July was an exceptionally difficult month, characterized by injury, theft, murder and armed robbery. We hope that August bodes better for us, and the many people who visit and work in the Mara Triangle. On a positive note, many Kenyans rallied around and provided exceptional help in our moment of greatest need. Some of them are listed later in this report.
There was one shower on the 3rd. Occasional light showers followed for the next three weeks. These showers were sufficient to help settle the dust for a day or two, but no more.
The dispute with Governor’s Camp over the payment of balloon fees and Park entrance fees was partly resolved on the 19th, when Governor’s agreed to pay the gazetted fee of US$ 40 per passenger, from August 1st. The issue of Park entrance fees and arrears on balloon fees is yet to be dealt with.
The crossings South of Serena stopped early in July, most of these animals crossed the river and headed straight back into the Lemai Wedge in Tanzania. However, we did start to see animals crossing from the Loita population early in July, these were predominantly zebra, crossing at the main crossing sites North of Serena. However, large concentrations of wildebeest also started crossing into the Triangle around the middle of the month. By the 15th, there were animals throughout most of the Triangle, but they were concentrated in areas South of the saltlick (Ol Are) and anyone who ventured away from the main tourist areas would have seen very large concentrations as soon as they approached the saltlick. By the 13th the wildebeest were moving further North and covering extensive areas on the western side of the Triangle and by the 20th they had moved close to the main Serena/Purungat road and there was a large concentration along the river, North of Serena. By the end of the month the animals were concentrated South of Mara Serena and towards the Tanzanian border.
Lion sightings were good throughout the month and we had a few cheetah which were seen on a regular basis, mainly towards Purungat.
We need to review the effectiveness of our community scouts. They no longer seem to be effective in giving information or in helping us in policing the escarpment.
We imported another dog for our dog unit. The dog, a bitch, is half bloodhound and half coonhound – known as a Mountain Majestic. This will apparently combine the scenting ability of the bloodhound with the required stamina of the coonhound. The dog arrived on the 29th, accompanied by Linda Porter who, together with her husband John Lutenberg, has been training the dog in the United States. John will join Linda in August to conduct further training of our dogs and their handlers for the remainder of the month. I would also like to thank Dana Jones for her very generous contribution in purchasing the dog, named Anna. This new dog will enable us to breed and train our own dogs and makes a very welcome addition to our unit.
Memusi, one of our original dogs, was diagnosed with trypanosomiasis and treated. He has recovered. It is unfortunate that Memusi has a rather nervous disposition and will probably never make a very effective tracker.
Mr Paul Naiyoma resigned during the month, Naiyoma has been with us for three years as a driver.
We increased salaries by 6% across the board – this is twice the increase awarded to Council staff.
The tourism season peaked by early July, with most of the camps and lodges recording very high occupancy rates. We can expect the trend to continue through to late September.
We had a terrible incident on the night of the 26th. Seven armed robbers raided one of our special campsites with unprecedented violence. The result of the raid was one person killed and two badly wounded – these were people who had lived all their lives in Kenya. They had come to celebrate John D’Olier’s 60th birthday – John was killed. We managed to fly out Patrick and Sarah Neylan, who were badly injured, that night. Morani, one of our dogs, was able to track the robbers until 3.00 a.m. before he became exhausted and lost the track.
