December 2016

General

A total of 434 people were arrested by our rangers in 2016 – even if we remove the 115 people arrested for illegal logging and charcoal burning we still broke the record, set last year, of 318 arrests.  The great majority – over 95% - of the arrests for poaching were made in the Serengeti.  The remainder were arrests on the escarpment, a few along the River on the Narok side of the Reserve and one or two as they escaped after eluding arrest on the river.  The Flir thermal imaging camera greatly helped in apprehending poachers at night and this equipment is now indispensible in our ambushes.

 

We also smashed the record for the number of snares collected:  7,781 against our previous record of 5,337.  Again, 99% of the snares were recovered in the Serengeti, the vast majority in the Lemai Wedge.  Table 1 below gives a summary of the arrests made and snares collected in 2016.

 

Table 1:  Arrests made and snares collected in 2016 & since 2001

One can only speculate, but what would the situation have been like, if it were not for the tireless work put in by our wardens and rangers – they all deserve to be congratulated and recognised for their amazing work.  We should not forget what the Mara Triangle and northern Serengeti were like when the Conservancy took over management of the Triangle in 2001 – two thirds of the Triangle was unvisited by either the rangers or tourists;  there were semi-permanent poachers’ camps along the Mara River, the Salt-lick and Nyumba Nane.  There was one herd of buffalo near Oloololo Gate and one rhino in the Triangle.  Lions were not seen in at least one third of the Triangle and throughout the Lemai Wedge.  We did not see a lion in the Lemai Wedge for about five years and buffalo were not seen there for several years.  There were no tourist camps in the Northern Serengeti – too dangerous and insecure for tourists.  This year there were 45 camps – six of them permanent.  The unprecedented collaboration between the Mara Conservancy and the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) in the Serengeti and the foresight of the Serengeti management to work with the Conservancy has surely rescued a huge swathe of the ecosystem from complete destruction from a wildlife perspective.  All this done with less than 50 Conservancy rangers!!  Their professionalism and zero tolerance for corruption increasingly mean that they are the go-to team when there are incidents outside the Triangle – whether it is dealing will illegal logging or charcoal burning, theft in villages and in camps or clashes between communities – we are called to assist.  This month was no exception we were called to assist after armed robberies in three villages, rescued 80 people from tribal clashes over Christmas and assisted after a robbery in Cottars 1920’s camp East of the Mara.

 

We talk about the amazing work done by our rangers, but it is the whole Mara Conservancy team that have made our success possible – the road team and the great work they do to maintain our roads (who remembers what they were like 15 years ago?), the Administration, our anti-harassment teams, mechanics who keep our fleet going, gate staff and other support staff.  We must not forget KAPS and the great work they do in revenue collection.  Well done all of you!!!

 

December has been remarkably dry, only a few showers at the very end of the month, and there is every chance that the short rains will fail over most of the country.  The worry is that the drought affecting large parts of Kenya will continue through 2017.

 

The Sub-County Commissioner for Narok West held a security meeting for stakeholders at Mara Serena on the 4th.  It was well attended.

 

The Chief Executive took a week off and went to England from the 7th to the 14th and then another five days off over Christmas to visit family in Tanzania. 

 

Seiya Ltd have upgraded their radio system and donated eight of their old hand held Motorola radios;  re-programmed to the Conservancy frequency.  We hope that we will also be able to upgrade our system to a digital system once funds become available.

 

The Chief Executive met with Mr Moses Chelanga to discuss the Management Agreement on the 22nd.  We are running out of options for retaining revenue at source after failure to get an change in the omnibus amendments, as had been proposed.

 

Veterinary

Samples taken from cases of suspected canine distemper in dogs on the escarpment came back positive.  Dr A Takita collected another 4,500 doses of vaccine to cover all the dogs in the area. 

 

Research

Mr Stratton Hatfield visited the Triangle and placed tracking devices on two martial eagles, he already had one on the Narok side of the Reserve.  His report is most interesting – showing the extensive area these birds cover.  The nesting pair on the Narok side brought an incredible number and variety of prey to the nest, including:  70 coqui francolin, 10 red necked spurfowl, 2 red-winged francolin (fairly rare in the Mara), 3 black/white bellied bustards, 11 warthog piglets, 9 banded mongoose, 2 Thompson’s gazelle fawns, 1 cape hare and 1 unidentified – all in three and a half months! 

