The first three weeks of June were wet, with all-night showers on several occasions and one or two heavier storms in the evening. The weather then cleared and we had glorious, cool but sunny days for the remainder of the month.
The KAPS office at Iseiya burnt down early on the 12th. They suspect that it was an electrical fault that started in the kitchen/store section of the office.
The court case against the Conservancy instituted by Ms Elijah Sikona et. al. was struck out by the High Court on the 18th June on the basis that the Plaintiff had no capacity to institute the suit.
An attack on a town, Mpekatoni, near Lamu on the 15th resulted in the death of around 65 people. This attack received a great deal of international media attention and the immediate cancellation of numerous bookings to Kenya.
The Chief Executive and Chairman went to Equity Bank to open an account that would enable Paypal payments. We have almost completed all the requirements and the account should be opened shortly.
Annual Work Plan
A Board meeting was held in the Mara on the 18th to review this year’s annual work-plan. The key points in the plan were:
- Insecurity and cost were two key issues driving tourism away from Kenya. Kenya is not being marketed as a destination and the current slump in tourism is expected to continue for one to three years;
- The Management Agreement between the Conservancy and Narok County expires in April 2015;
- We may have to employ a new Finance and Administration manager;
- Triad House has become too expensive and we may have to relocate;
- We have engaged a professional fundraiser, Ms Angela Yang, to make up the expected budget shortfall;
- We are working with Narok County to harmonize promotions and to take on Conservancy security personnel;
- Expected income for 2014/15 will be Ksh 182 million;
- Expenditure for the period will be Ksh 197 million – Ksh 16.4 million per month, of which salaries alone take 50%;
- The shortfall, requiring donor funding, will be Ksh 15 million;
- There is a chance that VAT will be imposed on Park fees and that this will have to absorbed by the County;
- There will be no capital purchases;
- Elephant and rhino poaching continue to be a threat;
- The County is working on upgrading the security system in the Mara;
- Long-term research done by the Hyena Research Project in Talek has quantified some worrying trends in the past 20 years:
- 1,600% increase in the number of camps;
- 500% increase in the number of cattle grazing in the Reserve;
- 50% decline in wildlife numbers.
The Mara Cheetah Project produced their first annual report in June. The study is in it’s early stages and it is difficult to draw any conclusions but Dr Femke Broekhuis, Project Director and Principle Investigator, reported 296 sightings – of which 44% of the individuals were only seen once or twice; whereas 27% of the individuals were seen between 11-50 times. This may mean that a large proportion of the population is transient. Where they come from, and where they go remains to be seen. There is little doubt that the Mara Cheetah population is under threat from human encroachment and other predators. Of 31 cubs known to have been born in the period, 75% have died. This is probably not that unexpected – cheetah have very high cub mortality in areas like the Serengeti with competition from lions and hyena.
Mr Samson Lenjirr presented us with a copy of his dissertation on “Impacts of off-road driving on wildlife management in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya” for his BSc Degree in Wildlife Management at the University of Eldoret. It was a most interesting document and confirmed that the Reserve environment is progressively deteriorating and that off-road driving is a major factor. No where is this more apparent than around areas with high concentrations of tourist vehicles – Ol Kiombo, Talek, Sekenai, Olelamutia, Lookout Hill and Keekorok – where every bush and thicket is criss-crossed with vehicle tracks. Mr Lenjirr recommends that more research needs to be done on the behavioural changes to the big cats as a result of off-road driving. The Hyena Research Project in Talek has already recorded a 50% decline in the number of lions seen around Talek – how much of this is a result of vehicle harassment and how much from illegal grazing?
Dr Dominic Mijele was flown down by the Sheldrick Trust to treat a number of animals in the Mara. On the 4th he treated a lion with deep bite wounds on the front right paw. He then treated a zebra with an arrow embedded in it’s flank and a rhino with a filarial skin wound. These filarial wounds are fairly uncommon in the Mara and this is the third case we have seen in 13 years.
