Most of February was very hot, dry and windy and the Mara River virtually stopped flowing by the 20th; there was a slight reprieve when we had some rain in the last week, culminating in a heavy thunderstorm on the 28th, resulting in a marginal increase in river flow. It was bad last year but this year the situation seems even worse, given the increased rain this year. The pools were already green and stagnant before the rain, with insufficient flow to flush out hippo and other waste. This is an extremely serious situation that is now catching the attention of Government; a three-month moratorium on charcoal burning and logging was instituted in the last week. The Mara River is the lifeblood to the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem – not to mention the millions of people both up and downstream who rely on this river.
We completed a contract with our revenue collection agents, Kenya Airport Parking Services (KAPS) for three years.
The Governor has prepared a Memorandum on private management of the main Reserve for deliberation by the County Assembly. We expect it to be tabled in early March.
The Chief Executive took ten days off to visit Gabon. It was most interesting to see a country with so few people, very extensive rainforest and an enormous amount of freshwater – not to mention the unusual wildlife – miniature forest elephant and buffalo.
We hosted WWF and a Citizen TV crew to film the dogs on the 16th. WWF are looking at supporting the dog teams and were here to create awareness on the dogs and the work they do.
SafariLive stopped their live broadcasts on the 17th as they tried to finalise a lease agreement for their camp and also negotiate a filming agreement with Narok County. We are negotiating for them to do two programmes, not live, of the work we do in the Mara Triangle: one on all the aspects of our management and the other on the community.
We hosted Alison Jones from the 23rd to the 27th. Alison donated US$ 100,000 to the Conservancy at inception and this enabled us to get started, purchase vehicles and uniforms.
The Chairman of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) visited the Nyakweri forest with journalists on the 28th. They filmed charcoal kilns being destroyed as the Chairman was being interviewed. On the same day, the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife visited the Mara and held a stakeholders’ meeting at Sarova Mara.
Warden Lema Langas went for as visa interview at the United States Embassy, he is due to travel to the US in March for a WWF sponsored conference and will then tag on extra days to see some professional dog trainers, including Linda Porter and John Lutenberg.
One elephant was found dead near the Olare Swamp on the 12th, it had been dead for three days and there was no visible cause of death. The tusks were recovered.
A giraffe was treated by Dr Limo from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)/David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Mara team near Angama on the escarpment on the 14th. An iron spear was removed from the base of the neck.
An injured lioness was reported on the 17th but by the time we arrived it had died. Dr Limo did a post mortem and concluded that it had been injured in a fight with another lion, two ribs were broken and the lung punctured.
The Maji Machafu leopard is back in her tree most days, she has small cubs hidden somewhere close.
We discussed a spate of vulture poisonings with Dr Limo – apparently around 70 poisoned vultures and six lions were found in Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania and a further 13 were found dead in the Ol Kinyei/Naboisho/Siana sector of the Mara ecosystem - all in the week of the 10th February.
The District Warden, KWS, came on the 22nd and collected 44 pieces of found or recovered ivory that we had in our armoury. Each piece had been duly recorded and was signed for.
The area along the Tanzanian border near Oldonyo Nasipa has become the new destination for game drive vehicles from Angama, Kichwa and Mara Engai – mainly in search of a cheetah family. This area is not so heavily patrolled by our Cheetah vehicles and the drivers have been driving extensively off-road in search of the cheetah. A meeting was held with our senior tourism officers on the 18th to try and stop the creation of new, unplanned, tracks and curtail the off-road driving.
We continue to get efforts to defraud the system. In one instance people were ticketed as residents, when in fact they were non-resident. In another, a driver from HIS Safaris tried to present a fraudulent on-line banking slip as proof of payment. In a third a group’s ticket expired and they tried to stay an extra day.
