The first part of June was very cold, wet and overcast – with some of the heaviest and most sustained rain this year. This rain persisted throughout most of the month, with some heavy storms towards the end of the month - delaying some of our road works and the cutting of grass tracks.
One of our Board members, John Korinko, lost his mother at the beginning of the month – our commiserations to him and his family.
The Chief Executive met with Governor Tunai and Mr graham Wallington on the 25th and again with the Governor on the 28th to discuss filming rights and a lease for SafariLive, in the first meeting we agreed to draft a contract for review by the end of June. In a separate meeting with the Governor we discussed a contract to provide advice and support to the main Reserve as a preliminary step before full management.
Sgt J Maratim attended a three-week course sponsored by Narok County on crime and violence.
Warden J Kintae attended a short workshop to develop a County Action Plan on insecurity and terrorism hosted by Narok County.
We sent three of our staff for a thorough medical check-up at Columbia Health Care in Nairobi.
The Chief Executive met with Dr Kay Holekamp on the 24th to discuss a collaring project that they want to conduct later in the year. She presented hard copies of several research papers that her hyena research project had produced in the recent past. One of the papers was of particular interest to those who want to understand what is happening to a range of predators in the Mara.
Multispecies hierarchical modelling reveals variable responses of African carnivores to management alternatives (2019). Farr M T; Green D S; Holekamp K E; Roloff G J; Zipkin E F. Ecological Applications, 29 (2)
The authors looked at the effects of passive and active management on a range of carnivores and compared the Talek area of the Main Reserve (largely passive) and the Triangle (more active in limiting disturbance). They found that the Triangle has higher densities of lion and bat-eared foxes, where regulations are enforced, but that the Talek area of the Main Reserve had higher densities of hyena and jackal. They postulate that some species do better with active management and little human disturbance but that others thrive in areas with lax management, maybe because of the decline in apex predators. Overall, they believe that a high level of human disturbance negatively affects the majority of carnivores and that the consequences may permeate throughout the ecosystem.
The negative effects of a high level of human interference on wildlife populations and the ecosystem are a recurring theme of all the recent papers and reports coming out of the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem – see Veldhuis et al (2019), Ogutu et al (2019), a presentation made to the Greater Serengeti Association by Dr G Hopcraft in April 2019, and now Farr et al (2019) – all reported on, in this and previous monthly reports this year. Whether it is the disastrous declines in herbivore populations (Veldhuis & Ogutu), or a reduction in the time wildebeest spend in areas with a heavy tourist concentration as reported by Hopcraft (see Figure 1); the results are the same – too many people (much of it as a result of unregulated tourism and the spin-off in employment and business opportunities) are destroying the very spectacle that tourists come to see.
Figure 1: Areas of greatest tourist pressure – in. white
The migration came in very early and within the first week of June we had thousands of wildebeest in the Triangle. The heavy rain on the 7/8th then had most of them leave again, with only some of the rutting males remaining for a few days, before they too left. The rains then persisted for the remainder of the month, even driving away most of the zebra that had been here for several months.
A large female elephant was treated by Dr Limo on the 9th, it had four arrows in it, probably from crop raiding.
We received permission from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to collar and release the two cheetah that we have raised over the past year and a half. There was a strategy meeting on the 20th to discuss the conditions imposed by KWS. It was agreed that the cheetah would be collared on the 22nd, (this was done) that they would remain in their enclosure to be monitored for two weeks and that they would be released on the 5th July. We agreed to provide a vehicle and monitoring team to track and monitor them daily for several months, until we were satisfied that they were adjusted and capable of looking after themselves.
A total of nine people were arrested for poaching in June, another four were arrested for cutting grass in the Lemai Wedge. Only seven wire snares were found. Five impala were killed using torches and dogs and two hippo are known to have been killed, one of them in the Main Reserve.
Two, of six, people were arrested on the night of the 3rd below Alex Walker’s camp in the Lemai Wedge. They were hunting impala with dogs and torches and five had already been killed when they were apprehended.
Seven wire snares were recovered near Kasarani by the Nigro-are team on the 17th, almost the first snares of the season.
Six people were arrested on the 20th, two people were arrested during the day by a joint Conservancy/TANAPA patrol near Mlima Hotel. They were seen across the river, having speared a hippo, and two vehicles were sent to follow them. That night the rangers decided to ambush the hippo and as it got dark a large group of people came to butcher it – four were arrested. The hippo had three spears in it, all attached to long lengths of nylon twine and a plastic soda bottle – used as floats to indicate where the hippo is in the river.
Four people were arrested in the Lemai Wedge, one on the 22nd and three on the 24th, for cutting grass in the National Park.
One person was arrested in Nyumba Nane, in the Triangle, on the 26th, he was part of a group of eight people who had been camped along a water course below Look-out Hill in the Main Reserve for five nights. The group had killed and butchered a hippo, had dried the meat and were on their way home. At some stage during their stay they had been attacked by elephant, the person we arrested was injured and unable to keep up with his companions. He remained behind with one person whilst the others went home, his companion escaped.
Revenue and Accounts
Narok County granted free entry into the Reserve for Kenya Citizens on the 1st and 2nd, a total of 1,536 adults and 1,435 children took advantage of the offer.
We continue to collect more revenue than the corresponding month in the previous year, may was up by 18% on May 2018.
Repairs and maintenance
Wildeye drilled for water next to the gate house at Purungat, the drillers struck fresh water at 210 m on the 20th, estimated at over 15m3 per hour. This water will be available for the gate, camp, Wildeye and any campers.
We cut the grass around the Serena airstrip and then cleared all the campsites, in preparation for the high season. Sadly the large fig tree in the Maji ya Ndege campsite fell down in a storm.
We made one simple, short airstrips for the Bathawk aircraft, at Purungat. We plan to make another one at Nigro-are when the rain stops.
We replaced the rims on all our Land Cruisers to enable us to have tubeless tyres, the old split-ring tyres had to have tubes and these were being punctured almost every day.
We replaced the thatch roof over the gate house with corrugated iron, a shame, but there were constant problems with bats and leakage with the thatch roof.
We started building another room at Little Governors to accommodate the ever increasing number of staff.
We repaired the loader on the JCB Back-hoe, the front blade was very worn.
We repaired three firearms that had been damaged in the course of work.
We have started repairing culverts where possible.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July 2019
· Prepare for Annual Audit;
· Cut grass tracks;
· Drill borehole near Oloololo;
· Grade roads;
· Start on Immigration Post at Angama;
· Complete new room at Little Governors;
· Work with Angama on toilets at Hippo Pool;
· Complete contract for management;
· Complete lease agreement for SafariLive; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.