The rains continued unabated until the 7th, when we had a slight respite. By that time the whole Triangle was waterlogged and many tracks were virtually impassable. The rains then returned on the 13th and a series of overnight storms did immense damage to the roads again. This has been the wettest November/December in recent memory. The rains began to ease off after Christmas and we are looking forward to a few weeks of dry weather – hopefully sufficient to repair some of the worst damage to the roads.
Serena have confirmed that they will begin renovations on the public areas in Mara Serena – probably by mid January. These renovations will greatly enhance the look, and feel, of the lodge and we look forward to seeing the finished result.
Mr Andrew Kamiti, a well known artist, visited the Conservancy in early December. He has very kindly donated one of his drawings of a buffalo head to the Conservancy.
Dr Mathew Mutinda spent a week evaluating guides from various camps and lodges in the Triangle for the Most Responsible Guide Award – we are awaiting his results so that we can combine with the earlier evaluation. We are most grateful to the camps and lodges for accommodating the evaluators, to Tribal Voice, the Travel Foundation and the Born Free Foundation for supporting this initiative.
Save the Elephants and the Mara Elephant Project placed satellite collars on two elephant in the Triangle on the 5th. The elephant, a big bull and a cow, were both darted and fitted with their collars without hitch. The project then collared a further eight elephant within the Mara ecosystem and will give us invaluable information on elephant movement within the area.
The Hyena research project have requested permission to collar some of the hyena in the Triangle – this will probably be done in July.
We celebrated 1,700 poacher arrests on the 3rd, when we slaughtered a bull and had a party.
Most of the road team took ten days off around Christmas and will return on the 2nd January.
Narok County Council have instituted a Smart Card system for revenue collection in their portion of the Reserve. Equity Bank, the revenue collection agents, have implemented the system. The new system, and the obvious efficiency in collection, has caused a major uproar with local politicians, and others, who were benefiting from the corrupt system in the past – it was estimated that US$ 10,000,000 (around Ksh 1 billion) is misappropriated each year. There have been a number of demonstrations against the new system and, on occasion, these demonstrations have disrupted travel through the Reserve. On the 14th around 40 clients for Mara Serena were stopped at Sekenani gate for most of the day – a few arrived after dark, but at least 20 clients decided to stay elsewhere. Demonstrations, for even the most minor issues, have become a feature in Narok this year. There have been several occasions when tourists have been blockaded in Narok or at the Gates. This indiscipline needs to be dealt with – it compounds the already bad name the Mara has for overcrowding and driver/guide indiscipline within the Reserve.
We have noted a systematic attempt to defraud the Reserve by groups of tourists from China and India. The tourists “borrow” identification documents showing them to be residents, so that they can enter at the much lower residents rates. So far we have noted that the following companies seem to be involved: Longren Tours, African Bush Safaris, Catalyst Tours and Sunshine Safaris. These companies will be blacklisted if any further attempts to defraud the Reserve are noted.
A total of seven poachers were arrested in December, bringing the total to 1,757. I have included a table below that summarises the number of arrests made, and wire snares collected, since the Conservancy started operating in the Mara Triangle in June 2001.
We have just received confirmation that two of the armed robbers involved in the terrible incident in River Camp in July 2010, where John D’Olier was killed and Pat and Sara Neylan were severely injured, have each been jailed for five years for being in possession of illegal firearms. Marua Mwita and Chacha Nyasunga – the two – had been part of a group that raided a petrol station. They were not arrested at the scene but were subsequently arrested in Nakuru.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one poacher on the 1st near Kichwa Tembo, in the Lemai Wedge, he had killed a warthog and was returning home with the meat when arrested. The tracks of two people were seen in the Triangle on the 10th, as they left. We were unable to locate where they had been camping.
Six poachers were arrested on the 13th, in two different incidents. The Tanzanian rangers called in the morning to say that a group of poachers were operating on the island in the Mara River near Mlima Hotel. Our rangers went to investigate and came across three people in that general area, heading towards Nyakita Pembe. Two were arrested with the assistance of our dogs – the first person was arrested quite quickly - it took some time for the second person to be found. They had six wire snares. Later the same day the Tanzanians called to ask where the rangers were – our staff had met up with a different group of poachers. The rangers returned to the island and managed, with the TANAPA rangers, to arrest four of six people at around 6.30 pm. They had killed a hippo and would have left that night.
One person was seen near the Salt-lick on the 23rd – he, and his two companions immediately set off back home and we were unable to catch up with them. It looked as if they had arrived that morning and were probably coming to hunt warthog.
Revenue and Accounts
The Kenya Shilling has returned to around Ksh 83 : 1US$ - a marked difference from when it traded at Ksh 107 : 1US$ for a few days in September. This strengthening can partly be attributed by a massive increase in the base lending rate and support from the IMF. We will watch and see the long-term impact of these interventions to stabilise the currency but we can expect the economy to slow down – the cost of borrowing has become prohibitively expensive - but inflation should also come down from a high of 20% in November.
November revenue dropped off and will remain low over the next few months. Occupancy rates in early December were as low as we have seen them in recent years and we are concerned that our revenue targets will not be met over the coming months. There are a number of factors that may account for this: the global economy, security concerns – both terrorism and the pending elections – are causing concern.
We have been frustrated by the rain this month and spent most of our time just trying to repair the worst damage to our main roads.
We purchased all the items for a new kennel at Iseiya and will start building in January.
Grass seed is a major problem for our patrol vehicles – the seed clogs up our radiators – we have installed additional screens n two of the vehicles and will do the remainder in January.
We repaired the airstrip and cut the grass around it.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January 2012
· Hold Board meeting;
· Collect and install uni-hut for gate at Little Governors;
· Repair damaged sections of road;
· Replace roof on Warden’s house at Iseiya;
· Transfer staff;
· Install additional radiator screens on vehicles;