We had a week of rain at the beginning of the month. The last storm did a lot of damage, just when we though we had weathered the worst. It didn’t help that the balloon vehicles used the main Oloololo road when it was so wet.
CE met with Lena Munge, the Narok County Executive Committee (CEC) for Tourism on the 8th, 9th and again on the 20th, 24th and 27th to discuss issues in the Mara. The discussions centred around: Completing the Management Plan; introducing professional management into the Narok portion of the Reserve; and the debt collection programme mentioned in the paragraph below.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Charles Mbogori from Regional Business Connection Ltd on the 15th. They have been contracted by the County to review all the camps in the Reserve and inspect their lease agreements. We understand that at least eight camps have been closed but have just noticed a new camp being constructed near Ngerende Island Camp, on the Narok side of the River, downstream from Governors.
The Chief Executive was on a panel for a Nation TV (NTV) programme in the series NTV Wild Talk that discussed the poisoning of the Marsh lions at Musiara. The discussion was aired on the 23rd and fell between two showings of Disney’s African Cats on the 20th and 27th. The initiative by the Nation Media Group, Wildlife Direct and the Kenya Wildlife Service to air wildlife documentaries to the Kenyan audience has been a resounding success – it is just incredible that it is only just now that Kenyans are able to see the amazing wildlife and scenery that they have in their own country.
Campaigning has started very early this year – the elections are not due until August 2017. However, we are already seeing alliances being made and broken and people trying to position themselves for some of the key positions.
The Mara Cheetah Project produced their Annual Report for 2015. They reported seeing 38 different adult cheetah during the year and recorded 30 births, of which 16 had survived until the end of the year. They also recorded the death of four cheetah adults, three of them from a suspected viral infection.
The project also interviewed 818 community members – 58% of the respondents leased land to the conservancies and 14% worked in the tourism sector; 38% thought that the benefits of conservation outweigh the costs; but 15% admitted killing at least one predator. Hyena and lions were considered the worst offenders when killing livestock.
Angela Yang has given up managing our facebook site and we have been working with Gerry van der Walt from WildEye. Angela did an amazing job for us on facebook, increasing the number of fans threefold but her commitments with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the fact that she is longer based in Kenya made it difficult for her to source Mara Triangle specific stories to post.
Each year we pay a full year’s school fees for the best performance by a staff member’s child. This year it was Winnie Sarah Naiguran who scored 383 points out of a possible 500. Winnie is Sgt D Naiguta’s daughter and has been accepted into St Albert’s Girls High School. We also agreed to pay one term’s fees for Cpl D Siele’s daughter; she scored 363.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conducted a rhino census and ear notching exercise for three weeks in the Mara. They also installed transmitters in the rhino that were darted and ear-notched but did not provide receivers. We were concerned that the exercise would unduly harass our rhino and requested that helicopter usage be kept to a minimum. It looks as if or concerns were real – at least three of “our” rhino subsequently crossed the river, into Mara North – where they are at great risk. I don’t believe that we can underestimate the disruption such exercises cause – it is one thing to chase and dart animals in a confined area – such as the fenced rhino sanctuaries in Laikipia. Quite a different thing to do the same in a free ranging population, such as the one in the Mara. I would strongly oppose a similar operation in future unless it was conducted with far more sensitivity. Helicopters, aircraft and up to 12 vehicles chasing rhino is way too disruptive.
One of the three lions that killed a hippo at the end of last month got into a serious fight with the others and died from his injuries after three days of suffering. It was unfortunate, we had four KWS veterinarians in the Mara at the time – they were involved in the rhino exercise – but none of them had the time to treat this lion; even though he was extremely accessible and close to their area of operation.
Our cheetah left her four cubs – within a few days one had a slight injury and they then moved back into Tanzania.
We continued to be very frustrated with the revenue collection system – particularly at Oloololo Gate. The system was incredibly slow and there were delays of over an hour in processing clients. Not only that, but two of the solar panels were not working and the power went off whenever overcast. These delays were not only causing a problem with irate visitors but people were then being diverted to the barrier at Little Governors’ – an inconvenience, but also a loophole when people are charged on a 24 hour ticket. I am happy to report that KAPS appear to have resolved most of the issues and we had no reported problems in the last week.
Any tourism recovery has been slow, and we are now going into low season. We can expect few overseas visitors before June and this will have a major impact on our revenue.
Ten poachers were arrested in February and four wires snares recovered.
The Iseiya team patrolled along the Mara River, downstream from Singita’s VIP Camp and came across signs of people fishing and hunting hippo on the 1st. They then returned along the escarpment and came across six people hunting with dogs and spears near Lemai. They managed to arrest two people; the others escaped into the swamp.
