There was heavy rain almost every day in the second half of December, the storms were particularly heavy along the Oloololo Escarpment and between Mara Serena and Little Governor’s. There has been considerable grass growth in most areas of the Triangle, with areas that had been burnt earlier in the year recovering almost completely.
Two members of staff from Little Governor’s disappeared whilst crossing the Mara River on the night of 30th December; they are presumed drowned. The river was in flood and the boat in which they were crossing was found submerged on the morning of the 31st.
The General Elections were held on the 27th December, resulting in major changes in Government. At a local level; the incumbent MP, Julius Sunkuli, was replaced by Col (Rtd) Gideon Konchellah of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). Two of our Directors were re-elected as Councillors, Mr Kuya Tunai ole Kijabe and Mr John Korinko. Two other Directors, the Chairman of the Council Mr Chari ole Saiyuah and Mr Tiampati ole Lampeshua, were defeated. These election results will have implications for the Board of the Mara Conservancy, as the Council Chairman and MP are ex-officio positions.
Two lions were treated by Dr Kashmiri on the 2nd December, one lion had a snare removed from around its neck. The snare had cut very deeply into the neck and the animal required a number of stitches. The second lion was an old male with a dislocated hind leg, there was very little that could be done and it is unlikely that the lion will survive. On the same day a hippo was seen with a spear deeply embedded in its side – the animal was darted and the spear removed. It has not been seen since and it is assumed that it has recovered.
A young male elephant with an injured leg was seen on one or two occasions but has not been seen for two weeks. One elephant calf was found abandoned near Ngiro-are, it was rescued and flown to Daphne Sheldrick’s orphanage in Nairobi on the 19th.
A number of male lions appear to have taken up residence in the Triangle and on one occasion two males killed a young hippo near Mara Bridge.
The resident rhino has not been seen for three weeks, this has been reported to the rhino surveillance team at Sekenani, with a request for them to look for her on the Narok side of the Reserve. We were visited by a team from KWS HQ to evaluate the possibility of establishing a rhino sanctuary in the Triangle.
There is a new Director of KWS, he is Mr Michael Wamithi, formally Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Nairobi. Mr Wamithi visited the Conservancy earlier in the year.
M/s Deloitte & Touche have virtually completed the audit and sent down one of their team to verify assets on the 30th. We expect a draft report early in January.
Revenue for November was very disappointing and bookings in December appear to be very poor – this will have severe financial implications for the Conservancy in the coming months.
4,000 brochures have been printed and are being circulated.
It was hoped that we would be able to work with Serena Lodges & Hotels on our tourism development plan, a copy of which was sent to them for review. We will work on this issue as a matter of priority in January – as it affects our ability to offer additional camping facilities to other operators. Delays in reaching an agreement with Serena on tourism development are having a severe impact on our ability to increase revenue.
One poacher was arrested on the 18th December at Nyanguki, on the Tanzanian side of the border. He was one of three poachers who had killed one zebra. Twelve wire snares were recovered. This brings the total number of arrests to 163 since the Conservancy started operations.
On the 3rd and 4th a group of poachers based on the Narok side of the Mara river, but operating on both sides of the river were followed, unfortunately no arrests were made. This group had probably speared the hippo darted on the 2nd. There were no other signs of poaching in the reserve during the month.
There were one or two incidents of herders bringing their cattle into the reserve, along the Oloololo escarpment. One group of herdsmen was apprehended on the 26th – they were given a warning and released.
We have requested the removal of one policeman based at Mara Bridge for disciplinary reasons.
The staff were paid their December salaries on the 23rd December and all subordinate staff sent off until the 6th January. With severe financial constraints over the next few months we are considering temporarily laying off some staff members until the next high season in July 2003.
The election campaign was very disruptive to staff members, many of whom have strong political affiliations. We hope that with the elections behind us we will be able to get them to concentrate on their duties, it is anticipated that one or two people will leave.
B Heath took fourteen days off in December and Mr J Baxendale has taken time off over Christmas and New Year.
The draft Annual Work Plan was reviewed by senior staff members and minor changes have been made. The staff also reviewed a draft Code of Conduct and Standard Operating Procedures for security staff.
The re-wiring of the staff quarters and offices was completed in December.
Work was completed on the Council houses at Kichwa Tembo.
The main road from Mara Bridge to Oloololo Gate was graded – unfortunately heavy rains in the last half of December have caused quite severe damage to the Mara Serena to Oloololo section. We continue to ask drivers to keep off this road when very wet and will elicit support from the lodges and camps.
Mara Serena are placing a barrier at their main gate – we hope that this will be used to control traffic after dark.
A concrete plinth was constructed on the site for washing vehicles, we set wire snares recovered from poachers into the concrete for reinforcement.
4,000 brochures were printed and are being distributed.
Revenue and Accounts
Concerns over the elections and the effect of the Mombasa bombings have led to a significant reduction in the Number of tourists visiting the Mara. As a result, it is almost certain that we will not be able to meet our financial obligations over the next three to six months. We have managed to extend our credit on Conservancy vehicles for an additional two months, until the 15th February – but even this places a very high burden on our cash flow. The situation will improve slightly once the vehicles have been fully paid for but we can expect a shortfall of at least US$ 60,000 in the coming months.
We have accepted the Earthview commission of 9% as stated in their proposal for revenue collection presented to the Tender Board, this is considerably less in lean months than the supplement of US$ 3,850 per month agreed to in June. It has also been agreed that the commission on balloon revenue remains at 5% for the foreseeable future and that Earthview will pay for County Council staff seconded to them as from February 2003. Earthview have been asked to pay any commission to KATO with effect from February 2003.
Report on focus for November
Focus for January
Discuss tourism development plan with Serena and get some commitment from them on a first option for a camp
Complete Audit and hold Director’s meeting approve
Seek donor support to meet anticipated shortfall
Hold another exam for the KPSGA bronze level qualification
Hold lodge manager’s meeting
Ratify Annual Work Plan, Code of Conduct and SOP’s