The first half of June was very wet, after an un-seasonally dry April and May. The heavy rainfall coincided with an increase in tourism and the roads were again badly damaged as a result.
The build up to the elections tends to be very disruptive in the Mara, and this year is no exception. The political leadership has been targeting the Conservancy, accusing us of being partisan; in favour of one of the candidates. This could not be further from the truth; the management has done everything it can to keep out of the political arena.
Mr Martin Forster visited the Conservancy on the 2-3rd and met with the Headmaster of Ongata Barrikoi Secondary School. CMC have agreed to sponsor ten local children from poor families from the September term. This very kind gesture is worth at least Ksh 220,000 per annum in fees. He also agreed to pay for the completion of the dining room, at an estimated cost of Ksh 350,000. We sent a mason to the school to verify the estimates and they seem to be reasonable, possibly even on the low side.
The Chief Executive met with community members and tour operators in Siana on the 6th to discuss the possibility of establishing a conservation unit and managing it on behalf of the local people.
The Administrator and Finance Manager, together with the Chief Executive, were given demonstrations from IQ Plus for Pastel, and Parity IT Consultants for ACCPAC accounting systems. We are looking far a package that will deal with multi-currency and in particular one that will enable us to track every ticket until it is redeemed. Earthview have a tracking system but are also interested in upgrading their accounts package and George Orr attended the presentation by Parity. We decided to purchase the ACCPAC system and will install it in July.
The Chief Executive assisted Serena Lodge in locating one of its vehicles that had gone missing. Serena have a satellite tracking system on all their vehicles and we were able to locate it from the air with little difficulty.
The Chief Executive attended a meeting to discuss support for a vaccination campaign against canine distemper along the escarpment on the 21st. The meeting was attended by Anne Kent-Taylor, who has pledged funds towards the campaign, Dr Sarah Cleveland from the Centre of Tropical Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Asuka Takita, who will undertake the campaign and other veterinary experts. It was agreed that a vaccination campaign should go ahead against rabies and canine distemper and that Asuka will take blood samples before and after the campaign.
The Chief Executive attended a Conservation Committee meeting for the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) on the 22nd. The committee discussed a number of issues including: a new strategic plan for the Society, the draft Wildlife Bill and EAWLS projects.
The Chief Executive and Finance & Administration Manager met with Mr Jimmy Mabon, Stanbic’s Director of Business Banking on the 29th, to discuss improving services. We have recently experienced a number of inefficiencies and frustrations in their services to us. He assured us that these issues will be dealt with and resolved.
M/s Nkoitoi and Nkadaru attended a planning meeting for a Mara Management Plan held in Narok on the 29th. It would appear that there are three different planning initiatives for the Mara ecosystem. The first, and the one we are involved in, is for the National Reserve, there is a second initiative targeting the Mau Forest and the third will concentrate on the community areas outside the Reserve. It will be interesting to see whether all three plans can then be synthesized into one comprehensive report for the whole ecosystem.
The female rhino, Naishuro – gave birth at the end of May and the calf was seen for the first time on the 6th June. Her other calf, now three years old, has left her mother and is on her own.
One lion was observed with a loose wire snare around his abdomen on the 7th, the snare fell of after two days.
Honey’s cubs swam across the river on the 15th, when the river was in spate, they were observed by Cheetah II and all three made it across without a problem.
A lioness died below Serena on about the 15th, it had been observed as being very weak and thin for a number of days before it died.
We had a presentation from Madison Insurance Ltd on pensions in the Nairobi office on the 14th. This was followed up with a presentation on pension schemes to staff in the Mara on the 19th. The staff all opted to go with Madison Insurance and voted to contribute 10% of their salaries towards their pensions. They also elected Joseph Kimojino and Wilson Naitoi as Trustees.
Mr Nicholas Sarisar Nkadaru returned from a one year diploma course in wildlife management at Mweka in Tanzania. Mr Nkadaru did very well and ended with an excellent pass.
We took Mr Titus Murungi, a student from Moi University, on attachment for two months. Mr Murungi will concentrate on driver discipline and public relations with drivers in order to improve adherence to park rules and the standard of driving in the Triangle.
We completed staff appraisals and will issue contracts to Conservancy staff in July.
Tourist numbers picked up considerably from mid June and suddenly most of the camps and lodges went from being almost empty to full in the space of a few days. The season looks as if it will be just as busy as last year’s high season, with most lodges anticipating full occupancy between now and the end of September.
We circulated a copy of the Park rules to the tourist industry as a reminder prior to the high season. Mr Murungi will work with resident and visiting drivers to ensure that they are aware of the rules and ensure that they abide by them.
There were very few poacher incidents during June, possibly because most of the people were cultivating their fields after the rain in June. However, we expect the poachers to be out in force as soon as the migration nears the Kenya border. Only 2 poachers were arrested during the month, bringing the total up to 820 in six years.
A combined Serena and Ngiro-are operation arrested two wa Kuria poachers in the Ngiro-are swamp on the 18th, the two were part of a group of four who had arrived that morning and that had caught some fish. They had a large spear and two wire snares and were possibly on their way to hunt hippo along the Mara River.
A routine patrol along the Ngiro-are stream on the 25th found a male buffalo in a snare on the Kenyan side of the border, just upstream from the Ngiro-are swamp. The buffalo was destroyed and one other wire snare recovered.
There were recent signs of poaching seen in the Sankuria forest on the 28th. However, it appeared that the poachers had just left, probably that morning.
Revenue and Accounts
May revenue was poor, with occupancy well down on the previous year. This led to a cash-flow problem for the Conservancy and Council that did not improve until the latter half on June. We anticipate that the financial audit will commence in mid July, once we have finalised the 2006/7 accounts.
The Land Rover was repaired after it had damaged its chassis. One week after the vehicle returned to the Mara the driver overturned it when trying to avoid a hyena in the road. He was over-speeding, fortunately no one was badly injured but the vehicle had to return to Nairobi for repairs.
The new trailer broke an axle again and this time we have had it re-designed and strengthened. This is the third time we have broken an axle on this trailer in six months.
We have ordered two new Suzuki Maruti jeeps for the anti-harassment team and they will be delivered in early July. We are most grateful to Anne Kent-Taylor for her donation of US$ 15,000 towards the cost of one of the two vehicles.
We have been informed that the road improvement programme for the main road between Mara Bridge and Oloololo Gate is scheduled for mid- July.
We received a quotation for repairs to the approach to Mara Bridge from the District Works Offices in Kilgoris, they estimated Ksh 561,000 to fill in the section that was eroded in the December rains.
We graded the road between Oloololo gate and Olonana and then to Mpata Club and have started on the road between Mara Serena and Oloololo gate.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July
· Prepare for annual audit;
· Complete cutting grass tracks;
· Complete grading roads;
· Purchase new accounting package;
· Continue with Management Plan;
· Complete negotiations on grader purchase;
· Collect “Cheetah III” and a replacement for “Cheetah I” – sell “Cheetah I”; and
· Burn one proposed block.