There was some widespread, albeit light rain in the first week of December that concentrated the wildebeest in the western half of the Triangle. Thereafter we had wonderful, hot sunny days. The Mara River is already as low as we have seen it and there is a chance that, if the drought continues, the river may almost stop flowing by March.
We were visited by two Unites States Senators on the 5th. Senators Sam Brownback from Kansas and Richard Durbin from Illinois are co-chairmen of the International Environmental Caucus and were very interested in environmental and conservation issues affecting Kenya. They were accompanied by Mr David Barron, an influential lobbyist in the States.
The Chief Executive and Directors of Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA) met on the 13th, to discuss expansion of the Kichwa Tembo camp and park entrance fees. CCA are willing to pay a US$ 10 premium, over and above the regular park fees for the right to enter the Triangle should the Conservancy consider such a charge for day visitors residing outside the Triangle.
We are receiving disturbing reports on the ongoing sub-division of Koyaki Group Ranch, with up to 6% of the land already sold to speculators, developers and farmers. It seems impossible for the community to agree on the proposed conservation area and professional management and we are seeing the establishment of mini-conservation areas and the almost certain fragmentation of Koyaki. The Group Ranch is a crucial dispersal area and a key wildlife viewing area with over 400 beds. We are already seeing the closure of camps and the movement of other camps into areas closer to the Reserve. The long term implications are that we could see the destruction of a vital wildlife area and the closure of a number of well established camps and lodges.
The Chief Executive held discussions with the Minister for Immigration on the issue of opening up the border between Kenya and Tanzania in the Mara. The Minister is very enthusiastic and will almost certainly endorse the construction of a formal immigration and customs post somewhere within the Mara. He will liaise with his counterpart in Tanzania to do the same in the Serengeti – this should be fairly straightforward as the Tanzanians have already constructed a border post near Sand River. This initiative would greatly benefit both the Serengeti and Mara by allowing easier tourist movement between the two areas.
Two lionesses have shown their six cubs for the first time at Sankuria, between Mara Serena and Oloololo gate. A total of at least six other lionesses have cubs on Myles Turner’s hill, at the salt lick and along the Mara River, near Mara Bridge. One lioness was reported dead on the 30th, she had two six month old cubs that will not survive on their own. Dr Kashmiri received permission to take them to the Kimana Sanctuary arranged to fly up on the 1st January and collect them.
We found dozens of newly hatched crocodiles along the edge of the river at the beginning of the month.
KWS, The Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Mara Rhino Surveillance team darted the female rhino and her calf on the 9th and ear notched them both. The vets reported her to be five months pregnant. Darting the two rhino seemed to be taking an unnecessary risk, when they are so well known and easily identified, since the darting the calf was separate from her mother for a few days before briefly joining her before separating again. The calf has now been apart from her mother for ten days. There are mixed reports on the female and we are not sure whether she has aborted or given birth.
Mr E Nkoitoi returned from his annual leave on the 19th.
B Heath went to Dubai for five days over Christmas and returned on the 29th.
The beginning of December was relatively quiet, with most camps and lodges experiencing less than 50% occupancy for the first two weeks. The one exception was Mara Serena, which remained almost full and will probably close the month with nearly 90% occupancy for the month.
Our camp sites are proving very popular with residents and were all booked up for the New Year.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in December
A total of 33 poachers were arrested during the month, the highest number of arrests in one month since we started operations in the Mara. This brings the total arrests to 504 since June 2001. 515 wire snares were recovered during the month. There was one known incidence of poaching in the Triangle and two people were arrested as a result of information from our community scouts; all the other arrests were made in the northern Serengeti. This year the wildebeest have been concentrated along the escarpment well into Tanzania. This has brought the animals very close to the wa Kuria, who are able to come down after dark, set their snares, hunt and be back home before dawn. The failure of the rains has meant that the wa Kuria have not cultivated this year and instead have concentrated in hunting to supplement their diet and generate some income.
One poacher was arrested by the Ngiro-are team on the night of the 4th. 160 wires snares were recovered along the edge of the escarpment in Tanzania.
We received a report of an elephant being shot near Kirindon, 15 kms North of the Triangle, on the night of the 5th. We sent in a team at 5.00 am the same night but they found the report to be false and the result of intrigue between different factions in the area.
