The first rainstorms started on the 7th, with one storm of about 75 mm (3 inches) on the 9th, followed by heavy rain on the 11th through to the 13th. The rains started again on the 24th, with a few heavy storms for three days before the weather cleared again.
We held a tourism sector meeting in the Nairobi Serena on the 7th as part of the planning process for the 10-year management plan. The meeting was well attended by industry leaders and follow-up meetings are scheduled for early 2008. Unfortunately the Core Planning Team meeting scheduled for the same afternoon failed to take place, as most of the members failed to attend.
Mr William Deed come down on the 9th for a week to assist us in improving the Wildlife Direct Blog. He trained Joseph Kimojino in up-dating and posting information on the Mara Triangle; in the Wildlife Direct site. The initial response has been very encouraging.
The elections were held on the 27th, the culmination of months of campaigning for Presidential, Member of Parliament and civic seats throughout the country. As at the time of writing, President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected, we do not know who won the Parliamentary seat for Kilgoris.
The rainstorm on the 9th resulted in the death of at least 34 wildebeest and 4 zebra, three of the wildebeest and the zebra appear to have been struck by lightening, they were lying within a few yards of each other and their coats smelt as if they had been singed. The other animals were spread out over a one-kilometer radius. There were reports of similar deaths on Koiyaki after heavy rain a few days later.
The few days of heavy rain also resulted in all the wildebeest returning South and many of the zebra heading North to the Loita Plains; by the 20th there were virtually no wildebeest and very few zebra remaining in the Triangle. The wildebeest again crossed near the Serena lunch site and, again, several hundred died, despite the fact that the river was very low.
We have had reports of cheetah, lion and one leopard with young cubs. One female cheetah was seen with four young – 4-6 week old – cubs on the 19th for the first time. The female is based along the Tanzanian border and is very shy.
One young cheetah, about 15 months old, was found with a wire snare around it’s neck along the border on the 28th. We called in Dr Isaac Lekolool from KWS and the animal was treated on the 30th. We would like to thank Dr Lekolool for giving up his Sunday to treat this animal.
The first crocodile nest that we have been monitoring hatched on the 11th and 12th and we were able to photograph one of the young just after it hatched. Another two nests hatched between the 12th and the 16th and the last one on the 24th. When we returned to check we could only find one young hatchling.
We sent off most of the non-essential staff for Christmas and they will report back on the 2nd January.
We held a staff party on the 22nd to celebrate the arrest of 900 poachers. We will arrange for a tour as a celebration for the staff when we reach 1,000 poachers and are considering northern Kenya or the coast.
The table below summarises the number of visitors to the four cultural villages that make up the Mara Triangle Masai Villages Association, for the year September 2006 to the end of August 2007. In addition, the villages sold curios worth US$ 17,000 (Ksh 1,105,000) (Source: Dr C Mvula).
We have made a total of 975 arrests in the past six and a half years and have collected over 7,500 snares. In the last two years we have caught 242 and 233 poachers respectively; many more than the long-term average of 150. This can partly be explained by the fact we have become more efficient but it is also because the wildebeest have concentrated along the western edge of the Lemai Wedge for extended periods of time – making it easy for the wa Kuria to come off the escarpment and hunt. The method of hunting in Tanzania has changed considerably over the years. Initially every thicket showed recent signs of poaching camps, indicating that poachers were camping in the Reserve or Serengeti for days at a time. This has changed, one hardly ever finds signs of poacher camps in the Lemai Wedge; instead the wa Kuria hunt at night and return home the same night. This makes anti-poaching very difficult and it is a tribute to the security staff that we are able to arrest so many people. The accompanying Table and Graph show the pattern of arrests.
We have also seen a resurgence of poaching in the Mara Triangle, especially within two to three kilometres of the border. These poachers still camp in the park for periods of up to four or five days.
In the past three months 12 of the 72 arrests have been in the Triangle; nine of them in this month alone.
We arrested one person on the 1st, he had been hunting on the escarpment the previous evening (as reported in the November report). When we arrested him at 5.30 am he still had blood on his feet and shoes but we were unable to find where he had hidden the meat.
The Anne Kent-Taylor scouts reported that a zebra had been killed beyond Ngos Nanyuki, on the way to Lolgorien, on the third. They joined forces and arrested one person, it was reported that there were others involved but they escaped. The team followed up the next day and found one person with zebra meat in his house, it was ascertained that the first person was not actually involved in the killing of the zebra and we agreed to release him.
One poacher was arrested by the Ngiro-are team on the 8th near Nyakita Pembe in the Lemai Wedge. The rangers had seen some poachers across the river but had been unable to cross and were on their way back when they saw two people, one escaped. They had six snares.