The migration moved in at the beginning of June – we then had widespread rain and the animals all returned to Tanzania and an area between the Mara River and Keekorok. They started streaming back into the Reserve on the 25th and there were some excellent crossings at the main crossing sites upstream from Mara Serena.
A number of animals are being shot with arrows around Ol Kurruk, a giraffe was treated on the 25th for an arrow wound in it’s neck.
The Chief Executive and Warden Operations met with the County Secretary on the 12th to discuss secondment and promotion issues for security staff. They also discussed deploying four additional rangers from the County to replace people who had transferred out.
Tourist numbers are beginning to pick up and most camps are expecting excellent bookings for July and August. However, we can expect a short high season – as we had last year. This will be insufficient to replenish our reserves, as the season stands now.
We arrested a total of 35 poachers in June and recovered 138 wire snares. We also arrested one person trying to sell a leopard skin. The number of snares was surprisingly low and probably a reflection of the low numbers of wildebeest in the area. We can expect to recover many more in the coming months.
One person was arrested by the Olkurruk rangers with zebra meat on the 31st May.
Our combined ranger teams arrested three people on the 4th near Saina’s Lugga in the Lemai Wedge – they had only been there one day and had already killed four wildebeest, a topi and an impala and were in the process of butchering them when apprehended. 27 wire snares were recovered.
The Ol Kurruk rangers arrested one suspected cattle thief near the Sankuria Lugga on the 4th – he had become separated from his two companions and was lost.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three people as they entered the Lemai Wedge on the Masanga Route at 8.00 pm on the 5th. They were carrying machetes and spears.
A combined patrol arrested three people near the Bologonja junction with the Mara River on the 7th. The three were part of a larger group of seven that had killed and butchered six wildebeest; 42 wire snares were recovered.
Our teams joined forces with our Tanzanian counterparts on the 11th and patrolled between an area called Mama Kent and the Bologonja River. They came across two poachers who had killed a zebra and managed to arrest both of them. They then came across another poachers’ camp and managed to arrest four more people – two escaped. This second group had been there for four days and had killed and butchered eight wildebeest. They had been drying the meat and would have moved out that night. Eighteen snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are team joined up with their TANAPA counterparts from Kokatende and patrolled along the Bologonja stream between the 15 – 17th. They managed to arrest seven poachers; five on the night of the 15th, at around 8.00 pm. Two more people were arrested on the 16th. Two zebra had been killed and 23 wire snares were recovered.
The Iseiya team went across the River on the 22nd and arrested three, of six, people along the Bologonja stream. The poachers had been in the area a week and had killed one wildebeest; 18 wire snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are team joined forces with their counterparts from Kinyangaga on the evening of the 26th and ambushed the Masanga route, off the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge. The rangers managed to arrest six, of eight, people with10 wire snares and assorted weapons. The poachers were on their way to set their snares.
Our rangers managed to arrest two people with a leopard skin near Ol Donyo Orok, on the escarpment on the night of the 30th. This person was also trying to sell four tusks that were to be transported from Tanzania.
Revenue and Accounts
Kenya has raised US$ 2 billion through a Eurobond, part payable over five years, the remainder over ten years. It appears that the country could have raised several times this amount and is an indication that the international community has confidence in Kenya. It is expected that the Eurobond will help stabilise the Kenya Shilling and maintain growth – currently estimated at 4.7%.
Our share of revenue for the months of March, April and May was insufficient to cover salaries, let alone pay for other expenses.
The Case tractor broke down whilst cutting grass tracks and we had to overhaul the engine. The tractor only started operating again at the end of the month.
We continue to resurface sections of our main roads – long sections of the main road to Oloololo Gate were repaired in June.
We purchased two new tyres for the grader and the grader completed most of the major roads – only leaving the roads to Ngiro-are. This work would have been completed if it were not for the rain.
We did a lot of minor repairs to the main staff camp and housing in the stations.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July 2014
· Complete cutting game viewing tracks;
· Complete grading roads;
· Open Equity account for Paypal;
· Burn one block;
· Work with County on stakeholders’ meeting; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.