The heavy rains continued throughout the first three weeks in June, with several exceptional storms along the escarpment resulting in severe flooding of the lower road to Oloololo. On one occasion a car tried to cross the Mugoro Lugga when flooded, as it was for much of the month, and was virtually submerged – the occupants ended up on the roof and had to be rescued by our backhoe loader. The rains subsided towards the end of June – although there were still a few heavy showers.
The County Government is preparing a Constitution that will govern the future management of the Masai Mara National Reserve. A number of meetings have already been held and a technical team has prepared a very comprehensive document on key issues to be included in the Constitution – these issues will be presented to a group of lawyers for drafting into a legally binding document. We are hoping that a draft Constitution will be ready for presentation to a wider audience at the end of July. A revised management plan for the Mara will be developed that conforms with this new Mara Management Bill, or Constitution.
We held a Board meeting on the 5th.
The Chief Executive met Mr Moses Chelanga, a lawyer doing work with Narok County, on the 16th to discuss options available to us on revenue collection. Essentially the options are:
- KAPS are employed by the County and remit directly to County.
The Conservancy would either be paid a percentage, as is done now, or would be paid against an approved budget and work-plan;
The County could give a Bank guarantee to cover any cash-flow problems in the transition
- The County legislates the formation of an Authority that would govern the Mara.
This would be managed by a Board of Trustees;
The Board could then contract a professional company to manage the Reserve;
This would provide a degree of autonomy in setting fees, revenue collection and distribution.
The second option is preferable but would require creating the legislation by the County and would take time. It would also be enshrined in the new Constitution being developed for the Mara.
The Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) will hold their Annual General Meeting at Mara Serena from the 1st July. This meeting will be attended by a number of senior Government officials and will hopefully give us a chance to showcase the Triangle.
We received an interesting paper entitled: Effects of wildlife and cattle on tick abundance in central Kenya. Keesing F, Allan B A, Young T P, Ostfeld R S in Ecological Applications 23 (6) (2013) – in which they argue that acaracide-treated cattle greatly reduce tick abundance, to the benefit of people and wildlife.
We also received a paper from the Hyena Research Programme: Long-distance communication facilitates cooperation among wild spotted hyenas, Crocuta crocuta. Gersic A S, Cheney D L, Scheider J M, Seyfarth R M and Holekamp K E in Animal Behaviour 103 (2015).
Most of our staff have now taken two weeks unpaid leave – a big thank you to them for being so understanding.
Angela Yang has taken up a position with the London Zoological Society but will continue to manage our facebook site – we now have a fraction under 50,000 fans – and help us with donations.
Two of our Corporals were demoted for drinking alcohol whilst in uniform. They were fortunate not to be dismissed.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has instituted a new online reporting system for all employees paying Pay As You Earn (PAYE). The deadline was 30th June and all our staff are now registered.
Three of our dogs based at Iseiya were treated for a tick-borne disease, Babesia. This is usually fatal unless treated and we were lucky to catch it in time. It would appear that the handlers have been lax in tick prevention.
Morani, one of the bloodhounds was taken to Nairobi for further operations on his eyes for Entropion – essentially excess skin, causing inversion of the eyelids. He should return in early July.
One lioness was found dead near the Kichwa airstrip on the 23rd. There were no reported injuries. Some of the lions from around Oloololo moved up the escarpment and started killing cattle. We are trying to monitor the lions and have been paying compensation.
It has been so wet, and the grass so long, that game viewing has been difficult. Fortunately the area along the Tanzanian border had good game viewing – although vehicles searching for cheetah in the area did considerable damage.
There have been signs of wildebeest along Sand River but none have crossed into the Triangle. We hope to see the first animals by mid-July.
We held a Lodge managers’ meeting a Little Governor’s on the 6th, it was well attended and we made progress on the design for a small visitor centre at Oloololo Gate.
The British Government lifted the Travel Advisories against the southern half of Kenya’s coastline. There is a general feeling that this will improve tourism – certainly the coastal hotels are struggling and some are surviving on local meetings and conferences.
Twelve people were arrested in June, ten of them for poaching and two for cutting trees. Four of the poachers were arrested well inside the Triangle and were prosecuted in Kilgoris.
Two people were arrested for poaching well inside the Triangle on the 7th. We had been seeing signs of poaching between Egyptian Goose and Serena – two hippo had been speared last month and we had seen signs of warthog poaching in the general area; so we were focussing on trying to catch these people. They had arrived the previous night at 4.00 am and had already killed a warthog when apprehended. Unfortunately one person escaped – these people had already been arrested in the Triangle years ago.
The following day, the 8th, we returned to the same area and came across another poachers’ camp near Nyumba Nane – two people were arrested and three escaped. Anna, one of our dogs was responsible for one of the arrests. This group had been in the Triangle for six days and had killed and butchered a hippo. The meat was virtually dry and they would have left that, or the following, night. There were signs of at least two other camps in the same thicket – obviously one of the areas from which people had been poaching for the past month. This area is very inaccessible when so wet and with such tall grass and the poachers obviously thought that they had found the perfect spot.
One poacher was arrested along the Mara River on the 10th; two others escaped.
Three poachers were arrested in an ambush at 7.00 pm on the 13th on the edge of the escarpment below Kigonga in the Lemai Wedge. They were part of a much larger gang that was on their way to hunt Thompson’s gazelle.
Our Ngiro-are rangers assisted in the recovery of a police firearm that had been stolen on the 17th , and the arrest of the person who had taken it.
We held a demonstration on the use of small UAVs and some of the Ngiro-are staff received three days training. We hope to get permission to use these UAVs in monitoring poacher movements along the Kenya/Tanzania border.
The Seiya team arrested two people near Lemai on the 23rd; they had spears and machetes. The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two more people on the 24th; this time for cutting trees in the Triangle. On the same day the Oloololo/Anne Kent-Taylor scouts recovered two wire snares near the Tanzanian border.
Revenue and Accounts
Although our May revenue was slightly higher than for April, it was still 27% down on May last year – a continuation of the disastrous start to the year. The high season seems to getting off to a very slow start and unless we have a great number of last minute bookings we will be in for a very poor season.
We have received a letter from KRA on compliance for Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Nairobi office has been compiling all the information requested by the KRA officers.
We purchased and modified a new axle for the large trailer. We sent one hydraulic ram to Nairobi for the smaller trailer.
We repaired some of the roads that were most damaged by the rains – particularly near Oloololo and one or two crossings near Ngiro-are. There is still considerable work to be done on repairing the road to Ngiro-are.
We started cutting grass tracks between Mara Serena and Purungat – some areas are still too wet and we may have to stop until it dries out a little.
We have started grading our main roads – again some areas are too wet and others have been very severely damaged by the exceptionally heavy storms that we experienced in June. We may have to wait a while to grade the roads in some areas – particularly along the escarpment towards Ngiro-are.
We have been asked to estimate the cost of rehabilitating structures in the Narok portion of the Game Reserve and have sent people around to prepare these estimates.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July 2015
· Work with County Government on new Constitution for Mara;
· Continue working on new Management Agreement;
· Complete cutting grass tracks;
· Complete estimates for rehabilitating structures in Narok;
· Continue with developing Constitution for Mara;
· Work on completing management agreement;
· Complete grading roads; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.