One poacher was arrested in the early morning of the 6th and another at 5.00 pm of the same day by the Ngiro-are team. The second poacher was carrying five wire snares and had not yet set them. Both were arrested in Tanzania.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested by the Ngiro-are team at 11.00 am on the 7th in an area we call Kasarani. The were part of a larger group that were in the process of setting their snares; 60 wire snares were recovered.
One elderly poacher was arrested on the 8th by a combined, Tanzanian, Serena and Ngiro-are team. This is the third time that we have arrested the same man in the past two years. He had 9 wire snares but had not set them.
Two Kenyan (Kipsigis) poachers were arrested on the night of the 12th after they entered the Triangle and killed one zebra. One of our community scouts reported the incursion at midnight and we mobilised the Ngiro-are team. The poachers were followed back into their houses and arrested with the meat. This is the first known instance of Kenyans poaching in the Triangle for over one year.
Four wa Kuria poachers were arrested in a combined patrol between the Serena and Kokatende teams on the 13th. They were in the Serengeti on the far side of the river about 7 kms downstream from Kokatende. In the first instance two poachers were arrested with 13 wire snares and one dead wildebeest. They then informed the patrol of another group and a further two were arrested. It appears that the area across the Mara River and downstream of Kokatende is very heavily poached, somewhat reminiscent of the Triangle and Lemai Wedge prior to the Conservancy starting operations in 2001.
Two days later we mounted a major operation with the Tanzanians and found 10 recently vacated camps in the same area, some of them semi-permanent. It was decided that the raid occurred a day after the elections in Tanzania and that many of the people had returned home to vote.
One poacher was arrested by the Ngiro-are team in the early morning of the 16th as they returned from an all night ambush in Tanzania. He was arrested near the Kinyangaga with five wire snares.
We mounted a large operation on the other side of the Mara River in Tanzania with our counterparts from Kokatende on the 18th and found a camp in which 2 eland, 3 wildebeest and 2 zebra had been killed and butchered. 19 wire snares were recovered. Unfortunately the poachers heard the patrol and escaped. On the same evening the Ngiro-are team arrested two poachers as they returned home along the escarpment. They had killed one zebra and had 7 wire snares.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested in along the escarpment in Tanzania in an early morning operation mounted by the Serena and Ngiro-are teams on the 20th. They had killed 1 wildebeest, 1 zebra and a topi and 37 wire snares were recovered.
100 wire snares were recovered by the Tanzanian and Kenyan teams along the escarpment in Tanzania on the 21st. 5 wildebeest were saved and one eland found dead.
15 wa Kuria poachers were arrested on Christmas Eve in two separate operations. In the first we received information from an informer and joined forces with Tanzanian rangers from Kinyangaga and Lemai to set an ambush. 13 of the 14 poachers were arrested between 7.00 and 8.30 pm. This group had 105 wire snares. In the second operation the Serena team joined forces with Kokatende and arrested two poachers with five wire snares on the other side of the river.
One poacher was arrested along the escarpment in Tanzania by the Ngiro-are team on the night of the 28th.
Serena have erected a double barrier at their entrance to start screening vehicles. This is in line with Government security concerns on tourist security.
The Ministry of Roads and Public Works have tendered for the contract to re-gravel the section of E1481 between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge. This work should be started in early 2006. We also have confirmation that we have been appointed as a routine maintenance contractor in Trans Mara. Mr P Siampei will receive training in 2006.
We completed the staff canteen at Serena and it started operations on the 15th. We also are in the process of constructing one additional staff toilet and shower. The septic tank serving the staff toilets was blocked and has been repaired.
The road gang repaired pot holes on the main roads before breaking for Christmas, they will resume in early January.
Revenue and Accounts
We received the Audit report from Deloittes. This will be reviewed by the Board and deliberated upon at the next meeting, scheduled for the 25th January. Table 2, below, summarises audited revenue and expenditure for the past two years.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January
· Start work on office at Ngiro-are;
· Complete toilet/shower for staff at Serena;
· Hold Board meeting on the 25th;
· Earthview audit;
· Review Earthview and Seiya contracts; and
· Review taxation status with Livingstone Consultants.