Heavy rains continued into early February and then stopped until the last three days of the month, when heavy and widespread storms continued. The rest of the month was characterised by hot, sunny days and cloudless nights. The Mara River is lower than ever – this is the third year in a row that we have recorded the river as being lower than previously known. If there is no rain in the catchment area within the next month there is a real danger that the river will stop flowing for the first time on record. At present there are stretches that are no more than six inches deep in the deepest sections across the whole width of the river, the lowest level last year was about one foot of water.
The Chief Executive met with M/s M Murphy and M Wangutusi of Deloitte’s to discuss taxation on the 3rd. They have quoted Ksh 150,000 for seeking Tax exemption on our behalf – this was approved by the Board on the 18th.
Mr N Sarisar attended a three day workshop on cheetah at Soysambu from the 7th.
The Chief Executive gave a presentation on the Mara to 40 members of the Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry at Base Camp on the 16th.
The Chief Executive met with other members of a steering committee on development in the Mara at the African Wildlife Foundation offices on the 17th. A Task Force has been commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to look into setting guidelines on further development in the Mara ecosystem.
The Annual General Meeting was held on the 18th to approve the 2003/4 accounts and the appointment of Deloitte’s as company auditors. This was followed by a Board meeting.
The Chief Executive hosted Ms Bongo Woodley, Senior Warden Mount Kenya National Park and Christian Lambrechts from UNEP who were conducting an aerial survey of the Mau Forest on behalf of the Government. They reported the most severe forest destruction, most of it ongoing, that they had ever seen.
Ms Mary Wykstra spent two days in the Triangle, working with “Cheetah 1”. The Cheetah Research Programme has loaned us one digital camera, one GPS and a pair of binoculars to be used in monitoring cheetah movements within the Triangle.
The Chief Executive spent a day with Mr John F Turner, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Mr Paul Augustinus has donated an oil painting of two lions , with the Oloololo escarpment as a backdrop, to the Mara Conservancy. Mr Augustinus is one of the best wildlife artists in the world and his gesture is overwhelming.
One young buffalo was found with a snare and treated by Dr Kashmiri on the 17th, he also treated the calf’s mother with an abscess on her neck.
One lioness was found dead from the “Out of Africa” pride on the 21st, she had two cubs of about 14 months old and they are too young to fend for themselves. This pride had taken to going up onto the escarpment and at present we can only locate one female and four cubs – out of 11 - and we are concerned that the remainder have either been killed by the Masai, or in the case of at least two cubs, died after their mother. There is also a report that both males from this pride were killed after attacking cattle on the escarpment – certainly the two males have not been seen in February.
There were large zebra herds, and a few wildebeest, crossing back into the Triangle from the 20th, this is unusual for this time of year.
Mr D Sikawa returned from Yellowstone and has proceeded on leave, he is due to return on the 10th March.
B Heath took six days off from the 7th.
We completed our routine staff transfers on the 16th.
We have circulated appraisal forms to all staff for their perusal; so that they will at least know and understand what they will be appraised on. Appraisals are due to start in April/May.
We continue to enjoy a wonderful year, with Mara Serena operating at over 95% capacity for the whole of February. We can expect a slight drop from mid-March, Serena already have confirmed bookings of 90% for the month, and the indications are that Serena will not close for renovations in May and June as originally anticipated.
Narok County Council have been threatening to make everyone who enters a Narok gate pay park entrance fees. This would mean that anyone driving to the Triangle through Sekenani would be made to pay one extra day’s fees.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in February
Three poachers were arrested during the month by our security staff and a fourth apprehended by Mr James Robertson. The total arrests to date by our staff is now 365. An additional 23 wire snares were recovered.
A night patrol on the 5th came across four wa Kuria poachers near Masanja in Tanzania hunting gazelle with dogs at 2.30 am the poachers were followed until 4.00 am when our patrol tried to apprehend them – unfortunately the poachers escaped but left behind two Thompson’s gazelle and one impala fawn, together with one eight-cell torch.
There were tracks of four poachers found near the salt-lick on the 6th. We found where the poachers had camped on the river opposite the Talek junction but there were no signs of any animal being killed.
One hippo was found killed along the river, upstream from Mara Serena on the 15th. A search was made along the river for any poacher’s camp and nothing found and it was assumed that the hippo had been speared on the other side and then came across the river and died – the poachers had then followed it and taken the meat.
One poacher was arrested by a joint patrol between the Ngiro-are team and our Tanzanian counterparts on the 17th as two people were entering the Serengeti at mid-day. They had spears and bows with arrows but no snares.
Nine wire snares were recovered in Tanzania by a joint patrol between ourselves and Anne Kent-Taylor’s scouts on the 19th. One zebra was found dead in a snare.
Poacher’s tracks were spotted along the Mara River, downstream from Mara Serena on the 21st, patrols on that day and again on the following day yielded nothing. It was apparent that the poachers were camping on the Narok side of the river and we decided to intensify patrols across the river.
On the night of the 22nd six cattle were stolen from near Kawai, the first theft for three years, we mobilised all our security at midnight and they searched until the following night but we found no tracks, and no sign of the cattle.
On the 24th a routine patrol along the river came across six poachers upstream from Mara Serena, on the Narok side of the river. The poachers escaped but we laid an ambush on their camp and arrested two at 9.00 pm. They had 14 wire snares but not killed anything. However, they had been given some warthog meat by another group that had left the previous night.
Mr James Robertson apprehended a poacher near Lookout hill, on the Narok side of the river on the 25th. He was one of a group of eight poachers who were hunting with dogs and had killed several warthog and at least one aardvark. We assisted in trying to locate the other poachers but without success. The night the Narok rangers ambushed the camp and arrested two people, we set up two ambushes on anticipated escape routes but without success.
We completed placing murram on the worst section of road between Oloololo Gate and Mara Serena, there is only one bad section remaining.
We cleared all the camp sites and replenished firewood.
The grader worked on all the roads and they are now in excellent condition.
We overhauled the gyro-mower and then cut grass tracks in the most heavily used game viewing areas.
We have completed thatching the mess at Ngiro-are, this building is now ready for use. We will now re-thatch the uniports at Ngiro-are before moving to Mara Bridge.
We have collected sufficient ballast to start the store at Serena, work will start on this project at the beginning of March.
A new partition was made in the Nairobi office for the accountant.
Revenue and Accounts
Revenue continues to be higher than for any of the previous three years and the prognosis is that the trend will continue for the remainder of this financial year. The 2003/4 audited accounts were tabled at the AGM and approved on the 18th February. This brings us fully up to date on our statutory obligations.
Ms Pannell, Ker and Foster have started an audit of the Group Ranch funds since inception, this should be complete in March.
Report on focus for February
Focus for March
Start building store at Serena;
Collect new vehicle and sell Land Rover;
Install solar system at Ngiro-are and in the Chief Executive’s camp;
Start working on budget and work plan for 2005/6; and
Finalise Group Ranch audit and start work on external audit of Earthview.