July was, for the most part, dry, warm and windy. There was a change in the weather on the 27th, when it rained for most of the night. We then had local, but heavy rain for the remainder of the month. This rain looks set to continue through the first week of August. It was amazing how quickly the grass and seasonal springs dried off. As predicted, the first wildebeest started appearing between mid and late July and the first zebra began to cross from the conservancies around the 16th.
I have provided links below on interesting articles by Sue Palminteri on Mongabay on the use of thermal cameras and dogs in anti-poaching.
We burnt one block on the 15th, it was an ideal burn, not too hot, leaving good cover but burning off all the old, rank grass. In an ideal world we would have had a rainstorm on the burn immediately, but there was no indication of rain and we had to balance an optimal fire against an immediate rainstorm. By the end of the month there was a green tinge and animals, especially zebra, were beginning to move in.
We had a meeting with Bonnyventure Saronge, Managing Director of KAPS on the 17th to discuss various issues. KAPS have agreed to renovate their accommodation and work has already started. We also discussed ticketing, cash in transit (CIT) and proposals for the future. We hope that, with mpesa now in place we will greatly reduce the need for people to carry cash.
Our senior staff held a meeting with Anne Kent-Taylor on Saturday the 21st to iron out a number of misconceptions and misinformation propagated by some of her staff. The issues were resolved.
The Chief Executive met with the Governor on the 27th to discuss the proposed management of the Narok portion of the Reserve. We decided to put it on hold for a while, probably until after the high season. We also discussed live filming by SafariLive and it was approved for three months, pending further discussions.
There was a Wardens’ meeting on the 10th to discuss work over the high season.
We started our staff appraisals on the 14th and completed them by the end of the month.
We retired three staff members, Joseph Suntu, head of our road team, Solomon Lelei who has been maintaining our windmills, and Richard Siele, a community scout. We held a farewell party for them on the 28th which must have been attended by at least 300 people, including a number of local leaders.
The staff held their staff welfare AGM on the 20th
Morani was responsible for the arrest of one poacher on the night of the 13th. It is good to see that the rangers are beginning to use the dogs at night.
Predator sightings were very difficult in July, the grass colour exactly matching the lions’ colouring – and the grass was still very tall. No doubt, once the migration starts in earnest sightings will improve.
The first zebra began to cross into the Triangle on the 16th they came in small groups, with days between crossings. The zebra traditionally come a few days before the main migration but it should be noted that they are a different population from the Serengeti migration. These animals move between the Loita plains and the Reserve. They are increasingly being constrained to the conservancies surrounding the Reserve, by human activity and uncontrolled fencing.
By the end of the month there were fairly large concentrations of wildebeest near Ol Donyo Nasipa and towards Nigro-are.
Dr Femke Broekhuis has written a paper on the attitudes of people living with predators in the Mara ecosystem. It is not unexpected that those benefiting from the conservancies are more tolerant towards predators; 57.52% had a positive attitude towards predators. Ten percent of the respondents said that they would kill a predator in retaliation to killing their livestock.
Human–wildlife coexistence: attitudes and behavioural intentions towards predators in the
Maasai Mara, Kenya: Broekhuis F, Kaelo M, Sakat D N and Elliot N B. (2018) Oryx, 1-9 2018 Fauna & Flora International doi:10.1017/S0030605318000091.
The main predator species that caused conflict were spotted hyaena (53 %), leopards (32 %) and lions (15 %) but cheetahs also occasionally predate on small stock. The authors found that during a three-month period most households lost an average of 3.5 % of their livestock to depredation and that 75.78% of the 747 interviewees had lost at least one animal during that period, a significant financial loss.
This is an issue we deal with constantly and have developed a system of compensation; a kill is reported, a rangers visits to scene to verify the report, photographs are taken and a form filled in. If approved, we pay at the end of each month – currently the Angama Foundation reimburses us. We also developed predator-proof enclosures for small-stock over ten years ago, and this has been taken up by Anne Kent-Taylor’s team who build the enclosures on a cost-sharing basis.
The camps and lodges are all reporting excellent booking for the high season and we have already seen an increase over last year.
As always at this time of year, we suffer from too many visitors chasing too few sightings, huge pressure on our monitoring staff to keep control at sightings and crossings, of late entry and over-speeding. Year after year we say that we must put in place measures to deal with these problems, it never happens. This year we must do something: probably make a significant increase in rates, possible have an additional “crossing” fee, differentiate the Triangle from the main Reserve and charge an exclusive rate. Proposals will be put forward at the next Board meeting.
The newspapers reported on a potential row between Kenya and Tanzania over the migration, stating that the Tanzanians were burning to create a barrier for the wildebeest, in order to retain them in the Serengeti. It is true that they burn, have done every year for many years. It is not true that the burn delayed the migration. The delay to the migration was caused by the exceptional rains experienced from March through may and into June. There was more than enough water and grass to retain the wildebeest in the central, western and northern parts of the Serengeti. We had predicted a delay months ago. This was a story put out by the tourist industry to explain why safaris they sold on the basis of the migration did not in fact feature the migration.
A total of 17 people were arrested during July, three of them for poaching hippo in the Triangle. The first signs of poaching in the Triangle in over a year. Only 45 snares were collected, surely the lowest number for July since we started. This is probably because the wildebeest have not moved in yet – it will be interesting to see what happens in August. Two hippo, two giraffe, nine wildebeest and a buffalo are known to have been poached – as well as two elephant in the northern Serengeti.
