June was for the most part dry, with a few heavy showers in the last ten days.
One cheetah was reported to have given birth to five cubs and was seen for a few days around the Kichwa Tembo airstrip, she then suddenly reappeared on the other side of the river with her cubs – possibly chased off by a pride of lions in the area.
Two hippo were found dead along the river and a third was seen with a wire snare around it’s neck near the Mara Bridge.
One female leopard was trapped by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for stock killing near Mpata and released near Mara Bridge on the 18th. This is the third leopard to be released in the reserve since June last year.
The Chief Executive met with the Clerk, Chairman and Treasurer to the County Council of Trans Mara on the 10th, to discuss a number of issues. A meeting was scheduled with the Clerk to Narok County Council to discuss the reimbursement of tickets but was unfortunately cancelled.
A number of papers are being prepared for review by the Board. These include:
- Terms of Reference for the Board and Chief Executive,
- An update of the Operational Plan,
- A financial management manual,
- A budget for 2002-03; and
- Staff charter.
They will be circulated as soon as they are complete and a date set for the next Board meeting set once the Board have had time to scrutinise them.
There was some publicity for the Mara Conservancy in the local press, in which the revenue collected and distributions were highlighted. The figures for funds given to the group ranches were immediately disputed by an opposing segment of the Masai community.
The Tender documents were circulated to four short-listed companies, they have until the end of July to Tender. To date there have been no requests for additional information or visits to the Reserve.
US Fish & Wildlife have been given all the details they require to make a payment for US$ 36,190 towards the purchase of Conservancy Vehicles and we expect payment during July. These funds will be paid to CMC to cover the reduced payments made in the first six months of 2002. We are now due to pay CMC Ksh 940,000 per month for the next six months – this places great pressure on our cash flow and means that we have no additional funding for development.
We are hosting three wildlife students from Moi and Egerton Universities for their field attachments. All three students were given to us at very short notice and we hope that in future we are given more notice so that we can accommodate adequately. Mr David Seur has kindly allowed them to stay with him for the period of their attachment.
Tourist numbers greatly improved in the last half of June and the forecast for the rest of the season looks very good. One incident on the 29th June, in which the staff at Musiara gate refused entry for guests at Kichwa Tembo, may be the start of problems on traversing rights, in which people pay where they stay but can move anywhere within the Mara ecosystem. This matter has been taken up with the Senior Warden, Norok and we are awaiting his response.
Mr John Baxendale started work with the Conservancy on the 15th June, the first week was spent setting up camp and looking at potential camp sites for use by professional operators. There has been some interest by Ms Ker & Downey Safaris and Mr Craig Griffiths. Serena Hotels and Lodges apparently have first option on any proposed tourism facility, including campsites, in the Mara Triangle. This issue needs to be clarified before we can enter into any agreements. The current thinking is for the Conservancy possibly develop two campsites, one along the river and one in the Ol Are (salt springs) area, with an additional exclusive use area towards Ngiro-are. This would greatly open up the Reserve into areas previously unvisited.
The Chief Executive and Warden in charge of tourism spent a day with ten Kichwa Tembo drivers, taking them into areas that only one of them had ever visited, despite the fact that some of them had worked in the Reserve as tour guides for up to ten years. Unfortunately none of the Serena drivers were able to accompany us on that particular visit, although they had been taken around on a previous occasion. On this particular occasion we were able to show the guides lion, cheetah, leopard, buffalo and elephant in areas unvisited by tourists. The Senior Warden took the Manager of Mara Serena to Ngiro-are on the 30th June – he had never visited that area of the Reserve despite working here for over five years.
A total of 13 arrests were made during the month, 12 were Wa Kuria poachers from Tanzania and the 13th a stock thief also from Tanzania. A number of wire snares were recovered, bringing the total in one year to approximately 550. The number of arrests for the year ending June 30th was 77. The security personnel should be congratulated for their efforts throughout the year. The arrests were as follows:
Five poachers were arrested on the Tanzanian side of the border in a joint operation with Serengeti rangers on the 2nd June. They had been operating near a thicket known as Masanja and had killed a number of animals, mainly Thompson’s gazelle and zebra.
On the night of 12th June 2 poachers were arrested on the Tanzanian side of the border in a joint operation with rangers from Serengeti. This joint operation resulted in reports from one of our OPs that torches were seen in an area burnt by the Tanzanians.
