The first three weeks of August were predominantly dry but wildebeest numbers remained very low for this time of year. We started having some crossings below Lookout Hill from mid-month and there were large herds massing when we had a rainstorm, By next morning there wasn’t a single wildebeest to be seen below Lookout – they had all turned South. This was first of several storms in the last week. The last one was a very heavy storm on the 29th.
We allowed two fires set in Tanzania to cross over the border and they were stopped by the main Purungat/Serena road. Tens of thousands of wildebeest that had already crossed the river remained on the burnt areas.
We held our Board meeting on the 10th and the Board approved a proposed new fee structure. The principles were discussed with the visitors on the 11th and we received support. It was agreed that the new fees would be harmonised with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and circulated in November for implementation in June 2019.
The Governor, Hon S Tunai and the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Hon N Balala visited the Triangle on the 11th, they went on a game drive and then left after lunch at Mara Serena. He Governor returned on the 13th to sign an agreement with Reuters on marketing the Mara. The Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security, Hon F Matiangi visited for lunch on the same day.
Ms Leslie Roach visited the Triangle with her family between the 17th – 20th. Leslie donated US$ 200,000 to the Conservancy when we started – these funds were invaluable in getting the Conservancy started. It was great to have her and her family visit again after a number of years.
Three staff members went to South Africa on the 6th; Alfred Bett to collect his award and David Aruasa and Francis Peenko to accompany him. After the award ceremony in Cape Town the three then visited Johannesburg and then the Kruger National Park. Thanks to Jono Buffey of Wildeye for organising the trip for them.
Mr Daniel K Chepkwony, one of our Community Scouts, died after a long bout with throat cancer. Our commiserations to his family.
Two of our NCOs, J Maratim and D Naiguta, went to a leadership training exercise at the Koiyaki Guiding School supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Administrator, Mr L Molai, spent two days in Mombasa on a course for County staff.
Morani, one of our young dogs, ruptured a cruciate ligament and had to be operated on in Nairobi for treatment. He will be out of action for three months.
Asha, our new dog, started foraging for food when searching vehicles – the month was spent in correcting this.
We have vaccinated just under 3,000 community dogs for canine distemper and rabies in our current campaign. Both diseases can transfer into the wildlife population – with devastating consequences.
We are looking at one of the worst migrations in recent years – the wildebeest arrived very late and started moving South at the first hint of rain. As at the end of the month the herds were concentrated on the burnt areas along the border.
For me, the migration is very population and weather dependent. This year there was so much rain between March and June that there was no need for the wildebeest to move as far as the Mara. Undoubtedly, the wildebeest only move as far as Kenya if they have exhausted water and forage in the Serengeti – if for any reason, there were to be a population crash – the migration would cease. We shouldn’t forget that the Mara had their own Loita Migration, and that hardly exists any longer. Our Loita population crashed from 140,000 in the 1970’s to less that 20,000 today.
A very young elephant was found with a snare around the head and mouth on the 28th and was treated on the 29th by Dr Limo. Thanks to Marc Goss of the Mara Elephant Project for assisting in this treatment and also in the treatment of an injured lion the same afternoon.
We had researchers from the Predator project towards the end of the month.
A tourist swore in Spanish at Warden Lankas for asking the driver to move away from lions on the 10th. Fortunately a guest overheard and responded in Spanish and also informed the Warden of what had been said. The issue was taken up with the camp, the client’s family apologised and the client made a donation of US$ 2,500 to the Conservancy. We are fortunate that such incidents are very few and far between and that on the whole our resident drivers are respectful and try to abide by the rules. The same cannot be said for the main Reserve – indiscipline is out of control, complaints are on a daily basis and many of the more up-market operators are avoiding the Mara in high season.
We had cases where two Chinese visitors tried to use a residents ID to enter the Triangle and another where some Dutch diplomats refused to pay their fine for off-road driving where it is forbidden. They then blockaded the road at Mara Bridge when asked to pay. It is most unfortunate that overseas visitors who would never dream of breaking the rules at home think that they can do so here and get away with it.