On the third a routine patrol in the Lemai Wedge, near Maji ya Bett, found 13 wire snares and the carcasses of two zebra and three wildebeest in the snares. A further 5 wildebeest had been butchered and the meat taken.
A routine patrol on the 10th came across nine wire snares and a place where three wildebeest had been caught and butchered along the escarpment. They also found where three Thomson’s gazelle had been killed, two had been collected and one left on the ground. On the same day the Tanzanians found a stash of meat near Kasarani; we set up a joint ambush but the poachers saw the rangers and escaped before the ambush could be sprung.
The Ngiro-are team found 10 wire snares in the Lemai Wedge, along the lugga between the two bridges that make up Daraja Mbili on the 12th, one dead zebra was found in the snares.
The Ngiro-are team found and collected 27 wire snares at Kokmange on the 13th.
The Serena team went across the river, towards Bologonja on the 19th and saw recent signs of poaching but were unable to arrest anyone. We then organised a joint patrol with Ngiro-are for very early on the 20th and they managed to arrest five poachers in two different groups. In the first group all four poachers were arrested and 16 wire snares recovered; they also had meat from a zebra that had been killed by lions. The patrol came across a second group of four as they were returning and arrested one person. They were hunting with eight dogs and had not yet killed anything.
The two teams returned to the Bologonja area early on the 21st and arrested another two, of three, poachers. The poachers were found fishing and had not yet set their snares; 21 wire snares were recovered.
On the 23rd we held a security meeting to discuss operations over the Christmas and New Year period. Our concern was that the wa Kuria would use this period to increase their poaching and cattle rustling activities in the Triangle and adjoining areas, on the assumption that we would be pre-occupied with Christmas and the elections. These concerns seem well founded. On the same day one hippo was reported with a spear embedded in its side near the Serena breakfast site. We mounted an operation along to river and whilst checking the thickets another report came in from a Kichwa Tembo driver; of a zebra in a snare near the sun-downer hill. We diverted the patrol and found a poacher’s camp. The poachers had seen the patrol vehicle and had moved. We searched the adjoining hills and saw eight poachers in the late evening. We ended up in arresting five people and found that they were from two different groups of four; the first group were camped on a hill we know as “Sierra Lima” and had arrived on Thursday. They had two dogs and had killed six warthog. We arrested three from this group. The second group, the ones who had set the snares, had arrived on Friday and had killed the zebra, one impala and four warthog. Two of the poachers had been arrested before, one of them twice - both times on the Narok side of the Reserve.
The following day, the 24th, we continued to follow-up on the speared hippo and arrested another three wa Kuria poachers on the Island, a large island in the Mara River. They were part of a group of eight who had entered the Triangle on Friday the 21st and had wounded the hippo. They had also killed another hippo, together with a zebra and a warthog.
Fourteen cattle were stolen from a manyatta near Kawai village on the night of the 24th. They were not noticed missing until Mr J Kimojino, the Assistant Warden in charge of tourism, saw tracks early the following morning. The rangers immediately followed up and recovered the cattle as they were leaving the Serengeti and entering the wa Kuria homesteads near Masanga.
Revenue and Accounts
Our November accounts give us some cause for concern, revenue was down on budget by Ksh 1.7 million (US$ 27,000); largely as a result of no revenue from Kichwa Tembo, but also because of the exceptionally low value of the US$. Operating expenses were up by Ksh 985,000 (US$ 16,000). In part, because of an emergency item amounting to Ksh 418,000 incurred in evacuating Mr P Siampei after his accident in November. This gave us a significant cash flow deficit for the month.
We completed painting the new houses and then re-painted the outside walls on the Administrators’ houses and the office.
We have been informed that the contract for work on the road between Oloololo Gate and Mara Serena has been cancelled, for non-performance by the contractor. The whole process will now have to be repeated, a shame as this will delay work on the road for several months.
We had a major short in the electrical system near the Senior Warden’s house after the first rain. We found the wiring to be in terrible condition and purchased new cable and distribution boxes, we now hope that this will solve the problem.
We installed one uni-hut for Earthview near our Serena offices. Earthview will now vacate the Senior Warden’s house and use this as their new offices until we are able to construct a new office block.
The grader touched up damaged sections of road and opened up more drains on the river road.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January
· We will erect two new uni-huts for the GSU at Oloololo Gate;
· Construct shelter over the fuel pump;
· Work on river road, weather permitting;
· Hold Board meeting and AGM on the 18th;
· Work on two flooded sections of the river road; and
· Collect Cheetah 2 after repairs.