Heavy rains continued daily for the first half of the month, leaving large expanses sodden, with tall grass and no animals. There was then a one week hiatus before the rains returned, with heavy storms in the Oloololo/Kichwa Tembo area and early morning rains over most of the Triangle.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Philip Coulson on the 4th to discuss changes to the new draft Articles of Association. These changes were made and circulated to the Board on the 11th and will be discussed at the next Board meeting in February.
The Chief Executive met with Dr Stephanie Dloniak who will be researching predator populations in the Masai Mara for the next year. We have proposed that she works with staff manning “Cheetah 1” and that she provides them with a GPS so that they can record cheetah, lion and hyena data for her.
The Chief Executive met with the Chairman of Siana Group Ranch on the 8th and introduced him to Mr J Kagiri of Diesel Care Ltd who will quote for the construction of one bridge and one causeway in their proposed conservation area. There was a further meeting with Mr Kagiri on the 20th at Siana.
The Hon G Konchellah kindly donated one bull to the security staff for slaughter, a lunch party was held on the 8th and attended by our staff, some of our counterparts from Tanzania, the District Officer, Chairman of the County Council and five councillors.
There was an Annual general Meeting of the Mara Conservancy on the 18th, this was followed by a Board meeting at which the 2003/4 accounts and some capital purchases were approved.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Guy Jack of Exide to discuss the provision of solar lighting to Ngiro-are and the Chief Executive’s camp. We plan to purchase lighting in February.
M/s Mary Wykstra of Cheetah Research has sourced a GPS and binoculars for “Cheetah 1”. This will greatly assist in plotting cheetah movements within the Triangle.
A young lioness, first seen in late December with severe bite marks on her spine was again seen on the 2nd, she had lost considerable condition and was having difficulty in walking. It was never seen again and presumably died of its injuries. There seem to have been a lot of lion fights with several other animals seen with minor injuries. Lions that have been resident in an area for months have suddenly moved into completely new areas and in some cases ousted the residents. One pride of 6-8 females and up to 15 cubs that were regularly seen around the saltlick have moved at least 15 kms towards Mara Bridge.
Most of the zebra left in late December and early January and by mid January there were very few animals left, the majority concentrated along the Tanzanian border.
We received a report of an injured lion on the 19th, Ms Anne Kent-Taylor organized a veterinarian from KWS to fly down on Air Kenya in the afternoon. Dr Isak Lekolol, the veterinarian darted and treated the animal. This animal had been treated several months ago by Dr Kashmiri for a missing toe.
One Leopard was trapped near Kilgoris by KWS and released in the “Nyumba Nane” area, between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge on 18th.
The first half of January was relatively quiet but by the end of the month Mara Serena was running at full capacity. The prognosis for February is looking excellent, with Serena recording 90% confirmed bookings for the month. We expect occupancy rates to drop off in mid March. One point of slight concern in terms of projected revenue and cash flow is Serena’s proposal to close the Lodge for May and possibly June for renovations.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in January
We arrested 10 wa Kuria poachers during the month, bringing to total to 362. We also recovered 26 wire snares. There were no known poaching incidents in the Triangle during January although routine patrols were conducted along the river and in all the thickets.
The poachers have changed their hunting methods and are now concentrating on warthog and Thompson’s gazelle. If hunting gazelle they come in late at night, on very dark nights so that they can effectively blind the gazelle. They then set their dogs onto them and then rush up and slit the animal’s throat once it has been caught by the dog. It is a very efficient way of killing animals and tens can be killed in a few hours - the poachers then leave before dawn. When hunting warthog they arrive before dawn and hunt in the early morning; again they use dogs - to bay up the animal and then spear it. This means that there is very little daylight poaching and we have been concentrating on ambushes on dark nights.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the 1st in a joint effort by our security from Ngiro-are, Hammerkop and Serena. Five of them had arrived near Daraja Mbili very early in the morning and were hunting warthog with dogs. They had killed one warthog before our patrol found them eating their morning meal along the edge of the watercourse.
