We had heavy and widespread rain for over a week around the middle of the month, this sent all the zebra North and there were large crossings for several days.
We had a series of meetings on the 25th. In the first we met with the local MCA (member of the Count Assembly) for Lolgorien to discuss requests for assistance. We then met with the sponsors and Headmaster for the Masai Education Centre, a local organisation, to discuss environmental training and awareness. Our final meeting was with the County Executive for Tourism in Narok County, The Director of Tourism and the Chief Officer, together with the Chief Park Warden and the Rhino Wardens. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss a proposal by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to dart, vaccinate and sample all the rhino in the Triangle. The meeting had several reservations which were then passed on to KWS.
Seiya ltd lost their contracts to manage Mara North and Naboisho conservancies on the 31stDecember. Some of the landowners have opposed the new management company, Greater Mara Management (GMM) and the matter is now in court.
Emily Madsen produced an end of season report on their Biome Health Project for London Global University. They had set a total of 180 cameras in the Mara, 50 of them in the Triangle. They Are still processing the images but did manage to capture images of Cheetah, serval, lion, aardvark and Aardwolf in the Triangle
We conducted our staff transfers on the 15thand made a number of promotions for those staff that had done well during the year.
Eleven staff members attended a two and a half day forensic training session at Sekenani from the 23rd. They not only gained valuable knowledge on the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013), on how to cordon off and gather information from a potential poaching or crime scene; but also on how take samples, photograph evidence, write statements and how to behave in court. It was seen as a very valuable workshop and we would like to train more staff.
Two members of staff are being supported on training courses. They are Rolex Naitipa and Zacharia Mutai.
One very fresh elephant carcass was found near Nyarukunguri, on the Kenyan side of the border on the evening of the 12th. It was a big bull with tusks weighing 23 kg (50 lbs) each, there were no visible signs of injury or cause of death and the carcass was buried, as there were no vets available to do a post mortem.
Another elephant was reported dead near Oloololo Gate on the 15th. The Triangle has increasingly become a refuge for elephant when it is green, they disburse in the dry season as there is insufficient food to sustain the large herds. It is most important that we get to the bottom of these unexplained deaths – no obvious wounds.
A nomadic lion was killed by resident males near Myles Turner’s hill on the border on the 17th, he was first seen alive that morning with deep wounds on the spine but was dead by early afternoon. Another young lion was injured near the Kichwa airstrip in a fight with two big males, he was treated and seems to be recovering.
A pack of African wild-dog have taken up residence in the community on the Sabaringo Lugga, it started with three dogs, now there are reports of six. They may have pups. They have been killing livestock and we are compensating the owners in an attempt to save the dogs.
There was a terrorist attack on the Dusit complex in Nairobi on the 15th. The security forces dealt swiftly with the attackers, but not before 21 people were killed. All the attackers were killed within 24 Hours and within days Nairobi was back to normal. We don’t anticipate any significant downturn in tourism, given the speed and efficiency that the attack was dealt with.
Seventeen people were arrested for poaching in January. Fourteen impala are known to have been killed, as were eight warthog. This is the season for hunting gazelle and impala with torches, and for hunting warthog and hippo.
Three people were arrested in two separate incidents on the night of the 3rd. The rangers originally set up an ambush across the river, near Ngira, and then received a report from our TANAPA counterparts that a large group were heading for Sampura in the Lemai Wedge. They changed position in the dark and managed to arrest two people who had killed a warthog. They then saw torches near Nyakita Pembe and managed to arrest one person - they suspected him of being part of a group that had stolen from a tent in the Sanctuary Camp in the Serengeti. The following day the Nigro-are rangers returned to the capture site and recovered some of the bags that had been stolen.
Two more people were arrested on the night of the 4thwhen our two teams joined up with their Tanzanian counterparts and set an ambush in a place called Mbali Mbali – across the river. The two were part of a large gang of ten people.
Two people were arrested at Miungu, in the Lemai Wedge, on the 9thas they were hunting warthog at night. The following day one more person was arrested near Bush Tops ion the Northern Serengeti, he was part of a group of five hunting with dogs at night.
