The exceptionally heavy rain at the end of December and early January caused very considerable infrastructural damage in the Triangle. The road between Oloololo and Mara Serena was most affected, with parts of the road washed away and others flooded. For a few days this was the only route into the Triangle for heavy vehicles and three Roadstar supply vehicles caused very severe and deep ruts when they had to be towed in and out in re-supplying Mara Serena. Another heavy storm on the 21st washed away the Sabaringo drift between Kichwa Tembo and Oloololo Gate, cutting off Kichwa, Olonana and Mpata. We did have 10 days of relatively dry weather and then the rains returned at the end of the month.
We held a Board meeting on the 12th, at which the audited accounts for the period ending May 30th 2006 were approved and signed.
The Chief Executive held a number of meetings with Dr E De Merode of the Africa Conservation Fund to finalise a contract and to chart a way forward on raising funds through ACF and their web-based arm, Wildlife Direct. ACF have kindly offered to support someone to set up a blog for three months and we hope that this will commence in February.
The Masai Mara won the International Award for the Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry given by the Trade Leaders Club in Madrid, Spain. Although the management in both Narok and Trans Mara County were cited in the award the invitation went to Narok. This was not passed on to Trans Mara and the Senior Warden, Narok was appointed to collect the award. By the time we were informed of the award it was too late to arrange for anyone to collect it.
We held a stakeholder’s meeting on the 29th, this is part of the planning process and was aimed at informing the stakeholders of the process and involving them in planning. The meeting was poorly represented by the tourist industry based in the Triangle, and NGO’s working in the Mara, which was unfortunate, as they are key stakeholders in the Mara Triangle. The meeting was nearly derailed by some participants insisting that the communities should have been involved in the preliminary stages of the process, and by discussions on whether the plan should incorporate the rest of the National Reserve.
A few small herds of wildebeest remained in the Triangle, cut off by the flooded river. Several large herds of zebra did cross the river but a fair number still remained by the end of the month.
We once again encountered the perennial problem of lions leaving the Triangle and attacking cattle along the escarpment. We were due to pay over Ksh 200,000 in compensation for livestock killed during the month.
One elephant was found dead between Sankuria and Little Governor’s, although the carcass was several days old when found, it appeared to have died from natural causes.
Two cheetah with cubs have been seen on a regular basis. Honey with her three remaining cubs spent time near the Kichwa airctrip before returning to the middle of the Triangle. One other female, with five cubs was seen almost every day near Mara Bridge.
We temporarily disbanded the Hammerkop anti-poaching camp on the 6th because of flooding and accessibility to the camp. We hope to re-deploy staff in the camp once the rains have abated.
We purchased five tons of charcoal briquettes from Nairobi for staff cooking in the stations, previously we had been buying charcoal locally.
We held a lodge managers meeting in the Mara on the 15th to discuss conservation measures during this period of exceptional rainfall. As a result of this meeting we formally closed some areas along the Mara River until conditions dry out and banned off-road driving in other areas in order to minimise environmental damage. Dr Cheryl Mvula who has been working with five Masai cultural villages with a grant from the Travel Foundation in Britain gave a report on their progress. One of the key aspects of her work with the villages has been to ensure that the villages receive their rightful dues. It was reported previously that the drivers were retaining 93% of the revenue due to the villages as “commission”; this has now stopped and the villages are receiving their full dues. However a number of drivers have boycotted the villages in retaliation. The villages have been able to realise 800% more revenue in the past four months than they did in the preceding four months, although the number of visitors had actually reduced by 60%, from around 2,000 to 806. The attached table illustrates which camps and lodges have continued to support the programme and which lodges have essentially boycotted the villages.
Table 1: Visitor numbers and revenue to the villages.
Table 2 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in January
We had a total of 113,319 non-paying day-visitors to the Mara Triangle in 2006 – an average of 310 per day - up from approximately 96,000 in 2005. In contrast, 11,249 visitors left the Triangle in the same period to do their game drives on the other side of the river; a ratio of 10:1.
 The in/out column refers to people who visit for the day and have paid there park fees elsewhere.The out/in column refers to people who have paid the Mara Conservancy but visit other areas in the Mara for the day.
Nine arrests were made during January, bringing the total to 751. We will celebrate the capture of 700 poachers in February, weather permitting.
A total of 241 arrests were made in 2006, well above the average for the past five years. Nearly all the arrests were made in Tanzania, with only 9 people arrested in the Triangle.