Our Tanzanian counterparts reported a poached hippo near Lemai on the 3rd. Our teams joined forces with them and managed to arrest one person, the other six crossed the river and escaped. Our rangers never saw the hippo that was reported poached and suspect that this was another group – on their way to hunt another hippo.
Our ranger teams collected seven snares on the 7th, two of them had been set high for giraffe. The rangers found where two giraffe had been killed and butchered.
The Iseiya rangers went on a three day patrol from the 10th, returning on the 13th. They went across the River and patrolled the Bologonga to Machechwe area. They arrested three people on the 11th and then another three on the 13th. On the 13th they arrested one person early in the morning and then later two more people who were fishing. On the 12th a driver reported one person on the Olpunyatta Plain. The Ngiro-are rangers, together with rangers from two of our “cheetah” cars arrested him, with a load of hippo meat. It took two days to find the poachers’ camp along the river, downstream from Little Governors. The one person who was arrested said that he had got lost.
On the 13th tracks of five people were seen crossing the road near Egyptian Goose in the Triangle. The Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush near Kichwa ya Ndovu in the Lemai Wedge at 7.00 pm and almost immediately spotted five people carrying hippo meat with the Flir camera. They managed to arrest one person and the others dropped their loads and took off. The rangers used the dogs and Morani managed to track one poacher for about two kilometers, he was arrested as he hid in tall grass. They were the same people who had crossed the road earlier.
The Nigro-are rangers collected 20 snares on the 14th and on the 15th a combined team of rangers from the Triangle and main Reserve found a recently vacated poachers’ camp near Ashnil, on the Narok side of the river.
The Nigro-are rangers crossed the river on the 18th for a two-day patrol. They were joined by rangers from Kinyangaga and Kogatende. On the 19th they managed to arrest one person at Nyamburi and then later, that night at 8.00 pm, they arrested another three people near Nzonzo who were hunting with machetes. One more person was arrested, with wildebeest hind-quarters, as the patrol returned on the 21st. He had killed the wildebeest by slashing across the spine – the common way of hunting wildebeest in the broken land across the river. Four wire snares were also recovered in the Lemai Wedge on the same day. The patrol reported finding two relatively fresh elephant carcasses, one about a week old and the other probably two or three weeks old. Both poached, with the ivory gone. They also reported a number of older carcasses in the same area.
A routine patrol across the river on the 27th came across where at least six wildebeest and one buffalo had been killed and butchered in an area called Binamu. The following day seven wire snares were collected in the Lemai Wedge.
The rangers crossed the river on the 30th for a full day/night patrol and managed to arrest one person at Ngira at night. He was one of three people who had camped out and killed two wildebeest, by slashing them across the spine. They were on their way home when apprehended. The Nigro-are rangers recovered seven snares on the same day.
The Nigro-are rangers left very early on the 31st morning and managed to arrest one person, of four, near Lugga ya Ngiri at 4.00 am.
Revenue and Accounts
We have opened a Mpesa Paybill account with Safaricom so that in future people will be able to pay the Mara Conservancy via our account No 863297. Hopefully this will reduce the need to carry cash and bring us one step closer to having a cashless system.
We have made good progress with Governors Balloons on paying landing fees to the Triangle and hope that from now on these fees will be paid directly to the Conservancy and not the County.
June revenue was significantly higher than May’s and well above our collection for June 2017. It increased by 13.3% on last year. There was an improvement in the number of non-paying visitors to the Triangle, it stood at 52%, compared to 65% in May. Still, it means that slightly over one in every two visitors do not pay the Triangle.
Table 2: Unaudited cash flow for the year ending 30th June 2018
Our income for the year was 22% better than anticipated, largely because we had set a very conservative budget, given the historical dips in an election year. Our expenditure was up by 9% but over the year we managed a net surplus of nearly Ksh 9.5 million (US$ 950,000), well up on our original estimate. We spent a great deal on improving housing for the staff and it is no surprise that repairs to infrastructure was one of the areas in which we went over budget, security expanses and professional fees were the other areas. Professional fees were attributed to the work on a Management Contract for the Main Reserve.
We are scheduled to start our Annual Audit on the 15th August and all the preparations are complete.
Repairs and maintenance
We replaced the roof and ceiling on the Wardens’ house at Ngiro-are and added water tanks to the new roofs. We have now extended the kitchen.
We raised and extended the roof on the workshop, so that it can accommodate our ranger vehicles with their Flir mounts, and the tractors. We also raised the parking near the office.
We completed cutting the grass game-viewing tracks but the gearbox on the gyro-mower broke before we could complete the airstrip. It has since been repaired and work completed.
We completed grading all our roads and then graded the roads to Mpata and Olonana. We also made a new road to Kilo 2.
We have ordered, and paid for, one new tractor to replace the Case Tractor.
KAPS are renovating all their buildings and have started with the office and housing at Iseiya. It is a great improvement.
All the culverts on the causeway at Kogatende were blocked, making the causeway un-crossable. We sent the road team and JCB down on the 29th to clear the blockage. This will now make access to the northern Serengeti for our rangers far easier, but will allow access for thousands of tourists in the northern Serengeti to the Lemai Wedge.
Report on focus for July
Focus for August 2018
· Hold Board meeting on the 10th ;
· Reface part of the stone wall at Nigro-are;
· Repair damaged drifts;
· Start Annual Audit;
· Receive new tractor and trailer;
· Sell one tractor;
· Start work on new stores;
· Construct new signs; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.