There were several very heavy storms over most of the Triangle just after New Year, again starting the 13th and continuing intermittently for the remainder of the month.
The Chairman, Mr S Tunai and the Chief Executive met with the area MP, the Clerk TMCC and 11 Councilors on the 7th to discuss issues relating to the Management Agreement. A number of important issues were discussed and it is hoped that this meeting will pave the way for a more equitable and longer term agreement.
On the 7th the Senior Warden gave a talk to a meeting hosted by KWS on human/wildlife conflict in Kilgoris.
The Mara Siria Community Conservation Trust met with the MP in Nairobi to discuss disbursement of Group Ranch funds on the 19-20th. The Chief Executive also met with the MP over the same dates to discuss the same.
The Chief Executive met with Mr P Coulson of Kaplan & Stratton to discuss a draft Management Agreement for presentation to the County Council. A draft agreement should be ready for distribution on the 2nd February.
We received a high level delegation on a fact finding mission of the Masai Mara on the 26th. The visitors included the Ministers of Tourism and Environment Mr R Tujo and Dr N Kulundu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Chairman and Director General of National Environment Monitoring Agency (NEMA), Director Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), representatives of the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) and the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) together with other senior officers in the two Ministries. We had a brief opportunity to make a ten minute presentation on the Mara Conservancy to the group during lunch.
The Chief Executive met with the MP and Mr S Tunai on the 29th to discuss issues relating to the group ranches, including the employment of a new secretary for the Group Ranch committee.
The Chief Executive met with the Chairman on the 30th to discuss management issues and meet with some of his clients. The same evening he and the Senior Warden were hosted by the Senior Warden, Serengeti at Seronera for the night.
We hosted a Mara stakeholders meeting for 30 people from Narok District on the 31st. The meeting had representatives from the Narok Council (eight councilors and the treasurer), Narok Mara (Senior Warden and two other Wardens), Group Ranches (Ol Kinyei, Koyaki x2, Oliopa, Olchoro Oroua x3, Naikara and Siana). We also had the new KWS Senior Warden for Narok together with the Community Warden, four representatives of the Hyena project and 3 staff from ILRI. It would appear that these stakeholders meetings may take over the role of the moribund Masai Mara Management Committee and a number of issues including research, collaboration and better management for the Mara were discussed.
Wildebeest numbers remained very high along the escarpment until a rainstorm on the 13th triggered their move. By the 20th there were virtually no wildebeest left, although several large herds of zebra remained. However, by the end of the month the majority these too had moved. A number of wildebeest gave birth in the first half of January, before they moved out.
The cheetah reported to have given birth in December was seen with four very young cubs on the 12th January. They have subsequently been seen on several occasions.
We know of 17 lion cubs born in the last four months, hopefully most of these will survive. Two prides of lion were frequently seen towards Ngiro-are. This is the first time in two and a half years that we have seen lion in this area.
Common reedbuck are now seen everywhere and a herd of 10 Chandler’s reedbuck were seen along the edge of the escarpment.
Little Governor’s Camp closed for one month from the 15th for maintenance Main Governor’s and Il Moran camps remain open and are taking all the guests.
Tourist numbers continue to fluctuate, on some days the lodges are nearly full and the next day they are virtually empty. However, we expect January to be slightly better than for the same period last year.
Offbeat Safaris conducted two horse safaris into Trans Mara, they camped at Ol Kurruk but were allowed into the Triangle, along the escarpment. We have another safari booked for mid February.
No poachers were arrested during the month. This is the first month since we started operating in the Mara Triangle that we have not arrested a poacher. However, 84 wire snares were recovered along the edge of the escarpment.
With the wildebeest and zebra population concentrated along the Siria Escarpment there was an increase in poaching by people living along the edge of the Reserve in the first two weeks. These people are very difficult to apprehend as they set the snares and then sit on the top of the escarpment, if they see any anti-poaching activity in the vicinity of their snares they abandon them.
On the 2nd a joint patrol with the Tanzanians from Kinyangaga found 30 wire snares near the Ngiro-Are swamp in Tanzania. On the 4th one of our patrols found three snares on the Kenyan side of the Border and the following day another patrol found seven snares, five on the Kenyan side of the border and two in Tanzania – one zebra had been killed. On the 7th our patrol found 38 wire snares on the Tanzanian side of the border.
On the 10th there was a report of 6 poachers entering the Reserve near Sankuria, near Oloololo gate; two of them armed with firearms. A large operation was immediately mounted but the gang escaped. The following day we continued to comb the area but no signs were found of the gang. On the 12th there was a report that armed bandits were seen between Keekorok and Sopa Lodge, probably the same bandits. We subsequently learned that the group had come to kill rhino and lions and that they were Kikuyu from Eldoret. Increased security was placed on the female rhino, with daily patrols to locate her and patrol along the river.
On the 12th we established a field-based patrol with 6 rangers and a vehicle based near the escarpment, their instructions were to patrol at dawn, stay hidden during the day and set ambushes at night.
On the 23rd a routine patrol recovered six wire snares in Tanzania, that evening an ambush was set on the border and torches, indicating poaching activity, observed well into Tanzania.
A lion was reported speared by Masai morans from Oloirien on the other side of the river, probably Koyaki on the 24th.
Mr Abdi Boru has received transfer instructions to report to Samburu as Senior Warden, we wish him success in his new posting.
Sgt Lemein (Joseph) Korinko received a letter from the Council instructing him to retire at the end of January. He has contested the instruction, informing the Council of their obligation to give six month’s notice. We are awaiting the Council’s response.
We will take on 12 new recruits in February, they have each been given their letter of appointment and asked to report on the 1st. They will be trained at Ngiro-Are for three months before being deployed.
The security staff will be transferred to different stations on their six monthly rotation in early February.
A new Terms of Reference and Contract have been drawn up for the accountant, Mr Jaswinder Soin.
The Chief Executive took one day off in January and would like to take 15 days in February.
The grader worked on the road between Oloololo Gate and the Kichwa Tembo airstrip, work was stopped as a result of heavy rains. The main roads have held up remarkably well despite the heavy rains – this is partly because the Oloololo road is closed `as soon as we receive heavy rain.
We have cut new game viewing tracks around the salt-lick swamp, this opens up a unique part of the Masai Mara that has never before been visited by tourists. The tracks will also make anti-poaching in this area much easier.
We have started work on a toilet block at Mara Bridge and have dug an experimental well on the river bank, it appears that we will be able to get clean water from this well for the toilets.
Revenue and Accounts
December revenue was up by 40% on the two previous years, a very welcome development. Part of the increase can be attributed to resident camping, we had four camps full for most of the New Year period.
We received a donation of € 20,000 from the Frankfurt Zoological Society for the employment of additional rangers. The recruits are due to start training on 1 February 2004.
Report on focus for January
Focus for February
- Complete toilet block at Mara Bridge;
- Construct well at Mara Bridge;
- Transfer security staff;
- Train new recruits;
- Purchase equipment and uniforms for new recruits;
- New Contracts for all Mara Conservancy staff;
- Receive amended EIA report from Dr Karanja;
- Hold Mara stakeholders meeting in the Serengeti; and
- Host consultant to review contracts.