The Chief Executive resumed on the 26th June after an absence of three and a half months. There had been a considerable deterioration in staff morale and performance, largely brought about by a stand off between the Senior Warden and Mara Conservancy management. This situation had become so untenable that Mr Jonny Baxendale, working with the Mara Conservancy, had packed up his camp and left the Triangle the week before.
Almost all the ongoing projects in March had stalled, the tractor and one vehicle were inoperable, there were no written reports, unpaid bills were mounting, only one poacher had been caught in three months and there were signs of a resurgence in poaching within the Triangle, staff had taken sides in the feud between the Senior Warden and Mr Baxendale and discipline had all but disappeared. It was interesting to note that the staff, lodge managements and community were all relieved to see the return of the Chief Executive and the restoration of some sense of order and a chain of command re-established.
The Chairman of the Board and one Director, Mr Alan Root, have both offered to resign from the Board once satisfactory directors have been identified and placed on the Board. This will enable to the Mara Conservancy to continue and their gesture in wanting the conservancy to continue is appreciated.
The Aga Khan stayed in Mara Serena for two days from the 28-30th July, he thoroughly enjoyed his stay and was appreciative of work done by the Mara Conservancy.
There had been no progress on the annual work plan. Section leaders are now working on their respective plans; these will be brought together and finalised in August, together with a budget developed with the accountant.
The treasurer, Mr Martin Otieno, visited the Triangle on the 30th to see progress on the Council grader and review revenue.
The Chief Executive has been approached by Koyaki, Lemek and Siana Group Ranches to assist with the management of their areas. An advertisement was placed in the local press towards the end of July for management of Koyaki and the Chief Executive asked to apply.
The migration moved in early this year, with large numbers of wildebeest and zebra entering the Reserve in early July. At present it looks as if the migration has split, with a large population remaining in Tanzania. The wildebeest and zebra that have arrived into the reserve are constantly on the move, with many entering the Triangle, crossing the river and then moving North towards Musiara.
Our female rhino gave birth to a male calf at the end of May and was very secretive with her calf for the first six weeks. However, she now moves around a lot more and she and the calf are now seen almost daily. There was one report of two rhino mating near the salt-lick and one male occasionally joins the female and calf – we definitely have three and possibly four rhino in the Triangle.
There are over 50 known lion in the Triangle at present. Lionesses that had cubs at the end of last year seem to be raising their cubs, at least 14 of the cubs have survived to date. This is in contrast to the previous years, when we lost most of the cubs within the first three months. The lion population is definitely more stable and we can look forward to seeing the establishment of prides again. Lions are now being seen regularly in the south-western corner of the Triangle, an area where they have been poached out.
One elephant was reported with an arrow in its shoulder at Little Governor’s camp. Dr Kashmiri came to deal with the animal but it disappeared across the river and has not been seen since. Elephant living near Ngiro-are have become habitual crop raiders and will not doubt cause the Conservancy problems – herds can be seen climbing the escarpment most evenings and returning the following morning, their droppings are full of undigested maize.
It looks as if this will be the best year for many years, Mara Serena has been full every night in July, the other camps and lodges were full for the last half of the month and there was not one single spare room in the whole of the Mara Triangle in the last week.
Mr Tristan Voorspuoy has resumed horse riding along the escarpment and has several trips planned for the next three months.
A detailed analysis will be provided next month on the numbers of day visitors to the Mara Triangle, through Mara Bridge and Oloololo Gate. The average number of day visitors to the Triangle undoubtedly exceeded an average of 300 per day – this was the number on most days through Mara Bridge alone – with an excess of 400 people entering through Mara Bridge from Narok on several of the days. There have been several cheetah sightings near Mara Bridge and the influx of vehicles to see the cheetah causes severe harassment problems. There are also problems with litter and it is apparent that our toilet facilities at Mara Bridge will in no way cope with such a large influx.
The resident camp sites have proved extremely popular and most have been occupied throughout the month.
Three poachers were arrested in the month, in three different incidents. 30 wire snares were also recovered. One waterbuck, one wildebeest and one zebra are known to have been killed in the Triangle in July.
One poacher was arrested from a gang of 12 operating on the Narok side of the river on the 28th June.
In early July tracks of poachers were seen on several occasions traversing the Triangle and crossing the river. On one occasion two hyena were found dead on the other side of the river, presumed poisoned, and on another occasion two poachers were seen across the river by a group of our staff clearing the Kiboko camp site at one pm. We immediately sent out two patrols but although we found their previous nights camp, we never came across the poachers. A further, joint patrol with rangers from Narok yielded nothing new.
One local Masai was shot and wounded by bandits near Kawai, along the escarpment. We spent two days and nights in a joint operation with the police but never came across the bandits. A few nights later they raided one of the shops at Kawai. There was a remarkable lack of interest by the community in these incidents and there were subsequent reports that the bandits could have been local Masai involved in a feud.
