We had some very heavy thunderstorms around the 13th, this was followed by a week of glorious, sunny weather before the rains returned with a vengeance over Christmas, when we had cold, drizzly and overcast days.
Senior officers from the County Council of Trans Mara met with the owners of Governor’s Camps Ltd to discuss the issue of revenue collection from Little Governor’s by Narok County Council. There did not seem to be a resolution to the matter and the officers will meet their counterparts in Narok in the New Year. Governors seem to have moved from a neutral position and have sided with Narok on this issue; we have proof of their insistence that all clients who stay in Little Governor’s pay Narok County Council. To date Trans Mara and the Conservancy have lost well over US$ 100,000 in revenue.
The heavy rain sent many of the remaining zebra across the river and by the end of the month there were only a few scattered groups remaining in the Triangle.
Lion sightings were excellent throughout the month, small cubs were being seen on a regular basis.
Sita, the cheetah with three cubs disappeared for a while, she probably went into Tanzania. The other female, with her one remaining cub became a regular visitor fairly close to Serena and the cheetah who was reported with three new cubs reappeared near the Tanzanian border before Christmas.
Rhino sightings were excellent, there were days when seven different rhino were seen in one day.
The rains concentrated in the western half of the Mara and there was virtually nothing further east until the Christmas rains. This meant that the huge herds of cattle that had invaded Trans Mara in October were caught around Mara Rianta and Talek. There were over 48,000 cattle in a small area between Mara Rianta and Musiara at the end of November, not to mention the 70,000 sheep and 10,000 goats – many of these cattle were then grazed in the Narok portion of the Game Reserve and large herds were seen on Rhino Ridge and all long the Talek River.
We had problems with cattle invading the Triangle from along the escarpment well after the rains had started – this was particularly bad in the area opposite Kerengani. On the 21st, after numerous warnings, we impounded well over 1,000 cattle and arrested six of the owners. There is absolutely no reason for invading the Triangle; there have been good rains in the area and adequate grazing. As we have seen elsewhere, once cattle are allowed to graze in a protected area they never leave. Cattle have been grazing in the eastern third of the Mara, between Keekorok and Olelaimutia Gate for years - this has now extended all along the Talek River and to Musiara. Cattle have been grazing in Tsavo West and East for years, as they have done in Amboseli. It is estimated that over 200 elephant have died in Amboseli this year – from drought, but also from poaching and, in some cases, in retaliation for trying to remove cattle from the Park.
One of our eight rhino resides in the area we impounded the cattle; indeed he was feeding no more than 500 meters from the cattle when we rounded them up. We counted over 100 elephant in the area as well – Do we allow cattle grazing in the Triangle, even when there is no crisis and to the detriment of the animals we have worked so hard to protect?
The dogs were injected with “Tryquin”, a drug that will give them three months cover against trypanosomiasis. Both dogs are in excellent health.
The dogs were used in an incident where two tents were robbed at Mara Explorer, on the Talek River. The dogs assisted in the recovery of most of the stolen items, including clothes and passports – a camera and €3,300 were not recovered. It would appear that the thieves were picked up in a vehicle; the dogs followed the trail to the Ol Kiombo airstrip and then it disappeared.
Madison Asset Management made a presentation to our staff at the Provident Fund Annual General Meeting on the 17th. Madison declared that the return on investment for 2008 was 5% - better than the 1.7% growth rate in the economy recorded for the same period and significantly above the negative 35% recorded by the Nairobi Stock Exchange and the - 4.8% recorded by pension funds in general. The report for the first two quarters indicated a return of 4% and 2.1% respectively.
We held a celebration for 1,300 poachers arrested on the 20th.
The Chief Executive will be taking ten days off work from the 28th December.
