The rains started in earnest on the 9th, but the scattered thunderstorms in the first week of December were sufficient to send the wildebeest back into Tanzania. For those fortunate enough to be in the Triangle in the first week of November, the game viewing was unparalleled. Then there was rain and within two days there was not a wildebeest in sight – all back to the Serengeti, and by the 20th nearly all the zebra had moved North and East – back towards the Loita Plains. The rains stopped for a few days over Christmas and then returned at the end of the month, with a violent storm on the 31st.
The 12th December was Kenya’s 50th anniversary since independence. The Chief Executive was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW), a Presidential award that was given for his contribution to conservation in Kenya.
We held a Board meeting and AGM on the 16th. The audited accounts were approved and signed.
The three cheetah males with mange (Sarcoptic scabies) were found and treated orally with Ivermectin on five occasions from the 1st and then again on the 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th. The treatment appears to have worked very well and by the 12th there were no signs of active mange on any of the animals. The worst affected animal had large areas of exposed skin, but the skin was healthy and there were the first signs of hair regeneration. If this method of treatment works, and all the indications are that it does, it will offer a very viable means of non-traumatic treatment. Animals with mange are currently treated by darting, immobilising and injecting animals at two-week intervals.
The Kenya Wildlife Service, together with the Zoological Society of London conducted a follow-up to identify the rhino in the Mara. They ear-notched eight animals that had not been previously notched and placed micro-chips in the animals’ horns. Two of the rhino were in the Triangle and were notched on the 13th and 14th.
Our fifteen newly trained rangers reported for work on the 1st and have been deployed to different stations.
We sent a number of non-essential staff off for the Christmas break and they will return on the 5th January.
Many camps and lodges were full for one or two days over Christmas but then occupancy dropped off until the New Year. A lot more Kenyans are travelling and without them we would have experienced a poor December.
The first major storm of the season increased river levels by three feet and sent the dissolved oxygen levels plummeting – resulting in a fish die-off at Purungat. This was followed by another surge in river levels on the 12th – when the river rose by nearly 10 feet (3 meters) for a few hours. Again, a dramatic drop in dissolved oxygen levels corresponded with the rise.
The Table below summarises the number of arrests made, and snares collected, throughout 2013. The number of arrests made was slightly down on the two previous years but the number of snares collected was a record. As usual, over 90% of the arrests were made in the Northern Serengeti – mainly in the Lemai Wedge. Nearly 100% of the snares were recovered in the Lemai Wedge. The worrying aspect in 2013 was the increased threat from poachers with firearms, and the pressure on rhino and elephant from these armed poachers. We managed to thwart an attempt on our rhino; arrest one of the people involved and recover an AK47 with 17 rounds of ammunition. It was much harder for us to deal with elephant poachers, who are coming closer and closer to the Mara Triangle. A concerted effort by the Conservancy, the Mara Elephant Project (MEP), Naboisho Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) reduced the number of elephant fatalities in the Mara region from 139 in 2012 to around 55 in 2013. However, there are still one or two hotspots and the Nyakweri Forest, just North of the Conservancy, was certainly one in 2013. The fact that the Masai close ranks around their own – and people don’t want elephant in some of these areas, has made it extremely difficult to identify and apprehend the culprits. We have just made one breakthrough and hopefully there will be more to follow.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three, of nine, poachers on the night of the first near Lemai. The group were carrying food and supplies for several days and were on their way to camp on the Mara River. We recovered 25 wire snares.
Three wire snares were recovered during a routine patrol on the 2nd. The Iseiya team then set an ambush near Konyoike on the Kenya/Tanzania border and reported a lot of poacher activity between Konyoike and Miungu and again near Sampura in the Lemai Wedge. The rangers managed to arrest two people who had killed seven Thompson’s gazelle with dogs and torches at around midnight.
The following morning the rangers from Kinyangaga reported that they had seen three poachers. They were joined by our Ngiro-are rangers and managed to arrest one person, the other two escaped.
Some people were seen trying to spear a buffalo in the Triangle, along the escarpment, on the 5th. Three people were arrested in their homes on information from the community but were later released for lack of evidence. It would appear that the buffalo was wounded and two spears were recovered at the scene.