Our combined patrols went out on an ambush on the 5th and witnessed several large groups of poachers operating between the Kenya/Tanzania border and Kogatende. They followed one group that were hunting between Saina and Kogatende but did not manage to arrest anyone – one group ambushed the Kogatende causeway as the poachers crossed but they just jumped into the river to evade arrest – despite the river flowing over the drift. Our rangers found nine impala and one Thompson’s gazelle carcass. On the way back, at 3.00 am, they came across another lot of poachers hunting between Masanja and the border – they managed to arrest three people. Again, numerous animals had been killed and the rangers reported at least ten impala and several (estimates varied between 10 – 20) Thompson’s gazelle had been killed.
Two of our rangers from Ngiro-are joined a TANAPA patrol on the 6th and managed to arrest one person along the escarpment.
A rhino was poached along the Kenya/Tanzania border, at a place called Osero Sopia, on the Narok side of the Reserve. It was probably killed on the 5th but not found until the 6th – when a KWS spotter plane saw it from the air. Three people were arrested by KWS later in the month for trying to sell rhino horn – presumably from this same rhino.
The Iseiya team crossed the Mara River at Kogatende on the 11th and joined forces with our TANAPA counterparts. The patrolled some of the watercourses flowing into the Mara River and found fresh signs of poaching around Ngira – a notorious area for poachers. They found a freshly poached hippo and zebra and signs of poacher camps. They did come across some poachers, two escaped but they managed to arrest two people. They also recovered four wire snares.
The following night both teams set an ambush near Masanja and managed to arrest one person at midnight. Five people escaped. There was no sign of any poached animals. A few evenings later, on the 18th, the Ngiro-are rangers saw three poachers hinting with dogs at Lugga ya Ndege in the Lemai Wedge – the managed to arrest one person.
Our rangers reported a speared hippo near Purungat on the 18th , the hippo was dead in the river and the rangers recovered the spear. The following day a combined patrol checked along the Mara River and found a large poachers’ camp on the opposite side of the river and about a kilometre into the Northern Serengeti. The poachers, estimated at 15 – 20, must have seen the patrol arrive and taken off – none were found, although the rangers searched for six hours. However, the rangers did find meat drying from at least three butchered hippo. Our Tanzanian counterparts took one pick-up load of drying meat; the rest was destroyed by burning or throwing into the river.
The Ngiro-are rangers came across a poached elephant in the Lemai Wedge on the 23rd – the elephant had been killed a few weeks earlier and the tusks taken.
Two more rhino were reported dead on the 26th on the Sand River in the same area of Osero Sopia. The first report indicated that the female had died of natural causes – intestinal torsion and that lions then killed her calf. Closer investigation clearly showed that the calf had been speared – it was difficult to determine the cause of death for the female, she had been opened up in the post mortem and subsequently fed on by lions. However, one can assume that she too was speared.
Revenue and Accounts
The slight upward trend in revenue collection continues; revenue was up by 18% on January last year. This is somewhat surprising as there were 688 (44%) more Non-resident adults recorded this year than last year, and the Kenya Shilling has devalued significantly since then – we would have expected more.
Mr Charles Gitau has greatly assisted in sorting out our accounts for Audit, he has managed to resolve all the outstanding issues and reconcile all the areas that causing a problem for the Auditors. We have now agreed that the Auditors will return on the 7th March to complete their work.
Repairs and maintenance
Both our tractors had problems, stalling all our work. The bolts holding the rear axle on our New Holland stripped their thread – necessitating dismantling the rear end of the tractor and putting in new threads. The fuel tank on the Case tractor started leaking and had to be repaired. Both tractors are now working.
We worked on the roads along the Mara River, resurfacing some of the worst areas before breakdowns delayed some of our projects. We also managed to resurface sections of road around Ngiro-are and repair the drift at Kishangaa.
We graded the roads around Oloololo Gate, along the river road and then the roads leading to Little Governors.
We continue to do repair work at all the stations: we replaced the kitchen door at Ngiro-are and fixed some of the doors at the Little Governors’ station – these are all broken because our staff leave doors open to be blown around by the wind.
Report on focus for February
Focus for March 2016
· Finalise Audit;
· Hold meeting between camps and community;
· Grade section of road to Oloololo;
· Burn one block, weather permitting;
· Replace one roof at Ngiro-are;
· Look at connecting mains power to Ngiro-are;
· Attend World Wildlife Day in Narok; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.