 

Stratton also had some interesting sightings of other birds of prey:  Verraux eagle near Ngiro-are, Beaudouin’s snake-eagle, a melanistic Ovambo sparrowhawk and a lizard buzzard.

 

Dr Nic Elliot has circulated a paper:

 

Elliot, N & Gopalaswamy, A M.  Towards accurate and precise estimates of lion density (accepted for publication) doi:10 1111/cobi.12878. 

 

This paper uses a detailed statistical methodology that the authors argue is the most reliable means of determining a population.  They also caution against trying to do a trend analysis of the lion population in the Mara, given the different survey techniques that have been used in the past.  They estimate that there are 420 lions over one year old in the study area (The Masai Mara National Reserve has 250 and surrounding conservancies have 170) at a density of 16.85 ± 1.30 per 100 km2.  The sex ratio was calculated at 2.2 females : 1 male;  a ratio consistent with other studies.

 

Staff

One member of staff, Ranger Lekutuk, was suspended for two months for being absent from work for ten days without authority.

The stations all held a Christmas party on the 25th – we slaughtered a number of goats and gave soft drinks and beer.

 

Wildlife

Most of the wildebeest left, leaving a few small groups but the zebra have remained and we had large concentrations throughout the month.

 

Three elephant were reported with wire snares.  The first one had a wire snare around its neck and this was removed by a KWS vet on the Musiara side of the river on the 27th.  Two others;  one with a snare on a hind leg and another with a snare on a front leg were seen but disappeared into the riverine forest before they could be treated.

 

Tourism

The Christmas season was busy with a number of foreign tourists but the majority of visitors were Kenyans.  It is great to see that Kenyans are taking an interest in our Parks and Reserves and coming to see wildlife.

 

Security

Thirty seven people were arrested during the month;  three of them were hunting hippo on the Narok side of the Reserve, near Musiara.  We collected 239 wire snares and found a wide variety of animals that had been killed by poachers.  These included:  7 wildebeest, 6 zebra, 10 Thompson’s gazelle, 6 impala, 3 warthog, 1 lion, 1 buffalo, 2 reedbuck and 2 hippo.  One wildebeest was rescued.

 

The Ngiro-are rangers patrolled around Miungu on the third and recovered 39 snares – they rescued one wildebeest and found another dead in a snare.  They also found one dead zebra.

 

The Iseiya team went deep into the Northern Serengeti on the 2nd and joined up with TANAPA rangers from Tabora B.  They patrolled together for two days and one night and found numerous old poacher camps – nothing recent.  But they did recover 37 snares and found:  one lion, one buffalo, four wildebeest and two zebra dead in the snares.  It would appear that recent patrols by our rangers in that area had made an impact.  They also reported that the wa Kuria were operating right across the Northern Serengeti and that they were living with the Masai between Klein’s Camp and Lobo, hiring their donkeys to carry out meat and return with foodstuffs.

 

The Iseiya team recovered seven snares during the day and then arrested one person on the night of the 5th near Kogatende – he was on his way to resupply a poachers’ camp and was spotted by using the Flir.  The following morning early the rangers raided the camp and arrested six people – they had killed a hippo and two zebra. 

 

The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person on the 6th as he and his companion entered the Serengeti to hunt with dogs.  Over the next week our patrols recovered 62 snares but did not report any butchered animals.  On the 12th our Tanzanian counterparts reported that shots had been heard by a drilling crew;  drilling water for a proposed permanent camp for Kibo Safaris.  They also reported that two people were seen chasing two elephant.  Our rangers joined up with them and searched the area the next morning;  saw the elephant but no sign of the poachers.

 

We received a report from the balloon crew at Little Governors of a hippo with a spear in it between their camp and Sankuria on the 14th.  We sent the rangers to patrol both sides of the River, one team crossing over and taking some rangers from Musiara Gate.  Within 200 yards of starting their patrol the rangers came across a poachers’ camp and managed to arrest two, of five people.  The poachers had arrived the night of the 12/13th and had speared and wounded two hippo; the reported hippo being one of them.  That night we set three ambushes and managed to arrest one more person from the gang at 1.00 am – by using the Flir.  The remaining two somehow managed to elude arrest.  The next morning;  a search if the area resulted in the recovery of their belongings.   Two pieces of found ivory weighing around five kilograms were found in one of the bags.  One of the speared hippo was seriously wounded and had to be destroyed.