Our rangers found where two warthog had been killed on the 19th, one of them just in the Triangle, downstream from the Salt-lick. There was no sign of a poacher’s camp.
The Nigro-are rangers arrested three people in two different operations on the 24th. In the first, they left very early and managed to arrest one person on his way back to Kigonga at 6.00 am. That evening they arrested two more people near the Lemai airstrip in a joint operation with their Tanzanian counterparts.
TANAPA received information on the 25ththat some people were hunting along the river and called our rangers from Nigro-are. They found the poachers and managed to arrest one person with a spear. The following day our rangers joined forces with their counterparts from Narok and patrolled along the river – they found a poachers’ camp in the large thicket near Ashnil and managed to arrest one person, four escaped. The poachers had been camped for six days and had killed four warthog. That evening the rangers set an ambush, one person walked into the ambush but managed to escape after a two-hour chase using our dogs.
A very early patrol on the morning of the 29thcame across at least 13 people returning from a hunt near Sampura in the Lemai Wedge, all the poachers managed to escape into the broken ground along the escarpment below Kigonga. They dropped 14 impala and a warthog that they had killed. That evening the Nigro-are rangers arrested one person near Lempise and the following day the same team crossed the river and managed to arrest four people near Binamu.
Revenue and Accounts
We had a total of 145,238 visitors to the Mara Triangle in 2018, 32,025 more than the previous high in 2016. This represents a 28% increase on 2016 and a 35% increase on 2017. There was an even more significant increase in non-resident adult visitors – it went up from a high of 49,249 in 2017 to 70,453 – up by 43%. Part of this increase can be explained by the general upturn in tourism throughout the country, but undoubtedly, a large part can be attributed to the Mara Triangle being the premium wildlife destination in Kenya. Congratulations to all our staff who have made it such a success.
A shocking statistic was that 72,915, almost exactly 50% of our visitors to the Triangle were classified as non-paying visitors. These were visitors who had paid elsewhere and were granted traversing rights, were given complimentary entry, or were in transit. The highest proportion of non-paying visitors was in May at 65% and the lowest in July and August at 45 and 46% respectively. This highlights an issue that we have talked about all year – we cannot afford to host over 70,000 visitors who do not pay for the privilege of using the Triangle.
Figures 1 & 2: The total number and the number of non-resident visitors to the Triangle
I looked at the number of paying beds that use the Triangle, roughly 500, and calculated that we had an occupancy rate for paying visitors over all camps, over the whole year, of 40%. This includes an estimate of the number of beds set aside for campers, and gives a good indication of how well we did in 2018. Occupancy was nearly 100% in July and 100% in August but dropped to 17% in April and May. These figures help us make a strong case for having differential high and low season pricing – we need to push up high season rates and discount low season to even out occupancy.
Table 2: Cash flow account for the 1stsix months of 2018/19
We had expected a significant increase in revenue for this financial year but we actually did much better than projected. Our mid-year accounts show a 42% increase in revenue over the previous year – pretty well mirroring the 43% increase in non-resident visitors. However, it should be noted that balloon revenue was up by 185%, thanks to us now collecting balloon cess from Governors.
We managed to keep expenditure to within 1% of budget and ended the half with a cash-surplus of Ksh 59 million ($ 590,000).
Repairs and maintenance
We repaired the grader circle drive, a new one cost Ksh 4.8 million (US$ 48,000) and would have to be imported. The grader now has a leak in the transmission. It has been sent to Nairobi and will be overhauled.
We are re-building the Administrator’s house, it had large cracks and the roof was leaking badly.
The stores are complete, they just require shelving.
We paid CMC Motors for their Suzuki, and ordered three more hard-tops.
We uprooted and buried all the Parthenium, a noxious invasive weed, we could find near Mara Bridge.
Report on focus for January
Focus for February 2019
· Overhaul the grader transmission;
· Collect new Suzukis and sell old ones;
· Start installing shelving in the new stores;
· Continue negotiations for Main Reserve;
· Complete Administrator’s house;
· Hold Board meeting on the 8th; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.