There were two days of rain on the 17/18th, just enough to settle the dust. It then dried up for a few days before the rains returned in the last few days of February, with extremely hazy weather and heavy, sustained rain over most of the Triangle.
The Masai set fire to extensive areas along the escarpment and around the Salt-lick. We had hoped to do some burning but these fires meant that we had to put our programme on hold.
The Chief Executive met with Anne Kent-Taylor and Mr Asgar Pathan on the 8th to discuss the A K-T/Care for the Wild scouts. It was agreed that the Conservancy would manage the scouts but that Anne would still be able to use them when requested.
The hearings started in the case against Mr Paul Parkiswa – one of the gang that murdered Mr John D’Olier and seriously injured Pat and Sara Neylan at River Camp in July 2010. The next hearing is scheduled for the 10th April.
Dr Adri Hilligers continues with his quest to build at Cobra Corner and spent a few days in the Triangle surveying “his” site. This is despite a letter from the National Environment Management Authority to Cobra’s Corner Ltd (NEMA/EIA/5/2/589 dated 23rd November 2011), which gives several reasons and concludes:
“..the Authority is of the view that the proposed project will not enhance sustainable development and sound environmental management.
Consequently, the Authority is unable to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment Licence under the provisions of the Act.”
Dr Hilligers was then advised to liaise with the Transmara County Council in order to explore an alternative site – this, he has not done.
The Full Council met on the 24th to discuss, amongst other issues, the Ilkerakeshe attempt to excise part of the Triangle and the support that had been afforded to them by Mara West and Little Governors’ Camps.
Our rangers found one dead elephant near Sankuria on the 22nd. They collected the ivory and found no visible wounds. There were no reported incidents of elephant poaching in the Mara during February (three were killed in the northern Serengeti) – a huge improvement on January, when the final tally was 24 elephant poached in the Mara region. We believe that the arrest of six people with two guns (see Security below) was a factor, as was the arrest of a clinical officer/dealer who was providing poison to the Masai for their spears. The success in both cases can be attributed to information gathered by the Mara Elephant Project and the relationship they have with the Conservancy.
Our cheetah female started moving around with her three cubs on the 20th – these cubs were first sighted on the 1st January when they were only as day or two old.
We have two prides of lions with around ten cubs in each – lets hope that they survive this time. We also have two leopard with two cubs each – we seldom see leopard cubs in the Triangle and hope that they will remain.
Dr D Mijele took blood samples from 10 buffalo as part of a project to study Foot and Mouth Disease in buffalo. He also took 20 samples on the Narok side of the river.
We held a small celebration on the 12th, in honour of the work our rangers did in apprehending the robbers in the Serena incident.
We have revised the Terms of Reference for all our wardens and have also instituted a bonus system for them in the hope that it will encourage them to take greater overall responsibility for their sectors.
Tourist numbers for February were well down on last year, the first real indication of what to expect for the remainder of the year.
A Parliamentary committee visited the Narok side of the Reserve to investigate allegations that Equity Bank had been given the contract for revenue collection incorrectly. The local leaders organised demonstrations to coincide with the visit – the demonstration got out of hand, with valuable equipment being destroyed. The Government took a firm stand on the issue and arrested a number of the ringleaders. We hope that this will now allow tourists to enter the Reserve without being harassed and used as pawns in a dispute that has nothing to do with them. We have asked KAPS, our revenue collectors, to liaise with Equity so that we can verify Narok tickets.
We arrested 24 people and recovered three firearms, two AK47s and a G3. We also recovered 70 rounds of ammunition. In many respects this was an extraordinary month – with some arrests in Tanzania but the serious incidents were all in Kenya. This was one of those months when information played a crucial role. We have now arrested 1,794 people and recovered four firearms. Does this signal a new approach to poaching in, and around, the Mara? We believe it does. We raised the alarm two years ago about the proliferation of illegal firearms in the region and speculated that there would be an increase in armed robberies and poaching – this is happening and we need to work hard to deal with it. These are Masai who are poaching and stealing – something that was unheard of a few years ago. The problem is that there is a real market for ivory and rhino horn- the prices are ridiculously high – I hesitate to even indicate them. This, coupled with ludicrously lenient sentences, is bound to increase Masai involvement and pressure on these animals.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested seven poachers in the first week of February. On the first the rangers arrested one person near the Ngiro-are swamp. That night they arrested another three people on the Masanga route into the Lemai Wedge. Two days later, on the third, they arrested another three people carrying waterbuck meat in an area known as Lempise.