There was complete chaos at many of the crossings – on at least one day it was estimated that there were 300 vehicles – a hundred of which were on our side – many of them had come across the river to escape the chaos on the other side, but ended up creating problems for us. There was some attempt to control the vehicles and people running up and down the river bank on the Narok side, but without much success. Videos and photos of such behaviour were posted on social media and there was a great deal of negative publicity.
It is very difficult to gauge how much the wildebeest are affected by too many vehicles. One cannot but speculate that the chaos at crossings is actually destroying the very spectacle that so many people come to see. Undoubtedly there will have to be much more order at crossings – how will we do that? Restrict vehicle numbers, charge a crossing fee (US$ 200 per vehicle), or build blinds?
A total of 41 people were arrested for poaching in August, all but one in the Serengeti. 1,140 wire snares were collected. Twenty five wildebeest were rescued, as were two zebra and one impala; 32 wildebeest had been butchered and the rangers also found where a giraffe and two buffalo had also been killed and butchered; seven wildebeest were found dead in snares. The rangers arrested a group who had also killed an oribi and one francolin and arrested one person in Kenya with zebra meat..
The Nigro-are team recovered 44 wire snares around Maji ya Bett on the 1st. They rescued three wildebeest and found that four had been butchered.
A total of 45 snares were collected around Watu Kumi and along the escarpment on the 2nd and 3rd. Two wildebeest had been butchered and one was rescued.
Twelve snares were recovered, just in the Triangle, at Maji ya Suya, on the 5th. Two wildebeest and one zebra were rescued.
The following day the Iseiya rangers crossed the river at Kogatende and patrolled around Ngira. That night, at 9.00 pm, they saw people with the Flir and managed to arrest two of the four. They had killed an oribi and two francolin. They saw at least one other group with wildebeest meat but were unable to arrest anyone. They continued their patrol and arrested two more people near Machechwe at 5.00 am. They saw more people at 6.30 am and managed to track one of them with one of our dogs – he was found and arrested after a track of around three kilometers. That day a TANAPA vehicle overturned whilst chasing poachers and the Nigro-are rangers recovered 17 wire snares along the escarpment. One wildebeest was rescued and one was found dead.
Six more snares were recovered around Maji ya Bett on the 7th. The rangers rescued one wildebeest and found where a giraffe had been butchered. The rangers continued to find relatively few snares on between the 8th and 10th. A total of 84 snares were recovered in the Lemai Wedge, mainly along the escarpment. Two buffalo were killed and butchered, as were two wildebeest; one was rescued. The Iseiya rangers did see three people setting snares at 11.00 am and managed to arrest two of them on the 10th.
A total of 84 snares were collected on the 12th, the most in one day so far this year. Three wildebeest had been butchered, one was dead and one animal rescued. The Nigro-are rangers saw three people at Olaro Nyioke and managed to arrest one person.
Two people were arrested at 8.30 pm near Lemai on the 13th after being seen with the Flir camera. Twelve snares were collected and two wildebeest had been butchered. The following day a further 59 snares were collected along the escarpment in Tanzania. Then on the 15th 25 more snares were found. Nine wildebeest were rescued, as was one zebra and one impala. One of the rescued wildebeest was very weak and subsequently killed and butchered by the poachers.
A total of 140 snares were collected on the 16th – all along the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge, three wildebeest were found dead in the snares. One person was arrested by the Nigro-are rangers at 3.00 am. The same evening the Oloololo/Angama team received a report of a person with zebra meat at Kilai n the escarpment. They raided the person’s house, arrested him and found 20 kg of dried meat.
Nine poachers were arrested by the Iseiya team with their TANAPA counterparts on the night of the 18th, after the Nigro-are rangers had recovered 18 wire snares along the escarpment and Miungu. They found where four wildebeest had been butchered and they rescued two. In the night patrol, five people were arrested before midnight – our rangers reported a lot of activity where they were operating near Machechwe area. The other four were arrested between 4 and 5 am and they were carrying five wildebeest that they had killed and butchered.
Three more people were arrested at. Olaro Nyioke in the Lemai Wedge on the 20th as they were setting snares in the morning – 23 snares were recovered. The Nigro-are team recovered 155 snares on the same day; they rescued one wildebeest, one was dead and three had been butchered. They set an ambush that night and managed arrest two people as they came down from Kigonga.