A number of people were amazing in their support and I would like to mention a few who come to mind – the list is not exhaustive and I hope I do not offend anyone by not mentioning them. Mr Bill Parkinson and Mike Carr-Hartley organised the flying doctor aircraft, Daniel Barton immediately offered to pilot the aircraft, he was assisted by another pilot and accompanied by a Doctor – thank you so much for getting to the Mara so quickly – they were able to arrive in the Mara by 11.20 pm and evacuate the injured couple out by 1.15 am. Dr David Silverstein was staying at Governor’s, he immediately volunteered to assist, as did the nurse from Governor’s. Governor’s camp offered the remainder of the camping group accommodation at Main Governor’s. Mara Serena and tour drivers illuminated the Serena airstrip perfectly for landing. The following day Ol Jogi Ranch in Laikipia provided additional dogs to continue with the tracking, Mr Barry Gaymer flew to collect the dogs and then flew the deceased to Nairobi. Mr Donno Dunn flew, looking for the bandits, and then flew the bereaved family back to their home in Naivasha. Ms Frankie Mwagonah organised many of the logistics in Nairobi. Our rangers and dog handlers were on the scene very quickly and possibly averted further tragedy – they then proceeded to follow an extremely dangerous gang in the pitch dark. Such a terrible tragedy never has a happy ending – but we were able to apprehend one of the gang three days later. This could not have been done without the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
The man we jointly arrested is a Masai, Paul Parkiswa, and had been recruited to act as guide – he explained everything and gave invaluable insight and information on the other six members of the gang. I think that what makes the tragedy even more difficult to accept is that it was so totally random. Parkiswa was friendly with the gang leader, Nelson Sigiria – a Kuria living close (3-4 kms) to the Police Station in Kehancha, Kuria District (Sigiria is a well known criminal who had been involved in at least one robbery in the Mara, and is wanted for car-jacking and murder in Tanzania). Their intention was to rob one of the camps and lodges along the Talek River in the Ol Kiombo area, probably Naibor Camp. They used motor cycles to get them to Olopikidongoe and then walked from there to the escarpment edge - this on Saturday 24th – they then spent the night on the escarpment and started out for Ol Kiombo as soon as it became dark on Sunday night. They reached Ol Kiombo at around 3.00 a.m. They decided it was too late to raid the camp and escape and so decided to return and hide along the Mara River – they arrived at the river as the Governor’s balloons were taking off. They hid that day on the Narok side of the river and decide to attack Little Governor’s after dark. On the night of the 26th they crossed the river and stumbled on our campsite. They could hear voices and saw the campfire. They realised that it was a camp full of residents and there was a discussion on whether to continue on to Little Governor’s or attack it. The leader was frustrated at the wasted effort over Ol Kiombo and decided to attack – at that moment it started to rain and Pat Neylan went to close his tent. He walked into the robbers and that is when the shooting started, resulting in some of the most unnecessary and gratuitous violence against visitors that has been witnessed in the Mara.
Very few items were stolen, six cameras, three mobile phones, a laptop computer and some cash. Most vehicles had their windows smashed and one had a tyre punctured with a knife. The robbers hid in forest near Olopikidongoe on Tuesday and then rendezvoused with their motorcycles the following evening. They were back home by Wednesday morning. The police managed to trace one of the mobile phones into Tanzania and we have been in touch with the Tanzanians. We know all the people involved in the robbery and are confident that there will be more arrests. This is not the first time that motorcycles have been used to carry armed robbers – there has been a massive increase in the number of motorcycles in the past two years, they are a cheap and efficient means of transport in many rural areas. However, they do mean that it is much easier for people to move over large distances with relative ease and impunity.
A number of well-wishers have offered a reward of Ksh 2,000,000 (US$ 25,000) for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the robbers.
After such a terrible incident it seems somewhat trite to talk of the anti-poaching work that went on during the month. A total of 22 poachers and one robber were arrested and 728 snares recovered during the month. This brings the total arrests to 1,462. A total of 54 animals were known to have been killed in the snares; including one giraffe and one zebra, the rest were wildebeest. 15 wildebeest were rescued.
3 people arrested on 1st and seven wire snares recovered in the Lemai Wedge.
Two people were arrested on night of the 4th, at 4.00 am. A combined patrol, including rangers from the Mara North Conservancy (MNC) set up an ambush in the evening along the escarpment, in the Lemai Wedge. The two were observed entering the Serengeti earlier in the evening but had evaded arrest. The patrol then waited for them to return and caught them as they came back with one wildebeest calf carcass and half of an adult carcass. They had three wire snares. The two said that there was another group of 11 poachers operating in the area that night but we saw no signs.
The Ngiro-are rangers collected 44 wire snares along the escarpment on the 7th, they rescued one wildebeest and found that another three had been killed and eaten by vultures. The following day a joint patrol collected 54 wire snares near “Maji ya Bett”, just across the border into Tanzania. We rescued nine wildebeest but also found another 21 that had been killed in the snares – only four of them had been butchered. This is a terrible waste. One of the wildebeest that was being rescued turned and attacked his rescuers, slightly injuring one of the team – a reminder of the inherent danger in this work. The same patrol also found where seven wildebeest had been butchered the day before and where a giraffe had been snared a butchered a few days earlier. The rangers returned to the same area on the 9th and recovered another 10 snares.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one poacher on the night of the 11th. He was arrested as he came down between the Ngiro-are and Kinyanga Ranger posts – less than 2 kms apart.