We managed to recover the second firearm used in the attempted robbery of Mara Serena in January. This was again the result of patient investigations and pressure placed on the family of the owner. In this case the owner was not one of the thieves – his gun was for hire and had been used in a number of armed robberies, and possibly in killing elephant.
We had a combined operation with the Mara Elephant Project on the 8th and managed to arrest two people with two leopard skins at Olpusimoru – East of the Reserve. The two were dealers in animal products and said that they had another 17 leopard skins near Kakamega. One, of the two, is a clinical officer who owns clinics in Olpusimoru and Olelaimutia; he bragged about giving poison to people to coat their spears so that they could effectively hunt elephant. They had also been buying ivory but we did not manage to recover any. A second operation with the same team a few days later managed to get two small pieces of broken ivory near Sitoka in Trans Mara.
The Ngiro-are rangers found another dead elephant in the Lemai Wedge on the 8th, the third in two weeks. It looks like the wa Kuria have started targeting elephant – a major diversion from their normal meat hunting. This has serious implications for the elephant that move between the Mara and the northern Serengeti and will definitely add another dimension to our work in the Lemai Wedge.
We had a major success on the night of the 15th. Someone gave us very accurate information that a group of people were transporting guns and that they would be on the road between Lolgorien and Mara Rianta. The Oloololo team set up a roadblock and managed to arrest six people with two guns at 11.30 pm. The Guns, a G3 and an AK47 were recovered with 66 rounds of ammunition, 60 of them 7.62 military ammunition for the G3. These people, all local Masai, were probably responsible for most of the elephant poached in Trans Mara in January and were on their way to hunt around Siana and Ololaimutia, an area that had suffered from a lot of poaching in the recent past. These areas are adjacent to the Narok portion of the Reserve.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person on the 19th, he was fishing near Jiko Nane – between Kokatende and Lemai in the Lemai Wedge.
A combined Conservancy/Mara Elephant Project (MEP) team arrested four people on the night of the 20th in a sting operation that also netted one piece of ivory and eight ostrich eggs. Unfortunately word leaked out and two other people, one with four large elephant tusks and another with two leopard skins, disappeared. It would appear that the Masai are closing ranks around their own – as soon as our people or vehicles are seen word goes out. This makes it very difficult to get into an area undetected. We have been getting criticism for arresting Masai – it seems remarkable the extent to which communities rally around their own, even if they are thieves, bandits and poachers. This syndrome of protecting “one of our own” – even if the person is responsible for serious crimes surely undermines the rule of law and perpetuates impunity and the feeling that one can get away with anything. This is nowhere more apparent than in the case of leaders who are being charged in the International Criminal Court (ICC). These leaders are being hailed as champions of their people – what about the thousands who were killed or displaced?
The Ngiro-are rangers went out on a late patrol on the 21st and arrested two, of six, people at around 5.45 pm. The six were on their way to hunt Thompson’s gazelle with dogs in an area we call Kasarani, in the Lemai Wedge.
Our patrols recovered 30 wire snares on the 24th – almost the first snares this year. These snares had been set between the two crossings that make up Daraja Mbili in the Lemai Wedge. There are large concentrations of zebra, topi and Thompson’s gazelle in this area and signs of extensive night hunting – we keep missing the poachers by a whisker.
The Iseiya rangers arrested two people when they crossed the Mara River and followed it downstream from Purungat and past Kokatende on the 26th. The area downstream from Kokatende is very heavily hunted and we will assist our Tanzanian counterparts with more patrols in that area.
Revenue and Accounts
We placed Ksh 9,900,000 (US$ 120,000) on three-months deposit at 17.75% interest with Stanbic. The interest rates are excellent at present and we should not require these funds until early June. A further US$ 200,000 is in a call deposit account. It may look as if we have ample reserves but we are concerned about the 20 – 30% drop in tourism that is predicted for 2012 and believe that we will require every cent by the end of the year.
We completed repairs to the road between Sankuria and Little Governors and then graded it.
We completed grading all the other roads in the Conservancy and continued with repair work to the roads to Ngiro-are. We hope that these roads will be able to withstand the long rains.
We opened up as many new drains as we could with the grader.
We installed the new uni-hut at the Little Governors barrier and moved on old one from Little Governors’ compound to the barrier. We are working on roofing the two uni-huts and catching water from the new roof. We have also started digging a water catchment pit and will then dig two pit latrines – one for the public.
We completed the soak pit at Iseiya and also emptied the septic tank.
Report on focus for February
Focus for March 2012
· Complete work at Little Governors station;
· Host Councillors;
· Replace seats with benches at Ngiro-are and Serena canteens;
· Continue resurfacing roads to Ngiro-are – weather permitting; and
· Start survey of Triangle;