Exceptionally heavy rainstorms in the first ten days of January did a great deal of damage to the roads, especially close to Oloololo Gate. We then had two weeks of glorious weather before the rains returned towards the end of the month.
The extension to our Management Agreement became very political, with a number of opposing leaders saying that they would reject the extension; as they had not been consulted.
The Council was disbanded on the 15th, with all Councillors being sent home until the elections. The Council will now be managed by the Executive Officers, until after the elections in March. Thereafter, it will become part of the new Narok County. We are not sure of the implications of these changes but believe that our contract will be honoured until it expires in 2016.
We held a Board meeting on the 18th. It was agreed that KAPS would be granted an extension to their contract, subject to a favourable, independent, evaluation of their work.
Mr S Simotwo replaced Mr D Twala as Clerk to the County Council of Trans Mara. Mr Simotwo was Clerk for a short period before Mr Twala.
Mr William Mwakilema will be replacing Mr Mtango Mtahiko, the Chief Park Warden, Serengeti. The Chief Executive and Wardens met them when they visited Ngiro-are during the hand–over on the 28th.
The lionesses from the Purungat pride have shown their new cubs for the first time – seven cubs, all around a month to six weeks old. One lioness from the same pride was found dead on the 29th, it had been dead for several days.
Heritage, a large bull elephant with a satellite collar, lost his transmitter. The transmitter has been found and we hope to replace the collar at the beginning of February. Heritage is very vulnerable; he spends a lot of time outside the Reserve, in the forest near Kawai. He is currently near Oloololo Gate with some other, very large, bulls.
There was a great deal in the press about the increase in rhino and elephant poaching and on the 16th it was reported that 638 elephant tusks were recovered from a container in Mombasa. This followed 779 tusks recovered in Hong Kong a few weeks previously. There was a harmonisation meeting on the 29th and 30th that involved the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and all other parties interested in conservation in the Mara. The figure for elephant deaths in Narok County for 2012 was confirmed at 149 – of which 10 died from natural causes and the remainder were poached. The area of greatest threat was the eastern portion of Narok – with a significant number of deaths recorded in the Loita Hills, Siana, Ol Kinyei and the Lemek hills.
There have also been reports of extensive meat poaching in Narok County. On one occasion 6,000 kilogrammes of giraffe meat (> 20 dead giraffe?) were impounded when being transported to Nairobi from Narok. Nearly all the incidents of wildlife poaching are occurring outside the Reserve and professionally managed Conservancies – indicating the utmost urgency in trying to establish some form of protection for wildlife in these marginal, but vitally important dispersal areas.
The Hyena Research Project has now collared 11 animals with GPS collars in two, of the three clans that they are studying. The researchers have found that the collars have facilitated them in locating natal and communal dens, and are helping in delineating clan boundaries. The collars have also shown that some animals travel further than expected, in some cases outside the Reserve. The project is also studying cub development, mother-offspring interactions and temperament. We look forward to following these studies as they progress.
We also received a quarterly report from Amanda Subalusky and Chris Dutton on their study of the Mara River. They managed to witness two dissolved oxygen crashes – both coinciding with flash flooding after as period of relatively low flows. They also managed to count 8,197 wildebeest carcasses – the consequence of four disastrous crossings. They then tried to calculate the amount of nutrients and carbon these carcasses, and hippo faeces, contributed to the river ecosystem. We look forward to their final results. Chris and Amanda, in collaboration with the WWF, have installed some monitoring equipment that can be uplinked to their computers in the United States. Unfortunately, the first flood broke the connection between the monitoring equipment and the transmitter and we have been unable to repair it.
The staff transfers were carried out on the 14th.
We reviewed, and updated, our staff manual, contracts and letters of appointment to ensure that they are compatible with the Labour Laws of Kenya (2007).
We held a Warden’s meeting on the 23rd to discuss responsibilities and chain of command issues.
The camps and lodges all did good business over the Christmas period but visitor numbers dropped dramatically around the 8th and remained low for the remainder of the month. We anticipate that there will be some improvement in February – traditionally there is a slight peak – but then we anticipate a very poor March to June.
Fourteen poachers were arrested in January: 10 of them in the Triangle and three on the escarpment. Only one was arrested in Tanzania. This brings the total arrests to 2,028. We often expect to see poacher activity in the Triangle between January and May – as the poachers concentrate on warthog, hippo and Thompson’s gazelle. It looks as if this year will be no exception.
The Iseiya team arrested one person at 11.00, on the night of the 16th. He was one of a large group of people who came onto the Nyanguki plains to hunt Thompson’s gazelle. No animals were killed.
There has been a great deal of tension between the Tanzanian National Park (TANAPA) rangers in the Lemai Wedge and the wa Kuria; as a result of impounding cattle for illegal grazing. Large groups of wa Kuria surrounded the rangers and fired at them with poisoned arrows. On one occasion they fired dozens of poisoned arrows into the Kinyangaga ranger post. One ranger was injured and one member of the community was shot and killed in these skirmishes.
The Ol Kurruk rangers arrested three people for poaching along the escarpment on the 27th. They were part of a large gang and it would appear that they hunt on a regular basis. The three were taken to Lolgorien Police Station.
The Narok rangers came across three poachers on the 27th along the Mara River. The poachers escaped but their camp was found and all their belongings impounded.
The Ngiro-are rangers collected 21 wire snares during the month, all but one in the Lemai Wedge. One impala and two hyena were found dead in the snares.
A routine patrol in the Triangle on the 31st came across 11 poachers at the junction of the BBC and Benjamin Luggas – between Mara Serena and Purungat. The rangers managed to arrest 10 people – one escaped. The poachers had killed and butchered two warthog and would probably have left the following night. They informed us of another camp on the Narok side of the river; we went there but the poachers had left two days earlier.
Revenue and Accounts
Our accounts for the first six months of the financial year show that revenue dropped by 20% over the same period last year. We had anticipated such a decline in revenue and prepared our budget accordingly but this drop in revenue will have a very severe impact on our ability to maintain standards in the coming months.
Summary of income and expenditure for July 1st to December 31st 2012
We were within 3% of our anticipated revenue for the period but exceeded expenditure by 9%. This was nearly all made up of professional fees relating to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) audit done on the Council and the imposition of Withholding Tax going back five years (Ksh 4,792,938). Were it not for this single, unbudgeted, expense we would have been within 2.1% of our budget.
We spent the first few days of January repairing the airstrip, after several days of non-stop rain over the Christmas/New Year period.
We graded badly damaged sections of our main roads.
Repairs to the new Land Rover engine were estimated at Ksh 800,000.
We sent the backhoe/loader bucket for repair in Nairobi and used that time to repair some of the drifts on the game viewing tracks.
The office extension has reached ring beam level and should be completed by the end of February.
Report on focus for January
Focus for February 2013
· Survey Reserve boundary;
· Repair Land Rover engine;
· Print and circulate staff documents;
· Complete office extension;
· Start KAPS evaluation;
· Work on Management Agreement with Council; and
· Repair roads as necessary.