There were scattered showers and one or two storms throughout the month, this was sufficient to keep the grass green. The whole Triangle is covered in very a dense stand of grass, making game viewing very difficult in all but a few areas.
The Chief Executive met with the Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation, Mr Jake Grieves-Cook, the umbrella tourism body in Kenya on the 6th June to discuss the tourism crisis, amongst other issues.
The Chief Executive also met with the Clerk, Narok County Council, together with Mr George Orr of Earthview Management Ltd on the 15th June to discuss modalities for repaying Narok tickets redeemed in the Mara Triangle and vice versa in respect of Mara Conservancy tickets redeemed in Narok. It appears that there is little chance of recovering money for tickets already redeemed but we may be able to work something out for the future.
The Mara Conservancy, through Mr Gavin Bennett, has prepared a reply to a very negative article appearing in the EcoForum magazine. This reply will appear in the August issue of the magazine.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Allan Earnshaw of Ker & Downey Safaris, together with Mr Mike McCartney of CAMPFIRE on the 11th June, to discuss possible management of Koyaki & Lemek Group Ranches. The impetus for management of Koyaki & Lemak seems to be stalling as different factions within the ranches wrangle over the need for private management.
The review team have not finalised their report. Local politics and misinformation continue to shed a cloud of uncertainty over the Conservancy’s future that will probably only be dispelled once the report is out. In the meantime, this uncertainty, together with no funds from gate fees, severely curtails our ability to operate and raise possible donor support to meet the anticipated shortfalls. In order to try and chart a way forward, the Conservancy is proposing a one day seminar with all interested parties in Nairobi sometime in the latter half of July. Mr George Orr and the Chief Executive have possibly raised funds to pay for the seminar from PACT, a Kenya-based NGO operating from Nairobi. Final arrangements will be made on the 30th June in Nairobi.
The Chief Executive met with the area MP the Hon G Konchella on the 14th June and was assured that the Management Agreement would not be revoked and that we should not be concerned about security of Tenure.
We received a cheque for Sterling £ 4,850.00 (approximately Ksh 500,000) towards the purchase of a wildlife monitoring and anti-harassment vehicle, very kindly raised and donated by BBC staff involved in the Big Cat Diary. We are awaiting the clearance of this cheque before proceeding with the purchase of a vehicle.
The Chief Executive and Senior Warden met with the new community development committee, to be called the Mara Siria Development Trust, on the 11th June.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Martin Forster. Managing Director of CMC Holdings, on the 26th to discuss a wide range of issues including the purchase of the monitoring and anti-harassment vehicle and the possible provision of pre-fabricated housing for staff.
The Chief Executive met with Mr S Karabilo of Serena Lodges to discuss a n umber of issues, including the stopping of credit to the Mara Conservancy by Serena. We hope that this matter has been resolved.
Dr Z Kashmiri darted one warthog at Kichwa Tembo on the 4th June. The following day we darted two lionesses from a pride in the area we found a dead lioness in May. The samples were taken to Analabs, the premier veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Kenya. One of the lionesses was normal but the first animal darted showed fairly severe anaemia, a high neutrophil count with many young neutrophils; all indicating an animal fighting an infection. The infection was probably located in the kidneys as the blood urea count was exceptionally high. However, no definitive infectious agent was found although e coli were found and may have contributed. It will be worth monitoring the lion population and repeating the exercise if we see other weak animals. One sick lioness was seen towards the end of the month but no samples were taken.
One lioness with two young cubs has been seen on the road to Mara Bridge, we hope that she will be able to keep her cubs, as most of the lionesses seem to lose theirs. Only two cubs have been known to survive in the past two years, and neither of those have been seen recently.
On the 6th June Dr Kashmiri darted a young elephant in the Musiara swamp, on the Narok side of the river, and removed a wire snare that was very deeply embedded and had caused considerable damage to the front leg. There was concern that the damage was too great for the leg to recover but we have had no recent feed-back on the animal.
On the 7th six cattle were killed by lions as they were brought to water at the salt lick very early in the morning. One child was injured as he fled the lions and was brought to Mara Serena for treatment.
The female rhino is seen most days, the male appears to have returned to the other side of the river.
