For the most part June was sunny, albeit with a smoke haze, from fires in Tanzania. However, there were one or two isolated showers in the middle of June, and again at the end of the month that cleared the air for a short time.
The County gave a quit notice to Equity Bank, to stop them issuing “smart cards” and collecting revenue on behalf of the County. This notice expired on the 24th June and the County has taken over responsibility for all revenue collection in the Narok portion of the game Reserve. They have reverted to their old tickets and these can be purchased from the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) or the County offices in Narok.
We held a Board meeting on the 14th June and approved the appointment of two new Directors to replace M/s Tunai and ole Kijabe, both had taken up their new positions in the new County Government. The Annual Work Plan and budget for 2013/14 were reviewed by the Board and approved.
There will be a hearing in the case brought by the Trusted Society of Human Rights Alliance against the Mara Conservancy and others on the 10th July.
A large bull elephant was found dead near Sankuria on the 17th, he had been dead for two to three days. Although we could not find any wounds on him we suspect that he had been killed with a spear, or poisoned arrow, for crop raiding. He had maize in his faeces
One roan antelope was spotted near Ol Kiombo, in the main portion of the Reserve. This is the first roan to be seen in the Mara since the 1990’s and probably accompanied migrating zebra from the Serengeti.
The wildebeest arrived on the 29th – in their tens of thousands. It is amazing how there is nothing one day and many thousand animals a day later. The first few had started appearing along Sand River in mid-June but nothing appeared in the Triangle before the 29th.
We are still planning to incentive trip to Tanzania. The first quotations for transport were exorbitant and we are looking for other bus companies that can transport our staff to Mwanza and back.
Dr Asuka Takita will walk from Nairobi to the Mara in July, from the 10th to the 16th – a distance of 300 kilometres – she is doing this to create awareness about elephant and rhino poaching and will be covered by CCTV – the Chinese TV network.
Our facebook site has hit 15,000 fans and continues to grow.
Mara Serena are due to open their new extension on the first July. They will then close the existing reception/bar area for renovations – these are expected to take three months.
A new balloon company, Wild Wind Safaris, is due to start operations in the near future. They are based near Mara Timbo camp and have approval to fly over Oloisukut Conservancy. This may put them in conflict with existing balloon operators, some who have exclusion clauses in their agreements.
Tourist numbers began to pick up in the middle of June and we can expect a very busy season through to October.
We have had two drivers refuse to pay their fines for breaking Park rules in June – members of the tourism industry should be aware the failure to pay a fine will lead to an automatic, six-month ban from the Reserve. The Mara Conservancy does more than any other protected area managers to ensure that people are aware of the rules – they are posted on the web site and are printed and displayed in 12 languages at all entry points.
Eighteen poachers were arrested in June, bringing our total to 2,087. We started receiving reports of a group of people who want to hunt our rhino and have intensified our patrols and rhino monitoring. This will continue for as long as necessary. It is such a tragedy that the demand for rhino horn and ivory is leading to the extinction of these amazing animals – we have fewer than 500 black rhino left in Kenya and they will disappear within the next few years unless we can somehow make it shameful to buy elephant and rhino products – it happened with furs. It can happen with ivory and rhino horn. We are supporting an initiative to create awareness in China and Japan but also need to ensure that people who hunt and kill these magnificent animals are appropriately punished. Two recent arrests by the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) for dealing in ivory resulted in fines that amounted to an insult to the people who put their lives at risk protecting wildlife. In both cases the dealers were fined less than US$ 1,000 – US$ 250, in one case. For trying to sell ivory worth 20 – 30 times that value.
We talk about the killing of elephant and rhino. There is another animal at extreme risk, and their killing appears to be below the radar – leopard. MEP rangers, in conjunction with officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), have recently arrested people with six leopard skins – that is the tip of the iceberg. We are following leads on another 13 skins and missed another two. These animals are being poisoned – there appear to be no wound marks on the skins. Are we about to lose another of our iconic and beautiful species to greed, and the competition for resources?
The policy in Kenya – where wildlife belongs to the State and people are expected to co-exist with animals, at their expense, does not work. Our challenge is to find ways to provide incentives for people to protect animals on private and community land. It is a huge challenge, and we need to think outside the box. If we do not, there will be no wildlife outside protected areas in a few years. Even then; we cannot guarantee animals’ safety – illegal grazing in protected areas is a major problem. Witness the illegal grazing in Tsavo, Shaba and the Narok portion of the Masai Mara National Reserve. There was a report of two elephant killed in the Nagama Hills on the 29th – probably by people grazing their cattle illegally in the Reserve. That brought to five, the number of elephant killed in one week – all in the Eastern Mara and surrounding areas.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person near Kasarani on the morning of the 5th. He was on his way to set snares in the Lemai Wedge.
A combined team from Ngiro-are and TANAPA arrested nine poachers on the 7th. The nine were camped near the Sand River/Mara River junction, just below Purungat Bridge and had killed a hippo.
The Ngiro-are rangers collected four snares on 18th and rescued one giraffe that had been caught in one of the snares.
A combined Tanzanian/Conservancy patrol arrested 2, of five, poachers between the Bologonja stream and Sand River on the 20th. They had arrived the previous evening and had just set their snares. Nothing had been caught and 27 snares were recovered.
One round of ammunition was found in the Serena compound on the 21st, an extensive search of the lodge grounds and surrounding area revealed no sign of poacher or bandit activity.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three people on the 21st, two escaped. The five were on their way into the Lemai Wedge to set 11 snares and were arrested before they could set their snares.
The Iseiya rangers arrested 3 people at Happerkop Campsite, near the Ol Are salt-lick on the 29th. We had seen sighs in this area previously and were patrolling it on a regular basis – it paid off. The poachers had killed four warthog and were still in the process of butchering them when arrested. Warthog are a favourite meat for the wa Kuria and the Mara Triangle seems to be a favourite destination – because we have so many – and there are hardly any left in the Lemai Wedge.
Revenue and Accounts
May revenue was as low as it gets but all the indications are that there will be a considerable improvement in the coming months – not before time.
We thatched the roof over the KAPS office at Purungat Bridge to match the rest of the building.
We then re-thatched two houses at Iseiya.
We completed the crossing on the Mugoro bypass and it is ready for use. We now need to resurface the approach roads. This crossing will now make the river road all-weather.
We completed cutting all the grass tracks
We completed grading all the roads in the Triangle and will start on the road to Mpata in early July.
We have started on creating a route at Oloololo Gate that will ensure all vehicles, including those that go to the Kichwa Airstrip, pass through the gate. This means that KAPS will be able to remove their booth and relocate to the office next to the Warden’s office. This should mean that we have better control over vehicles going towards the airstrip and Little Governors.
Mara West camp have been working on the Road up the escarpment and have done an excellent job – we commend them for this work.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July 2013
· Complete work at Oloololo Gate;
· Hire lorries to resurface sections of the main road;
· Complete roads to Mpata and Olonana Camp;
· Survey Reserve boundary;
· Undertake staff tour to Tanzania;
· Start Annual Audit;
· Secure underground water tank at Purungat; and
· Burn one block around Mlima Mbili.