Towards the end of the month the migration had moved along the Oloololo escarpment near Ngiro-are and there were signs of poaching along the escarpment. These poachers are particularly difficult to apprehend as they only operate at night, having watched all activity from the top of the escarpment. They either, set their snares after dark, catch animals and return before dawn, or set their snares and then observe from the escarpment – if they see any anti-poaching activity in the area they abandon their snares.
On the 25th twelve wire snares were found set near the Ngiro-are swamp in Tanzania, we set an ambush that night and arrested one wa Kuria poacher with a further seven snares. This man was operating alone and had spent the day hidden in the swamp – he said that he was due to join up with another two people, who had set the twelve snares and had returned home with one wildebeest caught the previous night. The two never returned.
On the 27th three wire snares were found along the escarpment near Ngiro-are, one had just caught a waterbuck. We laid an ambush but the snares were never revisited. The following night more snares were set in the same area and one wildebeest killed and butchered. On the night of the 30th we received information at midnight, from our community scouts, that a group of poachers had just entered the Triangle, again in the same area. The rangers from Ngiro-are were immediately mobilised to block all potential routes and were rewarded in the arrest on one wa Kuria poacher at 4.00 am – as he returned with zebra meat. This man was in a group of four, of which one is a Kenyan known to the rangers. A special operation will be mounted to arrest this man.
Mr Kiplangat Sitonik, the tractor driver, died of a heart attack on the 30th June following a two day drinking binge.
Ms Angela Nanyuu, a secretary in the Senior Warden’s office, died at the end of July from complications arising from AIDS, Ms Nanyuu had borne her illness with great fortitude.
Mr J Soin took ten days off to take his wife for treatment in India. He returned on the 28th and his wife will return in early August – we wish her a speedy recovery.
Ms Dolly Njeru starts her annual leave in August, we have employed Ms Anne Wamboi as her stand-in.
We developed a curriculum for the new recruits and started an intensive training course in the middle of July to fill all the gaps in their training. This part of the curriculum focuses on natural history, administration, tourism, customer relations, wildlife management, firearms drill and is aimed at broadening their perspectives beyond security. They are due to sit an examination on the 12th August and pass out on the 13th August.
We gave all the staff a 10% salary increase in July – they had not received their annual increase in 2003 because of the slump in tourism and reduced revenues.
We will employ 4 new casuals in August to work in the road gang – they will concentrate on road repairs between Mara Serena and Oloololo Gate.
One vehicle, KAN 706K, was sent to Nairobi for repairs and inspection – the body work on this vehicle was in such a poor state that the vehicle remained in Nairobi for a month – placing a severe strain on the remaining vehicles.
The clutch was completely burnt out on the tractor and had to be replaced before work could start on cutting grass tracks – we cut over 300 kms of game viewing tracks and have blocked off other tracks that we do not want used. The road gang also cleared almost all the culverts between Mara Bridge and Oloololo Gate.
The grader completed work on the road to Oloololo, the Kichwa Tembo airstrip and Mpata Club. It is currently working on the short-cut to Mara Bridge and will then grade the roads to Ngiro-are and along the escarpment. Two new tyres were purchased for the grader at a cost of over Ksh 300,000, other spares and oils cost an additional Ksh 400,000.
One controlled fire was set between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge, another fire was started along the escarpment and allowed to burn to the Ngiro-are road. Unfortunately, there has been insufficient rain to sustain a flush of green grass. However, the burns have attracted thousands of animals and brought in several cheetah.
The stalled project at Mara Bridge is proceeding and the toilets will be operational in early August.
Work has started on the County Council grader – one hydraulic pump, lent to Narok five years ago, is delaying this grader from becoming operational.
One 2” Honda water pump was purchased for Mara Bridge and one new combination fax, copier, printer purchased for the Nairobi office to replace the existing fax machine. Four new radios were purchased, three of them to replace ones ruined when crossing the river after poachers.
Revenue and Accounts
June revenue was up by 78% on May and by 185% on the same period last year. We anticipate better revenue for the remainder of this year than for any time in the past three years. We have arranged for the auditors to start the annual audit in early October.
We received £ Sterling 11,000 from Friends of Conservation, money donated by Mr Jonathan Scott from a talk in London. We are most grateful to Mr Scott for his very kind gesture. The funds will be used to keep our animal monitoring and animal harassment vehicle going for the next year.
Report on June
Focus for August
- Complete work on toilet block at Mara Bridge;
- Hold Board and Member’s meetings;
- Grade roads to Ngiro-are and along the escarpment;
- Place murrum on road to Oloololo;
- Complete recruit training and graduation;
- Complete annual work plan and budget;
- Start work on building maintenance; and
- Establish temporary ranger field post in the saltlick area.