
A total of 200 snares were collected by both teams on the 22nd – all in the western portion of the Lemai Wedge, close to the settlements. Three wildebeest and one buffalo had been butchered. The same evening the Iseiya team joined up with rangers from Lemai, crossed the river near Mlima Hotel and set up an ambush – they caught one person at around 7.00 pm.. Later that night they saw activity on the North side of the river using the Flir, crossed it and managed to arrest one more person at 11.00 pm.
The migration moved close to the western boundary of the Lemai Wedge towards the end of August and we saw an immediate increase in poaching. Two hundred and fourteen snares were recovered by both teams on the 23rd – four animals were rescued, four had been butchered, one wildebeest and one zebra were dead in the snares. That night the Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush until 1.00 am, they left and the Iseiya rangers joined up with their TANAPA counterparts at 2.45 am. They used the Flir cameras and at 4.00 am they saw six people carrying meat; by dawn our rangers had arrested four of them. They continued their patrol and managed to arrest three more people at 7.00 am – they had butchered six wildebeest and had 30 wire snares. That day, the 24th, the Ngiro-are rangers recovered a further 179 snares – 423 snares in just over 24 hours.
The rangers continued to arrest people and recover snares and on the 25th a further 217 snares were recovered along the escarpment in Tanzania – four wildebeest were rescued and one was dead in a snare. The Ngiro-are rangers managed to arrest one person near Kinyangaga. The Iseiya rangers arrested two people at 3.00 am on the morning of the 26th near Lugga ya Ngiri – one of them was being sought by the Tanzanian police for multiple murders – he is suspected of killing five people. That evening they went out again and arrested two more people with 10 snares.
The following day, the 27th, one more person was arrested in the early morning by the Iseiya team, the rangers then crossed the river and managed to arrest one more person in an area known as Serengeti Ndogo. The Ngiro-are rangers collected 28 snares – rescued five animals and found where five had been butchered.
Five more people were arrested on the 28th. Two were arrested at 5.00 pm and three more near Kokamange after dark.
Two hundred and seventy-eight snares were collected on the 29th – six animals were rescued and two were dead in snares. The Ngiro-are rangers managed to arrest two people at 6.00 pm and then one more near Kichwa ya Ndovu later that night. The next evening, the 30th, the Iseiya rangers set up an Observation Post near Lempise until dark and then moved into an ambush near Kokamange two people were arrested in the ambush – one of them a casual employee at the Lemai ranger post. These casuals have long been suspected of leaking planned ranger movements to the community. The Ngiro-are rangers collected 23 snares and rescued three wildebeest.
Revenue and Accounts
Our financial report for July 2017 virtually matched the highest revenue for any given month (August 2016) since the Mara Conservancy started operations in June 2001. Total collections as per the KAPS’s report were shown as US$ 765,395 and Ksh 9,561,900 (Approximately Ksh 87,632,190). This has gone a long way towards replenishing our reserves and one more month like July and we will have built a sufficient reserve to see us through this financial year.
The auditors have completed their work in the office and in the field, they spent two days in the Mara checking on our revenue collection system and on assets. We hope that we will have a draft ready for the Board on the 15th.
Repairs and maintenance
We graded from Serena to Egyptian Goose to try and remove some of the corrugations. The extremely high volume of traffic, coupled with the very dry weather has eroded the most heavily used roads and created quite a severe wash board effect in some areas. We also started on the lower road to Purungat but worked stopped for a while when a shaft that works the circle drive broke. This has since been repaired.
We started work on the staff housing at Iseiya and are renovating the toilets and showers at the main staff camp. This work, which started a small job has become a major construction project – essentially the toilets and showers require complete re-building.
We resurfaced a section of the road from Dirisha to Sankuria.
Our back-hoe loader continues to give problems and we have ordered a new JCB back-hoe loader, we are looking for a buyer for our machine.
We took the rear housing for the New Holland tractor to Nairobi for minor engineering work.
We brought in sufficient supplies to complete a number of major projects including:
· Renovating toilet facilities and constructing new ones at the staff camp in Iseiya;
· Completing new staff housing at Iseiya;
· Building a kitchen and dining area at Kilo 2; and
· Covering the uni-huts at Oloololo and Little Governors.
Report on focus for August
Focus for September 2017
· Build new toilet block at Iseiya to cater for increased staff;
· Complete staff housing at Iseiya;
· Complete renovations on toilets and showers;
· Install signage on the border;
· Hold Board meeting in the Mara on the 15th;
· Start on Kitchen at Kilo 2;
· Start dams for the community; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.