There is a row brewing between the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments on tourist vehicles. On the 12th a circular was sent to managers of Parks and Reserves reiterating that Tanzania did not allow Kenyan registered tour vehicles from operating in their National Parks (Director of Tanzania National Parks, 6th November 2009). The Kenyan tourism industry has subsequently requested that: “..the Ministry enforce a ban on Tanzanian registered tour vehicles until such a time as the two countries agree on modalities of how to treat cross-border traffic”. We have noticed a very significant increase in the number of Tanzanian registered vehicles operating in the Mara over the past few months and did a count of the ones that came in through Purungat (Mara Bridge) and Oloololo Gates. We found that 266 Tanzanian vehicles, carrying 1,745 passengers has passed through Purungat between July 1st and November 30th; in the same period 265 vehicles, carrying 2,100 passengers, had passed through Oloololo Gate.
Nineteen poachers were arrested during the month; this brings the total since June 2001 to 1,332. 36 wire snares were recovered, bringing the total to 14,696. The table below gives a breakdown on the number of poachers arrested and snares recovered.
One poacher was arrested by the Nigiro-are team on the the 4th on the Masanga poacher’s route as he and another person came into the Lemai Wedge to hunt warthog. That night four more poachers were arrested between Miungu and Limana by a joint Ngiro-are are Iseiya team – they were hunting Thompson’s gazelle.
One poacher was arrested on the 6th on the main route into the Lemai Wedge from Masanga, he was on his way across the Mara River with one accomplice and they were going to hunt warthog. Four wire snares were recovered in a different area on the same day.
Five poachers were arrested near Konyoike at 3.00 am on the morning of the 11th by the Ngiro-are team. The poachers were part of a group of seven who were on their way to the Namailumbwa hills, on the eastern side of the Mara River, in the northern Serengeti. They had five snares and enough food to camp for several days.
The Iseiya rangers recovered 27 wire snares between Ol Donyo Nasipa and Konyoike – right on the Mara/Serengeti border on the 13th – the snares had been set for some time and appeared to have been abandoned.
Our rangers arrested one Luo poacher, with help from the Anne Kent-Taylor scouts, between the escarpment and Lolgorien on the evening of the 14th. He and his accomplice had killed and butchered two waterbuck.
One person who had been involved in an armed robbery in a camp a year ago was arrested by the local administration for his involvement in stock theft. During interrogation he divulged a great deal of information, including his involvement in the robbery, the possible whereabouts of a stolen camera and the owners of illegal firearms. The person was held for a while but then subsequently released for lack of hard evidence – the information he gave is being followed up.
The Iseiya team arrested one person, from a group of six, along the Mara River well into the northern Serengeti on the morning of the 19th. We initially thought that the group were just fishing but a later patrol found that they had killed and butchered a hippo. On the same morning the Ngiro-are team arrested two people in the Lemai Wedge and then another four at 10 pm as they came into to hunt gazelles with dogs and torches on the Masanga route. The rangers reported that at least three groups of poachers, numbering 15 people, came in to hunt that night.
Revenue and Accounts
November revenue dropped considerably. This is normal and we can expect a slight increase in December, January and February before it drops from March to May. We will give a summary of our first six months accounts in the January report.
We graded all the main roads in preparation for the Christmas season – unfortunately we still have drivers who use closed roads when wet and there was some damage. Balloon vehicles are particularly bad at damaging the environment when wet.
We replaced the culvert on the way to the Serena airstrip, with a drift. This was at the request of airline pilots, who were concerned that the culvert posed a hazard to aircraft, in the event of an engine failure and overshooting the runway.
We received one new tractor, to replace our New Holland TN65 that had been with us since 2001. We took delivery of one New Suzuki Maruti, to replace “Cheetah 1” – there appears to be a problem with this new vehicle and it remained in Nairobi.
We have ordered one new Land Rover pick-up to replace “Ranger II”, this should be delivered in early January.
We purchased all the supplies to build a cement and hardware store off the back of the tractor shade. This will be worked on in January.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January 2010
· Collect new Land Rover;
· Hold Board meeting on 15th January;
· Start on Chief’s Office, Kawai;
· Conduct staff transfers;
· Repair sections of roads damaged in the December rains; and
· Review Tender process for revenue collection.