February was, for the most part, dry; with the exception of three days of rain in the middle of the month. Temperatures were exceptionally high for the Mara throughout most of February – they touched 35o C at times – thanks to Chris Dutton et al and his upgraded weather station at the airstrip, we are now able to see: rainfall, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, soil humidity and soil temperature online. The Conservancy did not have that much rain, but a very heavy storm on Siana and Ol Kinyei had the Talek in flood for a few hours. The drought in many parts of the country is beginning to have a major impact and there is no immediate indication that the rains will start. There is virtually no grass outside the Triangle and we can expect significant cattle deaths at the onset of the rains.
The Senate Finance Committee requested more information from the Conservancy, in their investigation of the petition filed by Mr Joseph Karia, and the on-going feud between the Senator and four Members of Parliament in Narok County. Their request was complied with, and documents submitted on the 18th, as requested. The Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission also requested information and this will be complied with on the 2nd March. There appear to be efforts to reconcile the different parties and we hope that they succeed, so that the County Government can continue with their mandate and development programme.
The contract between the Mara Conservancy and the County Council of Trans Mara expires on the 12th April. We have verbal assurances, but no guarantee, that the contract will be renewed. There will be one or two fundamental changes to the agreement, if one is negotiated, and a Board meeting will be held on the 6th March to chart the way forward.
The Talek flood resulted in a dissolved oxygen crash and the resultant death of hundreds of fish. Thanks to the work done by Amanda Subalusky and Chris Dutton, we are beginning to understand this phenomenon and even predict a likely crash. They are beginning to look at various chemical reactions that may result in such rapid and catastrophic reductions in dissolved oxygen levels, and are beginning to focus on a couple of likely sulphur and ferrous compounds.
Angela Yang has returned to Kenya and is continuing with our development efforts. In the last quarter, we ended successful campaigns with FLOAT and Kenyan artist, Andrew Kamiti. Currently, we are awaiting responses from several donors in order to implement the Spatial and Monitoring Reporting Tool (SMART) in the Mara Triangle. SMART will help our rangers improve our monitoring and better focus our law enforcement efforts.
If you'd like to support Mara Conservancy and our new SMART initiative, our online donation link is: www.maratriangle.org/donate <http://www.maratriangle.org/donate
We have worked out a schedule for unpaid leave and we will start implementing it at the beginning of March.
Thirteen security staff spent the past month in Narok, six have just returned and the remainder have remained. They were deployed there at the request of the County Government.
The Chief Executive will take three weeks off in March – the first extended period away since September 2013.
Naishuro lost her new calf on the 8th – we presume the calf was killed by lions. Naishuro was seen mating with Sairowa on the 19th and had also been joined by her previous calf.
Zebra started crossing back into the Triangle towards the end of the month – the river is extremely low and the crocodiles found it hard to hunt. However, a leopard that has been patrolling the river banks for some time was observed ambushing zebra on more than one occasion. Sadly, even though there are so few vehicles, the few that are out there still manage to harass animals and a crossing on the 28th was no different. There were only five vehicles at a crossing and the leopard ambushed a zebra foal – within seconds three of the cars (KBK 386K, KAD 992Z and KBU 399X) had ruined the crossing, were desperately trying to find the leopard and were driving within metres of it – hidden in tall grass. The remaining two vehicles behaved responsibly and remained at a distance.
The cheetah with four cubs has reappeared in the Triangle after an absence of two months – she is being seen on the burnt area.
There has been a 39% decline in non-resident visitors to the Triangle since 2011, from 57,937 non-resident visitors in 2012 to 35,467 in 2014. There has been a slight increase in resident visitors in the past two years, but this in no way makes up for the loss in revenue from the lack of tourists.
March, April and May are traditionally the worst months of the year for tourists, and this year is no exception. However, we hear that bookings for the high season are looking reasonable. Hopefully we have reached the bottom of the trough and will see a gradual improvement but I still believe that it will take two to three years before we reach 2011 levels.