On the second a joint patrol between our security and Tanzanian rangers from Kinyangaga found ten wire snares in an area we know as watu kumi in Tanzania. That evening, as they were returning to camp, they came across three wa Kuria men in the Ngiro-are Lugga and arrested one of them. They returned the same evening to ambush the wire snares and arrested one person as he was coming to check them at 9.00 pm – a second person had been frightened off by a herd of elephant and was not seen.
On the 4th the Serena team arrested two, out of a group of four, poachers near Daraja Mbili in Tanzania by 9.30 am. The group had arrived at 4.00 am, with dogs, and were intent on hunting warthog. No animals had been killed.
One wa Kuria poacher was arrested at 3.00 am on the night of the 15th, he was part of a gang of 10 that was hunting Thompson’s gazelle with dogs and torches about ten kilometres into the Lemai Wedge in Tanzania. They had killed 9 gazelle in the two hours that it took our staff to approach and apprehend them.
The following night the Ngiro-are team arrested three poachers on the open plains near watu kumi. The poachers had killed two gazelle by the time they were apprehended. These three, together with the poacher arrested the previous day were handed over to the Tanzanians.
A routine patrol in Tanzania recovered 4 wire snares on the 17th near Nyanguki. This is the first sign of poaching noticed in this locality for over a year.
There was an attempt at cattle theft on the night of the 25th .along the escarpment. Our staff had seen tracks going up the escarpment the previous day and had alerted the community, who were able to foil the attempt. One of the four thieves was killed near Angata Barrikoi by the locals as they attempted to return home; a second arrested and handed over to the police.
On the 28th a joint patrol with the Tanzanians found 12 wire snares near Nyanguki. We set up an ambush that night but no one returned.
There was a welfare and savings co-operative committee meeting on the 22nd with the Chief Executive to discuss staff welfare issues. We agreed to hold six monthly meetings in future.
The Senior Warden was invited to attend a meeting in Yellowstone National Park as part of the collaborative initiative between Yellowstone, the Serengeti and Masai Mara. The Montana State University and Big Sky Institute were paying all travel and accommodation costs and he left for the meeting on the 29th.
We have developed Terms of Reference for all staff and have virtually completed the appraisal forms for each staff member. These will be circulated in February, well in advance of the appraisals to be done in April, so that each staff member becomes accustomed to the concept.
The Conservancy held a farewell party on the 30th for Sgt Lemein Korinko who retired in December.
We purchased and installed a PABX telephone system in the Mara. This now enables us to answer and monitor all phone calls 24 hours a day and provides an intercom system between offices.
We graded the road to Ngiro-are, concentrating on areas that had been eroded in the heavy downpours. Continual rain makes it very difficult to maintain the roads in good order but we have been doing what we can to touch up sections that are damaged.
We cut the grass around the Serena airstrip.
The road gang filled in the worst pot holes along most of the road between Oloololo Gate and Mara Bridge.
We cut thatch and started thatching the mess roof at Ngiro-are. We completed alterations to a small kitchen, making it sufficiently secure to act as a cell for prisoners and completed work on a new kitchen for the staff at Ngiro-are.
The Board approved the purchase of one vehicle to replace one of the existing Land Rovers. They also approved the purchase of a solar lighting system for Ngiro-are and the construction of a secure store at Serena.
Revenue and Accounts
The 2003/4 accounts were approved by the Board and will now be tabled at the next AGM. Revenue continues to be higher than the previous years and the prognosis for January and February is for more of the same.
Report on focus for January
Focus for February
- Purchase new Land Cruiser to replace KAN 706K;
- Purchase and install solar system at Ngiro-are;
- Complete thatching;
- Hold AGM to approve 2003/4 accounts;
- Hold Board meeting;
- Start on store at Serena;
- Circulate all ToRs and appraisal forms to staff; and
- Continue road repairs.