On the 15th June the OP team in the area reported an incursion into the Reserve the previous night. The report was followed up that morning and the tracks of 9 poachers found entering the Ol Are area. The tracks were followed and resulted in the arrest of 4 poachers from Tanzania. We recovered spears, bows with poisoned arrows and 33 wire snares before they had managed to set up camp.
On the night of 23rd June cattle were reported stolen from Oloololo village. The security set up a series of ambushes and managed to recover 9 of 11 stolen cattle and arrest one stock thief just after they crossed the Tanzanian border on the morning of the 24th . The stock thief was held at the Kinyangaga ranger post in Tanzania overnight for interrogation before being handed over to our staff and the police.
On the same night an ambush laid on the road near Ol Are resulted in the capture of one poacher, the group of 4 had been operating in the area for two days before they were arrested with the meat of at least two warthogs.
There were repeated reports from informers of large groups of poachers operating along Sand River and in the thickets along the Mara River on the Narok side of the Reserve. This information has been passed on to our counterparts in Narok and a joint operation is being planned for 4th July. Almost all the tracks seen in the Triangle have originated on the other side of the river, the poachers have been using the Triangle as a short cut back home but they tend not to stay in the Triangle. On the two occasions poachers were know to set up camp in the Reserve arrests were made.
We have been informed that the Rangers will be registered as Police Reservists and not special police. We are awaiting registration certificates from the Provincial Police Officer. As soon as they are registered we will be able to proceed with GSU refresher training.
S Kortom took his annual leave from the 10th June and is due to return on the 17th July.
All the rangers were transferred in the middle of the month, we have now established a security ranger force, responsible for patrols, and a tourism section – responsible for gates, tourist escort and the Operations Room at Serena.
Three community scouts were recruited from villages along the western border of the Reserve, they received a one-week orientation course at Serena before being given their radios and deployed along the escarpment.
Mr Siparo will be recruited for three months to assist with administration in the Reserve. Mr Siparo is an ex-District Officer 1. It is hoped that he will work with the Wardens in setting proper administrative and disciplinary procedures and ensuring that they are adhered to.
All the Reserve roads, including the roads to Ngiro-are have been graded in preparation for the tourist season. We will be in a position to grade the section from the Kichwa Tembo airstrip to Little Governor’s once the grader has been serviced at the beginning of July.
We have been in touch with Narok about grading the road between Mara Bridge and Keekorok but will not proceed with this work until the guarantee a contribution and we receive formal approval to assist. Mara Serena have undertaken to cover all fuel and maintenance costs for this work.
The tractor has cut grass on over 150 kms of game viewing tracks, an additional 100 kms will be cut in early July. The road gang have also assisted in clearing potential camp sites and in road repairs.
The repeater was not working and was taken for repairs in Nairobi – it has been repaired but there still appears to be a slight problem with effective range of the repeater.
Five desks were made and sent to their respective stations.
Work has started on a temporary kitchen, toilet and office at Mara Bridge, to replace the buildings demolished in May. The water catchment tank is almost complete and will be completed in July.
We have received approval from the County Council of Trans Mara to proceed with construction of a platform at one of the migration crossing sites. Mr Peter Behr has been contacted and asked to proceed with finalising the design, finding contractors and funds for this work. However, it does depend on the camps and lodges honouring their commitment to contribute towards the platform.
Revenue and Accounts
Attached is a cash-flow projection for the period June 2002 to May 2003. It will be noted that we still have shortfall once we have paid for the vehicles and there are no additional funds for development. However, we do expect close to maximum revenue for the next two and a half months.
Area of focus for July
- Complete road works between the Kichwa Tembo airstrip and Little Governor’s and assist Mpata Club with their road to the Reserve.
- Follow-up on the US Fish and Wildlife grant.
- Follow up on the concept paper prepared for DFID.
- Prepare for GSU training in July.
- Work with Mr Baxendale on issues of animal harassment, speeding and off-road driving prior to the new tourist season.
- Complete work on the road to Little Governor’s camp and start work on the road between Mara Bridge and Keekorok Lodge.
- Prepare documentation for potential auditors and give out to them. Hopefully select auditors.
- Send documentation to Board members for review.
- Discuss issues of exclusivity with Serena Hotels and Lodges and clarify the issue of their rights to exclusive use, or the first option on any tourism development.
- Push for the construction of a viewing platform.
- A lodge manager’s meeting is scheduled for the 10th July
- The Chief Executive will proceed to 10 days leave in the middle of July.