We had a few sporadic storms throughout the early part of the month, only one or two were heavy enough to stimulate grass growth. However, there was a very heavy and widespread storm from the 24th and the rains continued in earnest until the end of the month. For most of the month we were under considerable pressure to assist the locals along the escarpment with grazing and finally gave them permission to graze their cattle along the slopes of the escarpment; most of these areas had been burnt by the Masai and offered very little grazing. The spring at Oloololo gate dried up for the first time and we had to start ferrying water to the staff based at the gate. The heavy storms in the last few days of the month alleviated a dire situation; the whole area is now green, the water has been replenished in most of the water courses and the Oloololo spring recharged. The Mara River had virtually stopped flowing in the Serengeti but the situation has slightly improved with recent rain.
The Chief Executive met with the Hon G Konchellah and Dr M Isahakia on the 7th to discuss the possibility of establishing a visitor centre in the Triangle. Dr Isahakia has been Director of the National Museums of Kenya.
The Chief Executive met with the Clerk and Chairman of the Council on the 21st to discuss issues and a familiarisation visit by the Council. This was followed by the visit by the full council on the 23rd. They had lunch at Mara Serena and then visited potential development sites for camps and lodges before going to Ngiro-are.
The tender committee, comprising M/s D Konchellah, J Robertson and J Soin sat to review tenders for the Earthview audit. They did not accept any of the tenders and we will probably seek for new tenders.
We instituted an environment day on the first Sunday of the month – our staff all went around the Reserve collecting rubbish. This will now become routine and we hope to involve the camps and lodges in collecting refuse in and around their compounds.
We still have approximately 10 - 15,000 wildebeest in the Triangle, there was a peak in births coinciding with the full moon on the 10th. The wildebeest have been following sporadic storms on both sides of the border but look as if they will stay in the short term.
The cheetah with five cubs lost three of her cubs to birds of prey on the 4-5th, she then moved her cubs. Five days later she lost her two remaining cubs, most probably to jackals. She was seen with her cubs in the evening - that night she obviously hunted and the following morning was found having fed but minus her cubs. This was most unfortunate and the second litter known to die whilst still in the nest in the past four months. “Cleopatra” the female cheetah that lost her cubs a few months ago disappeared for a while and has reappeared with severe mange that requires urgent treatment.
The lioness with two cubs near Mara Bridge also lost one of her four month old cubs somewhere between the 7-10th of February.
Dr Stephanie Dloniak submitted her annual report on predator populations within the Masai Mara for the period ending October 2005. In her report she estimated the adult hyena, lion and cheetah populations as follows:
Hyena 424 ± 41
She estimated 60 lions in the Mara Triangle, the same estimate as ours. She was concerned about a possible 40% drop in the lion population in the past 15 years and would like to do a more in-depth and longer term study on the lion population and possibly base it in the Triangle.
A routine patrol by Anne Kent-Taylor’s scouts and our scouts from Oloololo gate found 17 dead hippo upstream from Mara Rianta. We have seen several dead hippo in the Triangle and dozens of very weak animals and can expect to see many deaths until the grazing situation improves. Hippo seem to be the worst affected but we were also beginning to see a number of thin and weak buffalo as well.
One young bull elephant was found dead near the Tanzanian border, it had slipped and wedged itself in a game trail.
Two cattle were killed by elephant along the escarpment on the 25th, there is no longer any need for people to graze their cattle along the escarpment and we will stop it immediately.
One very tame male leopard has been seen regularly in the past two weeks, we hope that it will remain in the area.
We conducted our routine staff transfers on the 13-14th.
Mara Serena ended February with 96% occupancy and has a forecast pf 91% for March. Mara Serena continues to have exceptionally high occupancy rates and outperforms all other Serena properties. They were voted one of the World’s top 500 hotels by Travel and Leisure magazine – for which we congratulate them.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in February
16 wa Kuria poachers were arrested during the month, bringing the total arrests to 547. A further 95 wire snares were recovered.
