There were isolated showers until the 9th, when there was heavy and widespread rain. The rains then eased off for a few days and returned with storms just before Christmas, the weather then cleared for the remainder of the month.
Angama held a party on the 6thto announce the winner of their photographic competition. The best photograph was awarded to Mr Anil Shah – a well known and very successful photographer. Mr Shah drives himself and so the award of a new Suzuki Maruti jeep for the guide went to a driver/guide from WildEye – well deserved, as he guided for a photographer with two of the monthly winners.
There was a community meeting on the 1stto request for grazing, we agreed to review the situation on the 8thand then allowed grazing along a section of the escarpment until the 31st.
I met with the Directors of Angama and explained the proposed increase in Park Fees, hopefully to take effect in July 2019. Angama strongly support the proposal and would be happy to accept the increase. We are awaiting approval from the County Government before we can implement the proposed increases.
I went to India from the 17thto the 21stto serve on a panel formed to evaluate project proposals for the Habitats Trust – a new family Trust set up to protect lesser known, but endangered, habitats and species in India. The panel consisted of two eminent Indian conservationists and myself and we awarded three one-year grants. I managed to get a day and a half off to visit Ranthambore and had one amazing game drive – an incredible tiger sighting and an excellent leopard sighting – in one three-hour game drive.
Stratton Hatfield and Simon Thomsett ringed three immature Martial eagles on the 12th. Stratton has completed his MSc and has now registered to do his PhD.
The Chief Executive met with Dr Grant Hopcraft on the 15thand discussed the wildebeest migration, a subject he has been studying for many years. He had a number of very interesting comments and insights:
· The Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute (TAWRI) have been comparing different counting methods and found that they can accurately count from satellite photographs using a machine counter and an algorithm that can differentiate wildebeest from other species. The machine counting method can get a result out in 22 hours versus the old physical count that takes up to five months;
· The results from the last count in 2018 have not been released but the last official count from 2015 showed that there were 1.34 million wildebeest;
· The wildebeest are spending 25-30 days a year less in the Mara than they used to;
· Samples from tail hairs taken from collared wildebeest show that there are lower stress level metabaloids in the hairs when the wildebeest migrate into the Northern Serengeti than in the past.
It would appear that the work TANAPA, ourselves and others like Grumeti, have done in securing the Northern Serengeti is paying dividends but may also have unintended consequences. The proliferation of tourist camps (making it more difficult for poachers to operate openly) and the increased security in the area now means that the wildebeest are now safer, less stressed and feel no need to move into the Mara.
Sergeant M Rono requested a transfer to the County, this was approved and he left on the 19th.
We held Christmas parties for the staff on the 25th.
Wildlife sightings were excellent throughout the month. The few remaining wildebeest left with the rain and the zebra started heading North, into the Conservancies after Christmas. These Conservancies offer the last secure refuge for wildlife – beyond them, in their traditional dispersal areas, the land has been extensively fenced and there is no longer anywhere for the zebra and wildebeest to go.
A leopard was seen on the BBC Lugga on the 30thwith two small cubs – she was surrounded by hyena – managed to rescue one cub but the other was killed.
Warden Alfred Bett saw a pangolin at Nyumba Nane on the 30th– a very rare sighting.
The Christmas and New Year period was extremely busy – and most of the camps and lodges recorded full occupancy.
A Total of 34 people were arrested for poaching in December. We collected 355 wire snares, rescued one wildebeest and two zebra, two wildebeest were found dead in a snare, 12 wildebeest had been butchered, as were three zebra, one hippo and one wart hog. Table 1 below gives us a summary of the arrests and snares collected over the past few years
Table 1: Summary of arrests made and snares collected since 2016.
The most noticeable figure in the Table above is the very significant decline in the number of snares collected, almost half the number collected in the two previous years. There is no doubt at all that our patrols and collaboration with TANAPA is beginning to have a major impact on the poachers’ ability to set snares – this now confined to a narrow strip along the escarpment.
Both our teams went out on late patrol on the 1stand the Iseiya team managed to arrest one person at Olaro Nyioke in the Lemai Wedge. He was one of four and the others escaped. Two snares were recovered. The following day three more people were arrested. The first was at Lempise, again he was one of four. A total of 71 snares were recovered and one wildebeest had been butchered. That evening the Iseiya team crossed the river to Ngira and arrested two people who had killed a zebra and were carrying the meat – it took two hours from the time the two were first seen until the rangers managed to arrest them.