Tracks of four poachers were seen near the Ngiro-are outpost on the 6th, the poachers had been in the Triangle and were leaving. On the 7th we mounted an operation near the salt-lick and fresh tracks were seen; these were followed from 9.00 am until 4.30 pm, when we came across seven wa Kuria poachers hidden on a hill top near Myles Turner’s hill. The terrain was very difficult and most of the poachers managed to escape. However, one poacher was arrested and we found that they had killed two warthogs. We subsequently found one speared hippo that may have been killed by the same group.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the evening of the 11th as they came down the escarpment to hunt in the Lemai Wedge, in Tanzania. They were going to hunt Thompson’s Gazelle and Impala and had knives and spears.
One wa Kuria poacher was arrested at Masanja in the Lemai Wedge on the 15th, he was one of three who were hunting warthogs. The same evening our rangers set up an ambush in the same area and saw at least three different groups of poachers operating. They gave chase to one group but unfortunately they managed to escape.
The Serena team came across a large poacher’s camp on the 23rd between the Kenya border and Kokatende. The poachers had left the previous night after killing several Thompson’s gazelle, impala and topi. On the same day the team came across poachers in the Masanja thicket but they managed to escape.
The Serena team arrested five poachers on the 25th in the acacia woodland South of Masanja in the Lemai Wedge. There were 11 poachers in the group and they had killed four impala and one topi; 48 wire snares were recovered.
Revenue and Accounts
The accounts for the first six months of this financial year were tabled at the last Board meeting, the salient points were:
- Income was up by 17% on budget, at Ksh 49.9 million against the budgeted figure of Ksh 42.4 million;
- Expenditure was up by 19% on budget, at 36.9 million against a budget of Ksh 31.0 million
- Areas in which expenditure exceeded budget included:
Administration, depreciation and office rent;
Promotion, mainly recoverable through the sale of maps and guidebooks;
Vehicle running, this should now come down with new vehicles;
Professional fees, down payment on the 10 year management plan;
Repairs to infrastructure, re-building the house at Mara Bridge;
Security expenses, allowances and bonuses for arrests;
Finance charges, exchange losses incurred by the strong Kenya shilling.
At present there is a healthy cash reserve of Ksh 15 million but we are going into the low season, in which expenditure is usually greater then income. There are two issues of concern that may further reduce income:
- The exceptionally wet weather that has led to cancellations in the Mara and may result in a drop of 10-20% in budgeted revenue for the duration of the rains. This is coupled with the additional cost of rehabilitating damaged infrastructure.
- The security situation in Somalia could well spill over into Kenya. Any terrorist or security incident could impact negatively on tourism.
Table 4 shows revenue collected and distributed for the month of December 2006
The above table shows a 15% drop in expected revenue for December as a result of cancellations caused by the wet weather.
We had a few days of good weather from the 5th January and used this opportunity to repair some of the worst damage to the roads. During thus time we managed to repair the approach to the old, concrete bridge at Mara Bridge, and made this accessible for heavy trucks. This at least meant that we could now re-supply through Sekenani and Keekorok, rather than through Kilgoris and Oloololo.
We sent the grader transmission to Nairobi for overhaul after continued problems with transmission bearings. The grader was repaired and started operations again on the 27th. The Board approved the purchase of a newer grader and we have sought quotations from Mantrac for a Cat 140H grader and from CMC for a HBM-NOBAS grader. The Cat graders are due in country in early February and we will make a decision once we have seen their condition.
We have ordered a new Suzuki Maruti, to be purchased with funds kindly donated by Mr C Phelps and his friends in Minnesota, Abercrombie & Kent, Mr George Orr and M/s Brigitte Sprave.
We completed the toilet block at Oloololo gate;
The Road team managed to fill in some of the worst wash-aways on the road to Oloololo and also managed to fill in some of the worst holes on the lower road to Mara Bridge but work was often hampered by the rain. The new tractor spent an inordinate amount of time in rescuing vehicles and supply truck, often having to go as far as Sekenani gate to pull out fuel and supply vehicles.
The new trailer broke an axle, this was repaired by CMC under warranty and the trailer is operational.
Report on focus for January
Focus for February
· Continue with 10 year work plan;
· Repair roads as, and when, possible;
· Collect new “cheetah II” vehicle;
· Complete negotiations on newer grader;
· Work on kitchen at Mara Bridge; and
· Start new payroll package for staff salaries.