The Serena team arrested two wa Kuria poachers on the 4th, they were part of a group of four who had come into the Serengeti to hunt hippo downstream from Kokatende. No wire snares were recovered and the poachers were arrested the morning they arrived, before they had killed anything.
The Serena/Kokatende teams arrested three wa Kuria poachers on the 11th in a joint operation across the river and downstream from Kokatende. They first arrested two people and then later came across a large group of 17 people as they were entering the Serengeti. They arrested one and the others managed to escape.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three wa Kuria poachers on the night of the 16th near the Ngiro-are swamp. These poachers were armed with very heavy spears and were on their way to the Mara River to hunt hippo when apprehended. That day the same team had found 16 wire snares around the swamp. They saved one eland but found two others dead, together with one dead wildebeest and one dead zebra. Two nights later the same team made contact with a large group of poachers in Tanzania and chased them without success. The poachers had killed 7 oribi and two Thompson’s gazelle with dogs.
We set up a joint observation point with the Tanzanians on the 17th in an area along the escarpment that is heavily traversed by poachers.
The Serena team arrested two of three wa Kuria poachers in Tanzania, towards the Mara Bridge in an area we know as Daraja la Mzee on the 22nd. Both people had been arrested previously and given light sentences. This time we handed them over to the Tanzanians at Kokatende. They had killed two zebra and a topi when arrested. Six wire snares were recovered and they said that the third poacher had escaped with the remainder.
Three wire snares were recovered by the Ngiro-are/Kinyangaga teams on the 24th, they also found the carcasses of two butchered buffalo along the Ngiro-are swamp in Tanzania. The following day another routine patrol in the same area found 12 wire snares, three of which had killed animals; two zebra and one buffalo. On the same day, the 25th, the patrol arrested one wa Kuria poacher between the two bridges known as Daraja Mbili in the Lemai Wedge. The person was hunting alone and had killed one zebra and was in the process of drying it. He also had a hare that he said he has taken from a leopard and three fish that he was drying. We recovered one bow with six poisoned arrows and 17 wire snares, this was more than we normally recover from an individual and we felt that he was the third poacher who had escaped arrest in the same area a few days before.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the morning of the 26th at Nyumba Nane, the ridges in the Triangle between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge. They had arrived that morning and were in the process of hunting a female buffalo that was giving birth when arrested. We recovered 25 wire snares, a bow with poisoned arrows and a spear. This is the first known incursion deep into the Triangle since August 2005, when we apprehended five people in the same area.
One wa Kuria poacher was arrested along the Mara River near Kokatende on the 27th. He was one of a group of six, the others escaped across the river, who had just arrived and were intent on hunting hippo. Spears and food were recovered but no wire snares.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested near Wagakuria in the Serengeti on the 28th by a joint Serena/Kokatende patrol; a third poacher escaped. They had killed two zebra and a wildebeest, 16 wire snares were recovered.
We have been informed that the Tenders for the Mara Bridge to Mara Serena section of our main road were well above the funds allocated for the work. The work will go out to tender a second time and the Mara Conservancy asked to place a bid for this work. This work was originally scheduled for October 2005 and then March 2006.
We have purchased all the required items for the new office at Ngiro-are and have also stockpiled ballast, sand and stone. Building will commence in March.
The road team have continued with repairing sections of the lower Mara Serena to Mara Bridge road. The hydraulic rams for the trailer were leaking and were sent to Nairobi for repair, they were returned at the end of the month.
We sent a few parts from the grader for service and repair, in preparation for the new season.
Revenue and Accounts
Revenue continues to be higher than for the corresponding months in previous years, the high value of the Kenya Shilling reduces this increase to some extent. As we enter the low season we can expect expenditure to exceed revenue for March, April and May but we have sufficient reserves to cover the shortfall and still end the financial year with a reasonably healthy cash balance.
Report on focus for February
Focus for March
· Complete repairs on lower Mara Bridge road;
· Start building office at Ngiro-are;
· Hold Board meeting on 3rd March;
· Start preparing for staff appraisals in April and May;
· Determine way forward with or without management agreement; and
· Finalise Earthview Contract.