There were a few rainstorms throughout the month, but not the expected heavy rains. The first of the rains coincided with the visit by councillors and MPs from Baringo, curtailing some of the planned activities. However, the trip was a success and a follow-up trip to the Lewa Conservancy is planned for early April.
We hosted Leslie Roach and her family on the 21st March, we joined them at Lobo in the Serengeti before returning with them to the Mara.
Ms Jorie Butler Kent has pledged US$ 9,000 for community scouts, the first tranche of funds has been received by Friends of Conservation and will be passed on to the Conservancy. Anne Kent Taylor has provided the names of some of her Youth for Conservation group that she considers as suitable for employment as community scouts.
Two young Canadians, wishing to establish an environmental education centre on the escarpment, visited for three days.
One elephant was found by drivers from Olonana with a wire snare around its trunk – Anne Kent Taylor organised two vets from the Kenya Wildlife Service to fly down and remove the snare on the 29th March. On the same day we found a very weak lioness with a wasted left hind leg. This was also darted and checked for injuries. It had an arthritic joint and was treated but may not recover.
One male lion was killed in a fight on the 20th March, this is the second since June 2001. Two cheetah cubs died, both from the same litter.
Gate revenue continues to be below expectations and this will almost certainly be the situation until June. All the lodges reported heavy bookings over the Easter week-end but occupancy rates are expected to fall off drastically in April and May.
Mr Piers Bastard, from Acacia Trails, visited two potential camp sites. James Robertson, from Ker and Downey also visited the sites and we have interest from two other professional operators. No commitments have been made.
We are seeing an increasing number of vehicles from Mara River Camp and Mara Safari Club visiting the Reserve.
A total of 13 poachers were arrested during the month, bringing the total to 50 since the Conservancy started operations. On the 9th March a routine ambush along the Tanzanian border made contact with a group of poachers hunting with dogs, they had killed three Thompson’s gazelle and one poacher was apprehended. These ambushes, night patrols and Observation Points (we had two groups of 4 security personnel camped out for a week at a time) showed considerable poaching activity on the Tanzanian side of the border and we planned a series of patrols with our Tanzanian counterparts.
One patrol conducted in conjunction with the Youth for Conservation group discovered a poacher’s camp near Mpata Club and recovered 38 snares; unfortunately no one was arrested.
On the 21st March we teamed up with the Tanzanians and arrested 6 poachers in two different groups on the Tanzanian side of the border. In the first group all three were arrested and six snares recovered, they were found with an impala –which they said they had taken from a leopard. They gave information on another group operating with dogs and three of the estimated 10 poachers were arrested – they had about 15 Thompson’s gazelle carcasses.
On the 25th the tracks of a group of approximately 10 people were found entering the Triangle, they were followed and one person was arrested – they had heard that anti-poaching activities had been stepped-up in Tanzania and had decided to try the Kenyan side. They were discovered the day they arrived and had not set up camp. The following day a new group of four, with dogs, came into the Reserve and killed a warthog – they were also found on the day of arrival and two people arrested before they could establish a camp.
The last three poachers were arrested in another joint operation in Tanzania on the 30th March. The three were arrested from two different groups and at least 50 wire snares recovered. This brings the total of wire snares recovered up to over 400 since June 2001.
The open plains just South of the Triangle have been the focus for poaching activities by the Wa Kuria from Tanzania, they seem to have been concentrating on hunting Thompson’s gazelle and Impala with torches and dogs when there has been no moon and switched to hunting with snares nearer the full moon. The increase in poaching seems to have coincided with the quiet period after planting crops and before harvest. We were fortunate in finding the two known groups of poachers on the day they arrived in the Reserve – much of the credit for this must go to the rangers and in particular Assistant Warden Samuel Kortom and Sergeant Joseph Kimojino for their role in motivating the rangers. Both Kortom and Kimojino went to Lewa and came back full of ideas and motivation – we are in the process of identifying 8-10 of the best rangers and forming an operations unit, which we hope will also go to Lewa for a week.
David Nkedianye has produced a report of his work with the Conservancy and has been paid for his consultancy.
Peter Behr did not return in March and is not expected back until late April or early May – by that time we hope to have some funding to build a viewing platform for the migration. We will also use him to work with Edward Ngoitoi on driver discipline – we have had to warn several drivers for over-speeding and one private vehicle with seven passengers overturned on the 28th March between Mara Bridge and Mara Serena.
Edward Ngoitoi is on his annual leave and due to return on the 10th April.
The gate at Oloololo has been re-painted. The mason and carpenter are working on the houses at Ngiro-are and should complete the renovations by the middle of April. This almost completes our renovation of the existing permanent structures but leaves work to be done on staff housing at Mara Bridge and Little Governor’s camp.
The grader spent most of the month out of action with minor problems and delays in receiving spare parts. We were not able to complete our work programme – this was most unfortunate, as the weather was ideal. However, the grader should be operational in early April and it will complete the road to Ngiro-are. We continue discussion with Sebimo, the gold mine at Lolgorien, on the hire of equipment to murrum the worst sections of road between Oloololo gate and Mara Serena. Sebimo have offered us diesel at Ksh 45 per litre, considerably lower than we purchase it from Mara Serena, we have been negotiating with Serena on reducing prices to the Conservancy but have not received a final decision.
We cut the grass on main game viewing and boundary tracks and the road gang continued with the work of improving drifts and culverts. They also cleared two potential camp-sites.
Revenue and Accounts
None of the lodges have paid their annual fees for resident game-viewing vehicles – Mara Serena wanted to see copies of our Management Agreement and any Gazette Notice showing fees payable – these have been provided. TransWorld have expressed a willingness to pay for their resident vehicles but Musiara Ltd appear to be stalling on the issue. They are also delaying payment on direct billings and the issue is being followed by Earthview. We have produced a windscreen sticker for resident vehicles, which will be placed on each vehicle once they have paid.
We can expect cash-flow problems over the next three months, as we have to meet obligations with a diminished income.
Area of focus for April
- Complete the road to Ngiro-are and possibly the road between the Kichwa Tembo airstrip and Little Governor’s.
- We will complete renovation on the buildings at Ngiro-are.
- We will conduct five-day First-Aid training course for 15 rangers, NCOs and Officers through St John’s Ambulance.
- We will identify 8-10 rangers for training at Lewa.
- We will continue to collaborate with the Tanzanians in anti-poaching along our common border.
- We are expecting a visit by GSU training officers to follow-up on correspondence between ourselves and the GSU on security staff training.
- We will follow-up on a possible mate for the one rhino in the Triangle.
- We will work on establishing a cadre of community scouts, with separate communications.