The very long grass in the Triangle not only makes game viewing difficult but discourages wildlife. Most of the wildlife is on naturally short grass areas along the Mara River and on the Tanzanian Border. It is understood that the migration is in the western corridor of the Serengeti and we can expect the first few animals in mid to late July.
The banning of British Airways flights to Kenya, coupled with Travel Advisories issued by the USA and many European countries – warning against all but essential travel to Kenya – have had a devastating effect on tourism. This has obviously seriously affected the Masai Mara and the Mara Conservancy. Fortunately British Airways have said that they will resume flights to Kenya on the 3rd July and Britain, Germany, France and Belgium have all recently lifted the Travel Advisories. However, the damage has been done for June and July and will probably extend into August and possibly for the remainder of this year.
Tourism throughout June was a disaster, with camps and lodges reporting virtually no bookings and very low occupancy rates. There appears to have been a slight improvement towards the end of June but we can expect at least 50% decline on June the previous year. This comes on top of a 30% decline in May – normally the worst month of the year.
Two poachers were arrested during the month, bringing to total arrested to 210. This is no mean feat when one considers that Narok arrested their first poacher in a year on the 27th. 44 wire snares were recovered on the Tanzanian side of the border – bringing the total snares recovered to around 1,000.
There were no reported signs of poaching in the Triangle for the third consecutive month. The only activity reported in the Triangle has been the continued use of the Mara Bridge by poachers crossing into the Narok side. Poachers tracks were seen crossing over the bridge on the nights of 11th, 14th, and 25th. We laid ambushes on the nights of 15-17th with no success.
On the 18th the two poachers, both wa Kuria, out of a group of four were arrested below Masanja in Tanzania. The group had arrived the previous day and set all 44 snares but had not been successful. They had met one other group of four poachers who had given them half an impala.
With the imminent arrival of the migration we can expect a surge in poaching activity and groups laying large numbers of snares – as was the case on the 18th. Our staff will have to spend more time out on mobile and night patrols and we hope that we can raise the funding required for provisions and ration.
There is a possibility that we will have to send at least ten members of staff on unpaid leave – unless tourism picks up or we receive donor support. Such a move would only occur as a last resort and a decision will be made by mid-July, when the Board meets and deliberates on a revised budget and recommendations from the Chief Executive.
There was a routine change over of staff in the middle of the month – this time we also transferred civilian staff and not only security staff. We removed two rangers stationed at Little Governor’s Camp, as part of our cost cutting exercise, and will probably not replace them. In order to increase or active security compliment we are considering training some of the civilian staff on gate duties, thus releasing armed rangers for patrol duties.
The Chief Executive took 11 days off during the month, this followed five days taken in May.
We are expecting a young student attachee in July, she is Ms Louisa Richmond-Coggan and she will be with us for about six weeks.
We removed two uniport huts from Little Governor’s and erected them at Serena to ease congestion on staff housing.
The spare part for the grader arrived and was fitted. The grader has touched up the road from Mara Serena to Oloololo Gate and one patch on the road to Little Governor’s. The grader has now been stopped but will touch up two roads to Mara Bridge in July.
The Gyro-mower has cut the grass on the roads to Ngiro-are and partly along the Tanzanian Border. We are awaiting a spare part before continuing with grass cutting on the game viewing tracks.
All the category B camp sites – reserved for Kenya Residents – and non-commercial operators have been cleared and are ready. We have received several bookings for July and August and hope that by making the Triangle and attractive destination for residents we can generate additional revenue. All camping fees go to the County Council but gate revenue will be split in the normal fashion.
Revenue and Accounts
May is usually the worst month of the year for revenue and this May there was a further reduction by about 30%. It is estimated that June revenue will probably no better than for May, a very considerable reduction on normal. This has serious implications for management, our share of May revenue only just covered staff salaries – with no additional funds for management, vehicle running and other costs. If the same happens in June – we will start to pile up debts, especially vehicle running and legal fees.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July
- Board meeting scheduled for week of 10th July;
- Stakeholder seminar for week of 20th July
- Grade roads to Mara Bridge
- Hold two-year anniversary celebration;
- Work with CMC to purchase vehicle for animal monitoring.