 

There were numerous armed raids on the villages surrounding the Triangle and we were called out to assist after nearly all of them.  One such incident was on the 15th, in which several shops were raided and one person was shot dead in a village called Mitenguar.  The dogs followed the tracks to the road and lost them. 

 

Both our ranger teams left at 1.00 am on the 18th and set up ambushes along the escarpment near Kinyangaga.  They used the Flir to monitor six people as they entered the Serengeti and managed to arrest four of them.  This group were on their way to check their snares – set in the Ngiro-are swamp.  Our rangers subsequently found five snares.   On the same night we were informed that some people had game meat near Ngos-Nanyuki – a small village between the Triangle and Lolgorien.  The Oloololo rangers teamed up with the Anne Kent-Taylor scouts and managed to arrest three people;  the first was seen carrying meat and he led the team to where the others had dried game meat (from 2 reedbuck) hidden in sacks of maize.

 

The Iseiya team crossed over the river into the Northern Serengeti on the 19th and arrested seven people on one of the tributaries upstream on the Bologonja River.  The poachers had been there three days and had killed 10 Thompson’s gazelle, six impala and two warthog.  They had set six snares, but nothing had been caught in the snares.  One of our rangers was bitten by a poacher’s dog – fortunately not badly.

 

The Oloololo/Anne Kent-Taylor rangers arrested three people between Masanja and Saina’s Lugga in the Lemai Wedge on the 20th.  They had 11 snares and had killed two wildebeest and one zebra.  That night the Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush and followed a group of five poachers chasing zebra into their snares at Miungu.  One person was arrested and one of our rangers fell and broke his wrist – he was taken to hospital.

 

A total of 45 snares were recovered between the 21st and 26th – all around the Ngiro-are swamp, Miungu and Limana in the Lemai Wedge.

 

The Iseiya team crossed the river and patrolled along the Bologonja River on the 27th and arrested five people who had set up camp the previous night.  They had already killed a warthog and had 10 snares with them.  On the same day the Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person on the Island – two escaped. 

 

The Ngiro-are team joined up with their TANAPA counterparts on the 29th and patrolled towards Tabora B.  That evening they set an ambush and managed to arrest two people.  They recovered 10 snares and the Iseiya team recovered seven more on the 30th.

 

Revenue and Accounts

November is traditionally a slow month, and this year was no exception, but we continue to see a significant improvement in visitor numbers.  This November revenue was up by 47% on the same month last year.

 

Our management accounts for the first five months of the financial year show a 35% increase in revenue over the same period last year and a 13% increase on our budget estimates (Ksh 139,771,981 actual against 91,668,479 last year and a budget of 123,836,004).  We have managed to keep expenditure to within 3% of budget (Ksh 68,333,879 against a budget of 66,482,487) but we will be unable to hold expenditure close to budget because of the additional costs incurred in hosting an addition 35 rangers.

Repairs and maintenance

We took delivery of KCJ 089X, a new Land Rover Pick-up, at the beginning of the month.

 

We have had problems with our Suzuki Maruti engines – very unusual, as they are excellent engines.  We traced it to the fuel from Roadstar and sent some for analysis by SGS in Mombasa – the result came back that the fuel was adulterated and unsuitable for vehicles.  The results were sent to Roadstar who acknowledged that they had also received complaints elsewhere but did not accept any responsibility.

 

We repaired the trailer axle – three weeks later the same axle snapped.

 

We overhauled the engine on KBS 645T, one of our Land Rovers after it was over-revved, breaking the rocker arms.

 

We did a very comprehensive service on the grader, repairing all small leaks and replacing a number of O rings.

 

We took the back off the Ngiro-are Land Cruiser and welded all the broken mountings and any cracks.

 

We cemented the floors of the new Uni-Huts at Oloololo and Little Governors.

 

We resurfaced the road between Mara Serena and the 4km junction and also patched sections of the lower road to Oloololo Gate.

Report on focus for December

Focus for January 2017

·       Complete cementing floors at Ngiro-are;

·       Put roofs over uni-huts at Kilo 2;

·       Work on semi-permanent house for Dr Takita;

·       Continue with road works;

·       Repair trailer axle;  and

·       Survey Reserve boundary.