116 snares were collected along the escarpment, near Kinyangaga on 11th. The rangers reported that no animals were found either dead, or alive, in the snares; although there were indications that around seven animals had been butchered and the meat taken.
The Ngiro-are rangers joined forces with their Tanzanian counterparts on the 13th and conducted a two-day operation in the Bologonja/Mara River section of the northern Serengeti. On the first day they arrested one, of two, people near the Bologonja/Mara River junction. They had killed one zebra and had five wire snares. The same night, at 10.00 pm, they arrested a further two, of six, people as they crossed the Bologonja causeway. They had spears but no snares and it is suspected that they were hunting hippo. One more person was arrested on the 14th; he was one of four people hunting along the Mara River. They had not killed anything and no snares were recovered.
On the 16th the operation managed to net a further six poachers. In the first incident four people were arrested near the “Kichwa ya Tembo” junction near the Wagakuria hills. 18 wire snares were recovered. Later the same day two more poachers were arrested in the same area. They had five snares and were carrying enough food to camp out for several days. Some of our rangers who remained at Ngiro-are did a foot patrol along the escarpment on the 16th and recovered 60 wire snares, five animals were found dead in the snares.
Both patrol teams collected 122 wire snares on the 20th, five wildebeest had been killed and butchered the previous night and then the snares re-set. The majority of snares were in the Kasarani area of the Lemai Wedge and a few were recovered near a crossing called Ol Tarboi. That same evening our rangers from Oloololo Gate, in conjunction with the Anne Kent-Taylor/Care for the Wild scouts, arrested two people near Ngos-Nanyuki, on the escarpment. 12 wire snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one wa Kuria poachers on the night of the 24th as he entered the Lemai Wedge with six wire snares,.
The following night, the 25th, the Ngiro-are rangers arrested three, of five, wa Kuria poachers as they came down the escarpment near Kinyangaga. Eighteen snares were recovered and added to the 47 snares that had already been collected that day.
On the 26th both our ranger teams collected 201 wire snares along the escarpment, down from Kinyangaga. Five wildebeest were rescued, a further two butchered.
Revenue and Accounts
Kenya Airports Parking Services (KAPS) have established themselves with remarkably little inconvenience to our clients and visitors. We now have booths operating at Purungat (Mara Bridge), Oloololo Gate and the Serena airstrip. The booths have CCTV cameras and we are able to monitor vehicle movement. The next stage will be to remotely monitor the number of people who enter and exit the Reserve and reconcile with tickets. There have been some problems – KAPS had some initial staff problems, hopefully now resolved. A member of KAPS staff stole Ksh 3,356,850 (US$ 33,365 and Ksh 687,650) the day before it was to be transported out of the Reserve. The staff member was entrusted with the safe code – a second staff member had a key and both were required to open the safe. The person entrusted with the code somehow had access to the key as well. A number of measures have been instituted to ensure there is no repeat. KAPS have accepted full responsibility and undertaken to return all the stolen money by the 15th August 2010.
Deloitte conducted their fieldwork for the annual audit from the 12th July. We are expecting the audited accounts to be ready by mid-August. We will await the audited accounts before publicising our accounts for 2009/10.
We reconditioned the body and re-sprayed our security Land Rover, Ranger 1.
We completed grading all the roads in the Triangle and by the 13th had started on some of the roads used by our main camps and lodges outside the Reserve. We had completed all our roads by the end of the month – this included almost all the camps and lodges outside the Reserve that use the Reserve as their main destination. It also included the by-pass road from the northern Mara Bridge past Mara Rianta. The Mara Rianta route is being increasingly used; in preference to the Sekenani route, which is extremely corrugated.
We resurfaced several sections of the main Oloololo – Mara Serena road and also repaired sections of the road to the Kichwa airstrip.
We completed the staff toilets at Purungat and started on a new dog kennel for our new addition to the dog team.
We have ordered a new Toyota Land Cruiser to replace our administrative vehicle.
We ordered a new Case JCB from CMC Motors; this should be delivered in early August.
Report on focus for July
Focus for August 2010
· Order new Suzuki Maruti to replace Cheetah II;
· Complete dog kennel at Ngiro-are;
· Resurface sections of the roads to Ngiro-are;
· Complete resurfacing of bad sections on the Mara Serena – Oloololo Gate road;
· Complete audit and receive audited accounts;
· Receive new Land Cruiser and JCB – sell old Land Cruiser; and
· Continue with operation to apprehend armed robbers in conjunction with Police and KWS.