Sixteen snares were recovered around Miungu in the Lemai Wedge on the 6th and a further four were recovered on the 8th – one zebra was found dead in a snare. The previous night the Iseaiya team had set an ambush near Sampura in the Lemai Wedge – poachers came in and hunted but evaded arrest – the following morning two Thompson Gazelle carcasses were recovered in that area.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one, of four, people on the morning of the 9th at Ngira in the northern Serengeti. They had killed two warthog. The same day the Oloololo rangers patrolled Kisumu Ndogo along the river and found six wire snares hidden in a hole. That evening the Ol Kurruk rangers teamed up with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Mara Elephant Project (MEP) rangers and arrested two people who had killed two zebra and a topi on the escarpment. The two were jailed for sixteen months each.
The Iseiya rangers had a good day on the 11th. Firstly, they caught two people near Lempise – with 25 wire snares and supplies for a few days. They were off to camp on the Mara River, near the Bologonja/Mara junction. The Ngiro-are rangers recovered six snares on the same day. That same evening they managed to arrest three more people near Kokamange at 7.15 pm – the three were part of a large group, estimated at around 20, who were on their way to hunt gazelle with dogs. One can not imagine the skill it takes to arrest people in the dark.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 17 snares on the 13th. On the same day the Iseiya rangers arrested one person at Kokamange at 5.00 pm, in the rain, two spears were recovered and one person escaped. That night the same rangers arrested three more people on the Masanga route – they had spears and machetes.
One young elephant was shot late on the 13th. The rangers found the carcass on the 14th, together with a number of spent AK47 cartridges. Yet again, we have been met with a wall of silence on who the poachers are – several elephant have been killed in the same area, using AK47 and G3 rifles and yet the community knows nothing.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three, of four, poachers in an ambush on the night of the 16th. The poachers were carrying 16 wire snares. That day the Oloololo rangers recovered 13 snares near Maji ya Bett.
Some patient investigative work by the Mara Elephant Project paid off: they joined forces with officers from the KWS and managed to arrest one person and recover one gun, an AK47 with eighteen rounds of ammunition on the night of the 24th. This is one, of three guns, that has been used in the recent killing of elephant on the escarpment.
Our patrols found two or three places in the Triangle where warthog had been dug out of their holes over the Christmas period but were unable find the culprits. Twelve wire snares were recovered during this period.
The Iseiya rangers crossed the Mara River on the 29th and patrolled the Ngira Lugga, in the Northern Serengeti. They came across two recently killed elephant – one and exceptionally large bull – the animals had been shot and the tusks taken. They also arrested one person with a snare – someone had taken three of his other snares.
Revenue and Accounts
The Board approved the audited accounts for the year ending 30th June 2013. The key points were that the accounts were:
- Revenue had dropped by nearly 15%, from Ksh 224,097,000 to Ksh 192,429,000;
- Recurrent expenditure had increased by 5%, from Ksh 187,525,000 to Ksh 196,970,000
- We had an operating deficit of Ksh 7,668,000
- Advertising and conservancy promotion includes the cost of revenue collection
We were only able to deal with the deficit because we had built up reserves. However, total revenue continues to drop and November was no exception – Ksh 29.9 million in 2011, 23.13 million in 2012 and 21.3 million in 2013. This continued decline in revenue gives cause for concern and we will have to make some hard decisions on cost-cutting. Our share of the revenue collected in November is approximately half our monthly running cost and we have had to dig into reserves at this early stage. If this downward trend continues we will only break even for one month in February – we will be relying on reserves to cover the shortfall for the other six months. This is unsustainable, and will certainly be unmanageable if we have to implement a 60% pay hike that was negotiated between the Ministry of Local Government and the Local Government Workers Union in 2012. This hike is retroactive to September 2012.
We started digging the foundations for new NCO’s housing at Iseiya.
We patched sections of the main roads and the Serena airstrip.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January 2014
· Transfer staff;
· Implement new County wage guidelines;
· Work on new housing;
· Continue with road repairs; and
· Finalise trip arrangements for staff.