Three people were seen during a late patrol on the 22nd but they managed to evade arrest. Later that night two, of five, people were arrested as they came in to check their snares near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge. The snares were never found. The Nigro-are rangers reported an incursion near the rifle range but did not manage to arrest anyone. It looks like there were three people. One more person was arrested on the 23rd between the Bologonga River and an area called Mama Kent. He was in a group of three who were on their way to hunt with machetes.
Eleven wire snares were collected on the 24th and 25th along the Mara River and Lempise in the Lemai Wedge. On the 26th the Iseiya team crossed the river and patrolled near Tabora B in the northern Serengeti. They managed to arrest one person, from a group of five. The Nigro-are rangers set up an ambush near our rifle range, targeting a group of poachers that have started entering the Triangle. They saw a group of three people descending the escarpment between Nigro-are and Kinyangaga and managed to arrest one of them at 3.00 am. They had set snares along the swamp running parallel to the escarpment.
The following day the Iseiya team returned to Tabora B to look for a lost radio and phone, lost when chasing poachers the night before – they were unsuccessful. The Nigro-are rangers recovered 20 snares that had been set the night before along the swamp. One wildebeest was found dead in a snare.
A total of 231 snares were recovered on the 28th – the most in a single day so far this year. Six wildebeest had been butchered and one animal was rescued. The Iseiya team saw three different groups entering the Serengeti that night and managed to arrest three people near Tabora B, as they were on their way to hunt. Virtually all the poaching South of the Mara River is done by people with machetes, immobilizing animals by slashing them across the back. These three were no exception.
The Nigro-are rangers recovered 50 snares on the 29th, four animals had been butchered. Another 10 were collected the following day, one wildebeest was rescued by our patrols
Five people were arrested on the night of the 30th. The Nigro-are rangers arrested two, of six, people at Lempise in the Lemai Wedge at 10.00 pm. They then continued with their ambush until 3.00 am but with no success. The Iseiya rangers set up their ambush below Kigonga and watched as three people came down the escarpment – they managed to arrest all three at 4.00 am – they were carrying 24 wire snares. The Flir cameras were invaluable in both cases.
We hosted 32 recruits from Seiya Ltd on the 31st and they joined a patrol along the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge – 70 wire snares were recovered and two wildebeest rescued. One poacher fired poisoned arrows at Warden Lema Lankas, one of which grazed his knee. Fortunately it was just a graze, but it is a reminder that our rangers operate under constant threat.
Revenue and Accounts
Our July revenue was Ksh 97.9 million (just under US$ 1 million) probably the highest collection ever for July. This represented a 75% increase on June and an 11% increase on July last year. We are still plagued with non-paying visitors (44.8%) – the majority from the Narok portion of the Reserve – many of them trying to escape the chaos on that side – but adding to the significant problems we have in managing the crossings and game viewing in the Triangle.
We started the annual audit on the 13th and the auditors completed their field work by the end of the month.
Repairs and maintenance
Our new tractor and trailer arrived on the 4th and we paid for two new Maruti jeeps.
We ordered two new Suzuki Maruti jeeps and they should be delivered in early September.
We continue to have problems with one of our patrol Land Rovers, first it had a broken piston and then the turbocharger had to be replaced. This vehicle is becoming extremely expensive to maintain but unfortunately there are no new Land Rover Defenders available.
We completed repair work on the stone wall at Nigro-are and also finished work on the extension to the kitchen.
We cleaned out the water reservoir at Purungat, just in time, it rained heavily a few day later and filled it.
We completed a storage site for waste oil at the workshops and extended the work bench.
We purchased a submersible pump and small generator for Oloololo to back up the windmill – this is currently being installed. If it works well we will do the same for Nigro-are.
We helped the Kawai community in repairing an impassable road.
We had ordered more signs including large signs for all entrance points that clearly indicate the Park rules.
Report on focus for August
Focus for September 2018
- Repair the kennel roof at Oloololo;
- Complete standby pump at Oloololo;
- Sell tractor;
- Sell two Maruti jeeps;
- Order one new Land Cruiser;
- Work on roads damaged by the storm on the 29th;
- Install new signs with Park rules;
- Start on new store; and
- Survey Reserve boundary