It is extraordinary the things that our anti-harassment teams put up with. One driver, a Tanzanian with clients illegally in the Triangle was extremely insulting. In another case a driver was caught off-road in the high-use area. He tried evade paying a fine, he then tried to bribe the warden, when that didn’t work he called his boss to complain that the clients were being detained at Oloololo. The owner then tried to threaten the warden, first with minor threats “I will take my business elsewhere” to “I know the Cabinet Secretary and will report you” then, more seriously “we know what to do with you.” All they had to do was agree to pay the fine!
Two MSc students, Rasmus Caspersen and Sean Jellesmark arrived here mid-month to compile and analyse our poaching data going back nearly 17 years. They will be here for a month and will try and map the area using the names we have given to places. Hopefully they will be able to clearly show the changes in poaching activity over time.
Chris Dutton published a paper on his work in the Mara River:
Dutton C L, Subalusky A L, Anisfeld C S, Rosi E J and Post D M. The influence of semi-arid sub-catchment on suspended sediments in the Mara River, Kenya. PLoS ONE 13 (2) (Feb 2018) e0192828.
They note that sediment levels in the river are extremely high and look at wildlife, livestock and agriculture as potential causes. They had in situ sensors in two sites and noted that the middle Mara, an area that covers the confluence of the Mara and Talek Rivers had two thirds of the sediment flux. This is an area with high concentrations of wildlife, especially hippo, and livestock and postulate that hippo may influence sediment dynamics.
Seventeen people were arrested for poaching in February, the majority for hunting hippo. At least eight hippo were killed around Lemai during the month.
The Iseiya team caught two poachers who were butchering a hippo at Serengeti Ndogo, across the River from Lemai, on the 6th and that night the Ngiro-are rangers caught three more people near the Ngiro-are swamp as they came in to hunt warthog.
The Ngiro-are team were called to assist the Lemai Rangers who reported that 20 people had speared a hippo by the ranger post and were trying to push it downstream and outside the Park. They managed to arrest five people and then two more that night, when they set an ambush near the carcass. It would appear that the two had hidden themselves after their companions were arrested and came out when they thought that the rangers had left. The hippo had three spears in it and five more spears were recovered from the poachers.
The Iseiya rangers caught two people near Olaro Nyioke in the Lemai Wedge on the 12th, they were hunting gazelle with dogs when arrested.
The Ngiro-are rangers joined TANAPA rangers and set an ambush on the 17th night. They managed to arrest one person, three escaped. Two more people were arrested on the night of the 21st at Serengeti Ndogo, opposite Lemai, in a joint operation with TANAPA rangers. The two had been hunting hippo. It was reported that at least five hippo had been killed downstream from Lemai
Revenue and Accounts
Our revenue was almost identical to our January 2017 collections – a difference of only Ksh 98,347, or a 0.29% increase. We traditionally experience a slight peak in tourist numbers during February – as people escape the winter in Europe and the United States. This year visitor numbers have been erratic – some days the Reserve is full, on others it is quiet. We expect to see a peak, albeit smaller than in past years.
Repairs and maintenance
We completed roofing the uni-huts at Oloololo and installed rainwater tanks. We also built a small shelter for two vehicles and a shelter cum kitchen area at the public campsite.
We build a small gatehouse at Kilo 2 and installed a barrier to monitor and control vehicles coming down the escarpment from Mara Engai and Sun Lodge. We just need to fit windows and a door. We also installed two additional water tanks at Kilo 2.
We graded the main and lower roads from Purungat to Oloololo and continued to patch worn areas on all our roads, concentrating on the road to Little Governors.
We burnt two small blocks on the 21st, just before the rain.
We are replacing the tray on one of our Land Cruisers, the mountings to the chassis are broken, probably as a result of the heavy metal frame on the back.
Report on focus for January
Focus for March 2018
· Continue to work on a possible management agreement for the main Mara;
· Finalise repairs at Oloololo;
· Start on a new roof at Ngiro-are;
· Hold Board meeting on the 23rd March;
· Continue patching roads to Ngiro-are;
· Complete repairs to the Ngiro-are Land Cruiser; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.