The Mara – indeed Kenya as a whole – experienced an exceptionally hot and clear first half of July. There are major concerns about water levels. Power generation has been switched off on one of the key power-producing dams on the Tana River, because of low water levels. There are concerns that Nairobi could run out of water within two months, and we still have four months to go before the expected short rains. The drought in Kenya will not only have a major impact on water availability but crops are withering and livestock are dying in the thousands. The sad thing is that floods usually follow droughts – Kenya is in for a hard year. However, the Mara always seems to be the exception, although the month started off hot and dry, we were hit with five days of violent thunder and hailstorms from the 20th. These storms did a lot to undo the work we had done on the roads and tracks but also helped the grass grow on the burnt areas.
We burnt one block as planned on the 11th; one other fire started in the northern Serengeti came across the border and burnt a section of the Reserve between Ngiro-are and the “Army” drift.
Deloitte & Touche started their annual audit on the 14th, the auditors came and did their field visit between the 22nd and 24th. We hope to have a final report in time for the next Board meeting, scheduled for the 14th August.
Mr Peter Nkoidillah was re-elected as Chairman to the County Council of Trans Mara on the 14th. Mr Nkoidillah has been spearheading the campaign to terminate the agreement between the Council and Mara Conservancy; so we can expect the pressure against us to be sustained for some time.
The first large herds of wildebeest started crossing the river, into the Triangle on the 6th. The herds had moved further North than normal and were crossing in places we do not normally see them, around the Talek/Mara River junction. By the 20th there were very large herds wildebeest and zebra in the Triangle, with huge concentrations along the escarpment and on the burn around the salt-lick. The wildebeest seem to be very healthy this year, there have been very few deaths and the calves seem much healthier than last year.
Predators have been difficult to see, both cheetah and lion have been difficult to find. This is largely attributed to the long grass. This will change as the wildebeest graze down the grass.
The Chief Executive and Chief Park Warden met with some members of the community on the 24th to discuss access to water, illegal grazing and livestock compensation. It was a useful meeting and we hope that we will be able to work with this group without being mired in politics.
The Mara Hyena Project produced their report for the period ending 1st July. They continue to focus on three clans, totalling 159 hyena. The project is also working on the effects of controlled burning on carnivores and their prey – we should start getting some very interesting and useful information in the coming months.
The Hyena project is also looking at ecological differences between the eastern and western sides of the Mara. At present there are no significant differences but the researchers anticipate long-term impacts from the large number of cattle grazing in the Narok side of the Reserve.
A report published by Amanda Subalusky and her husband Chris indicated extremely high counts of faecal coliforms and e. coli – at least 25 times the accepted levels - in the water from the Talek River; some of this must be attributed to the discharge of raw sewerage into the river from camps and lodges. The Mara River is exceptionally low for this time of year, almost approaching the levels seen in February of this year.
Mr Samson Lenjir represented the Conservancy at a number of important meetings throughout the month. This included a two-day meeting on the formation of conservancies on the Group Ranches surrounding the Mara hosted at the Koiyaki Guiding School and sponsored by Basecamp.
The season was slow to start, with low occupancy rates in the first half of July. However, things have picked up and lodges such as Mara Serena are expecting full occupancy through to October.
Dr Cheryl and Mr Manny Mvula held two more workshops on Responsible Guiding. The first workshop at Kichwa Tembo was well attended by Kichwa and Mpata drivers. The second workshop almost aborted because of lack of interest by drivers at Serena; in the end seven Serena and only one non-resident driver attended. It is sad to see the lack of interest by drivers in our initiatives to improve the quality of guiding in the Mara. We were particularly disappointed by Somak drivers; they had absolutely no interest in the training. Somak is one of the companies that bring very large numbers of tourists to the Mara and their drivers could do with some training. The meeting did finally start and was considered a success by the end. One of the comments raised by resident drivers was that our rangers who accompany self-drive vehicles often break the rules. We will deal with this issue.
The Mara Conservancy has printed another 10,000 copies of the Park rules, with a simple map on the back. The map highlights the River Zone, an area where no off-road driving is allowed. We are targeting clients with copies of the rules, in the hope that they will ensure that their drivers adhere to them.
Four wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the Island, upstream from Iseiya, on the 9th by a combined Narok and Conservancy operation. The poachers had been on the island for one night and would have left the following day; they had killed five warthog.
One poacher was arrested along the stream, near Daraja Mbili as he returned home on the night of the 12th. The rangers, a combined Iseiya and Ngiro-are team, were following another group of poachers when they arrested him. He had been camped in Nyanguki, with a companion, and had killed two wildebeest. Nyanguki, was renowned as a poacher’s thicket when the Conservancy first started operations in the northern Serengeti but has not been used for the past three or four years.
The Iseiya team joined forces with our counterparts from Tanzania and went on a two-day patrol in the northern Serengeti. They arrested two, of three, people and recovered 47 wire snares at 9.00 pm on the night of the 18th. Most of the time was spent in the Namailumbwa hills but almost all that area is burnt and they arrested the people near the “Kichwa Tembo” junction in the Serengeti.
The Ngiro-are team arrested one poacher on the 16th and recovered 24 wire snares. The dogs followed a second poacher until he left the Serengeti and we were no longer able to follow him.
The Ngiro-are team arrested eight poachers in two different incidents on the 17th and 18th. On the night of the 17th they arrested three people, from a group of 13, who came in to check their snares between the Ngiro-are swamp and “Maji ya Bett” in the Lemai Wedge. They were checking on nine snares that had already been set and had caught two wildebeest. One of the poachers was extremely aggressive and had to be subdued by force – he subsequently said that he mistook the rangers for another group of poachers who were intent on stealing their animals. The following morning the rangers arrested another five people, three of them women, near Kokamange. This is the first time we have arrested wa Kuria women involved in poaching. The poachers informed our team that the women were with them to carry out the meat. Five wire snares were recovered.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested in the afternoon of the 20th near Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge. They were part of a larger group of seven who were checking their snares. 40 wire snares were recovered and two wildebeest had been killed. On the 21st the rangers found another ten wire snares, four of them had caught wildebeest, three of which were released.
The Anne Kent-Taylor scouts, together with our rangers from Oloololo, recovered 20 wire snares on the 22nd near Olopikidongoe. The Iseiya rangers found five wire snares on the 23rd and released two wildebeest.
The Ngiro-are team collected 37 wire snares on the 24th in the Lemai Wedge; at least two wildebeest and one topi were killed in the snares. Two wildebeest were saved.
Revenue and Accounts
June was a bad month for revenue, only 2% above June 2008. We implemented the new Park fees at the beginning of July and can expect a significant increase in revenue for the remainder of the high season. There is a dispute between the Trans Mara and Narok County Councils on fees payable by Little Governor’s. This has the potential of escalating into a situation where all people crossing the river will have to pay Park fees if they game drive. This means that anyone based in the Triangle who game views in Narok will pay Park fees and vice versa.
We engaged PKF to conduct a short-term audit of Earthview and their revenue collection systems from the 1st January 2009. PKF started on the 15th.
We completed cutting grass game-viewing tracks.
We had a major problem with one of our vehicles, we have finally found the problem and hope that this vehicle will be operational again.
We installed a number of culverts along the river road and also put in two concrete drifts.
We completed grading the roads in the Triangle.
Report on focus for July
Focus for August
· Install vehicle tracking device;
· Work on roads to Mpata, Little Governor’s and Olonana;
· Grade final road to Ngiro-are;
· Hold Board meeting;
· Install new culverts;