A total of 38 snares were recovered on the 3rd, two of them were seen near SkyShip by an Angama guide. The rest were recovered along the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge. Two zebra had been butchered.
Four people were arrested in two different incidents on the 4th. The Nigro-are rangers were out all night and managed to arrest two people at 5.00 am, as they were returning home from hunting. They were carrying meat from three wildebeest that they had killed. The Iseiya team saw vultures on a daylight patrol and went to investigate and found two youths also checking out the vultures – it was a natural wildebeest death. Both were arrested and handed over to the rangers at Kinyangaga. A total of 35 snares were recovered, three of them in the Triangle – set for giraffe along the Nigro-are swamp. The rest were found along the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge.
Five more people were arrested on the 5th, in two separate incidents. The Iseiya team patrolled from Lemai along the escarpment, rescuing one zebra within a few hundred meters of the Lemai station. They managed to recover 59 snares and arrest three people between 2.00 in the afternoon and dusk. Soon after dark a large group, estimated at 15 people, entered that Lemai Wedge to hunt buffalo with dogs and snares. The rangers managed to arrest two of them, find two freshly killed wildebeest and recover seven snares.
Five more arrests were made on the 6thfrom an ambush set near Mlima Hotel, across the river. The poachers came into the ambush before 8.00 pm after killing one wildebeest and told the rangers of a poachers’ camp nearby. The following morning the rangers raided the camp and managed to arrest both people. Sofia, one of our dogs was instrumental in one of the arrests. The person was well hidden in a pool of water and would never have been detected. There were three wildebeest carcasses in camp.
Two, of four, people were arrested on the 8thnear Machechwe during an ambush at 8.00 pm. A total of 57 snares were recovered that same day along the escarpment. .
The following day a combined team patrolled Nyumba Nane in the Triangle and came across a week-old hippo carcass from an animal that had been poached and butchered. The second animal known to have been poached in the Triangle this year. The Nigro-are rangers near a place called Bush Top in the Northern Serengeti and managed to arrest two people from a group of four who had killed and butchered a wildebeest.
A total of 30 snares were recovered on the 10th, one wildebeest and one zebra were rescued and one wildebeest was found dead in a snare. One person was arrested near Lempise that night
Fifty six snares were recovered along the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge between the 11thand the 20th. One wildebeest had been butchered and another was dead in a snare.
Two, of four people were arrested at Oldonyo Ol Paek, just on the Kenya side of the border, on the 24th. They were carrying two spears each and were probably on their way to the Salt-lick to hunt hippo.
The was a report from a tourist camp near Bologonga, in the Northern Serengeti, on the 27th, of poachers coming into camp and asking for food and sodas. TANAPA and searched but were unable to locate the poachers. The following day our rangers set up an ambush near the old Sayari and managed to arrest three people who were part of a larger group of eight hunting with dogs.
Two more people were arrested on the 30th, after an informer told our TANAPA counterparts that four people were camping in the Lemai Wedge. Our Nigro-are rangers joined forces with them and found the poachers camping near Nyakita Pembe, they had killed one wart hog.
Revenue and Accounts
We continue to record exceptional visitor numbers, with November showing a 39% increase in visitors over November last year. Our revenue was up from Ksh 25.5 million in November 2017 to Ksh 44 million. A large part of the increase can be attributed to balloon revenue from Governors Balloons.
Repairs and maintenance
We made a new road from the Sun Lodge road to the barrier at Kilo 2 – this means that all traffic to and from the lodge must pass the barrier. It was not the case in the past.
We have plastered the walls in the new stores, very little remains to be done before we can paint and install shelving.
The circle drive on the grader has a large crack – this will be taken to Nairobi early in the New Year for repair.
The road team continued to repair damaged sections of road – they are in excellent condition.
We have ordered three new Suzuki Maruti jeeps to replace our old ones – Maruti jeeps are no longer being manufactured and we are ordering from the last consignment. CMC motors have recalled their Maruti jeep, loaned to us for the past two years. We have made an offer for the vehicle and are awaiting their response.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January 2019
· Complete stores;
· Repair grader circle drive;
· Conduct staff transfers on the 15th;
· Possibly collect new Suzukis;
· Continue with road repairs;
· Continue negotiations for Main Reserve; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.