Figure 1: Number of visitors since January 2011.
A total of 20 poachers were arrested during the month and 121 snares recovered.
There were signs of poacher activity along the border, and into the Triangle, most days, but we were unable to locate either the poachers, or their camps.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered seven wire snares near Kokamange on the 2nd. A further nine snares were recovered on the 9th and on the 10th two people were arrested at first light near Lugga ya Ngiri, they were carrying two zebra heads and a sack-full of stomach contents. The rangers swept the area and recovered 28 more snares.
The two ranger teams set up an ambush on the night of the 19th near Nyakita Pembe and arrested four people after chasing them for most of the night. The poachers were part of a very large group that then split up into smaller groups as they started hunting – the group that was apprehended had killed 10 Thompson’s gazelle by 4.00 am, when they were caught. The following morning the Ngiro-are rangers found a giraffe in a snare at Nyakunguri – in the Triangle. Six snares were recovered and Dr Limo removed the snare. We would like to thank Dr Limo and his team, The Sheldrick Trust and KWS for the prompt response. That evening the Iseiya rangers recovered another 22 snares and found one dead zebra in one of the snares near Limana, in the Lemai Wedge. The following day the Oloololo rangers joined up with the Anne Kent-Taylor team and recovered six more snares and found that a giraffe had been killed in one of them. The same team recovered another seven snares on the 25th near Maji ya Bett in the Lemai Wedge.
The Mara Elephant Project (MEP) found a blood trail from a wounded elephant on the night of the 20th and asked for assistance very early the following morning. The rangers left at 4.00 am and met up with the MEP and Mara North rangers. They followed the trail and came across an elephant, freshly killed, minus its tusks. The followed the trail and found where the poachers had camped. The rangers spent the rest of the day searching but never came across the poachers. However, they did find one other elephant carcass – with the tusks intact. I understand that a third elephant carcass was also found a day or two later.
The rangers spent the 23rd and 24th working with their Tanzanian counterparts in the Northern Serengeti. On the 24th the rangers joined one ranger from Kokatende and patrolled Ngira – on the other side of the Mara River. They saw six people in the distance and managed to arrest two of them – they had killed two impala. The same afternoon they returned and managed to arrest three more people.
A total of 36 snares were recovered on the 26th and 27th, all in the Lemai Wedge and then 9 poachers were arrested in the early morning of the 28th; in two separate incidents. In the first; the Iseiya and Ngiro-are teams left at 2.00 am and set up an ambush near the escarpment. They reported a large number of poachers operating with torches and managed to arrest three people at 5.00 am – they had killed six Thompson’s gazelle and one reedbuck. In the second; the Oloololo and Ol Kurruk teams joined up with Anne Kent-Taylor scouts after midnight to follow up on a report that people had killed a zebra and had called in a car to collect the carcass. The rangers set an ambush and managed to arrest six people and the vehicle with zebra meat.
Revenue and Accounts
Our total revenue was down by 4% on the same period last year. The graph above is indicative of the corresponding decline in revenue over the same period – approximately 40%. When one factors in 6-10% annual inflation and a 60% increase in wages, implemented in January 2014, one can understand the dire financial situation we are in.
Our audit is scheduled to start on the 9th March.
The community set fire to two areas in the Triangle, both near Ngiro-are. We then burnt one block in the same area – to try and create a buffer and limit unplanned fires by the community and from Tanzania.
We constructed a Uniport at Oloololo.
We continued with road repairs wherever possible.
We had been experiencing water shortages at Ngiro-are and found several leaks in the pipeline; these were repaired and we now have water.
Report on focus for February
Focus for March 2015
· Hold Board meeting on the 6th
· Start Annual Audit on the 9th ;
· Start on schedule for unpaid leave;
· Possibly negotiate new Management Agreement;
· Construct new rubbish pit at Oloololo;
· Repair water tank at Little Governors ranger post; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.