There were a series of very heavy rain storms in the first ten days of March, leading to considerable damage to the roads and tracks, flooding all the water courses and the Olpunyatta swamp. The weather then cleared somewhat, with clear, sunny days and isolated thunderstorms and heavy showers most evenings.
The Chief Executive met with M/s Mori and Kalongo of Mpata Club on the 1st. Mr Mori reported that Mpata had received US$ 20,834.00 (Ksh 1.5 million) from the Kaidaren Trust for developing the road improvement programme; this will be paid to the Mara Conservancy. The first phase of this programme, to improve the river road between Mara Serena and Oloololo gate had been designed and budgeted for by the Ministry of Works in Kilgoris and already submitted to Kaidaren.
The 10 year management agreement was endorsed by the Minister of Local Government on the 3rd, this now means that we officially have a new 10 year mandate to manage the Mara Triangle in partnership with the County Council.
Ms Alison Jones visited the Conservancy between the 6-10th, Ms Jones is one of our original donors, without whom we would never have been able to capitalise the Conservancy.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Wairimu Mwangi, Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Management Consulting division and Mr Fred Aloo of the Audit section on the 13th to discuss the recruitment of a full-time accountant/administrator for the Conservancy. Deloitte’s will advertise and short-list suitable candidates for the final selection by the Conservancy.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Harold Wackman of the Africa Conservation Fund in the Mara and then followed it up with a meeting in Nairobi with him and their Executive Director, Dr Emmanuel de Merode on the 17th. The Africa Conservation Fund are developing a novel way of raising conservation funds through the internet and we have held preliminary discussions on raising donations through them. We have invited Dr de Merode to give a short presentation to the Board at their next meeting in April.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Amanda Feldon, a film producer/director, who would like to make a film on anti-poaching in the Mara as part of a series for Discovery/Animal Planet. We have since corresponded and are planning something for somewhere between July and September 2006.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Ibrahim Khalif of Deloitte Consulting to discuss taxation issues on the 23rd. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has responded to our request for tax exemption by requesting audited accounts since 2001. We have been advised that KRA will conduct an audit on PAYE and withholding compliance and that we will be expected to pay any outstanding taxes.
The Chief Executive attended a meeting at KWS on the 24th to discuss proposed management plans for Meru and Tsavo National Parks. He used the opportunity to meet with Rob Malpas of the Conservation Development Centre (CDC) to discuss the possibility of doing a 10 year strategic management plan for the Mara Triangle. CDC have just completed a management plan for the Serengeti and it seems ideal to match the Serengeti plan with management objectives for the Mara in terms of developing an ecosystem based management plan.
We have started work on the 2006/7 Annual Work Plan and will have it ready for review by the Board prior to a meeting scheduled for mid-May.
Most of the wildebeest left in the first few days of March, leaving a few small groups scattered around. The zebra started leaving the Triangle, heading North within the first half of March and by the end of March there were no wildebeest and virtually no zebra left in the Triangle. This seems to follow the normal pattern, when exceptionally heavy rains trigger a movement of animals out of the Triangle.
We have one cheetah with three six-week old cubs near the border; the cubs left the nest towards the end of the month and have not been seen since. There was one pair of cheetah mating near the 4km sign from the 21st for three days.
One lioness gave birth to three cubs on or around the 20th, we have had problems with tourist vehicles approaching too close and harassing the mother and Cheetah 1, our monitoring vehicle, is having to spend an inordinate amount of time protecting the mother and cubs. One other lioness from the “Benjamin Lugga” pride is due to give birth any day.
A leopard was released by KWS on the 29th along the BBC lugga, between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge. It had been trapped for killing livestock.
Mr E Nkoitoi took over legal custody of all the Council firearms through the issuance of a new firearms certificate on the 13th March. He now has 40 firearms under control, 32 of which are in the Triangle and the rest in Kilgoris.
Mr Kipas Sairowa completed a course at Ngong for road maintenance equipment, he is now licensed to operate and drive graders and shovels.
Three members of staff attended the Kentours AGM in Nairobi on the 18th.
Occupancy rates in the lodges dropped off during the month as we enter the low season.
We have scheduled a meeting will all resident driver/guides and lodge managers for the 10th April to discuss driver discipline and brief managers on proposed developments in the coming financial year. This meeting will be hosted by Kichwa Tembo.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in March
We arrested a total of 15 wa Kuria poachers during the month, bringing the total up to 462, 80 of them arrested in the past four months. Of the 15 arrests, seven were in the Triangle and the remainder in Tanzania. 67 wire snares were recovered during the past month.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested in a joint operation between the Ngiro-are team and their counterparts from Kokatende on the 2nd. The poachers had just arrived in an area downstream from Kokatende on the far side of the Mara River when apprehended, they had tem wire snares.
Four wa Kuria poachers were arrested between Daraja la Mzee and the Mara River in Tanzania on the 4th by the Serena team, they had been hunting for a couple of days and had killed a wildebeest calf. 45 wire snares were recovered. One of the four had just escaped arrest two weeks before, by submerging himself in a pool of water, and had been hunting on his own until he met up with the other three.
A routine patrol on the 8th found three wire snares in the same area, two of the snares had killed zebra, one of which had been eaten by hyena, the other was just alive when found but died minutes later. An ambush was set on the snares and three poachers came in at 3.15 in the afternoon. They were with dogs and speared a warthog as they approached the ambush. Unfortunately we were unable to arrest anyone as the ambush was sprung slightly early.
Seven wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the morning of the 10th by a combined Serena, Hammerkop, Mara Bridge and Ngiro-are operation. This followed a report by one of the Serena drivers that one poacher had been seen late the previous evening between the Tanzanian Border and Nyumba Nane –immediately following the report we mounted a small operation and an ambush but were hampered by exceptionally heavy rain. It transpired that 8 poachers had arrived during the rain in the late evening of the ninth, one escaped and seven were arrested close to the area described by the Serena driver, they had 19 wire snares and had not started hunting when apprehended.
Seven wire snares were found on the Kenyan side of the border, near the Ngiro-are swamp on the 13th, an ambush was laid but no one returned.
Seven cattle were stolen from near Kawai on the night of the 14th, the owners did not realise until morning and raised the alarm at 7.00 am. Our rangers immediately mounted a joint operation with the Tanzanians and recovered six of the cattle, the seventh was found dead, well into Tanzania. It is unfortunate that we were not told that night as we would almost certainly have recovered the cattle and arrested the thieves – as they passed one of our pre-determined ambush points in the event of cattle theft.
Two poachers were arrested at 1.00 am on the night of the 24th by the Serena Team. They were part of a large group of poachers who came into the Lemai Wedge after midnight to hunt gazelle, one Thompson’s gazelle had been killed when the two were apprehended.
We have started work on the office an Ngiro-are and the mason has now completed the walls and placed the ring beam.
We worked on the lower road between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge and have repaired most of the areas that were causing problems when wet. The main road to Mara Bridge is currently being worked on.
The grader repaired the main road between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge, unfortunately the murram is now so thin in some sections that very heavy lorry traffic breaks through the murram and causes considerable damage to the road.
Revenue and Accounts
M/s Nderitu Wachira and Associated were appointed to conduct an audit of Earthview and started work in the second half on the month.
We can expect a considerable drop in revenue over the next three months, as we enter the low season.
Report on focus for March
Focus for April
· Complete Earthview Audit;
· Recruit Consultant for 10 year management plan;
· Hold lodge managers and driver/guides meeting on the 10th;
· Hold Board meeting on 12th;
· Start staff appraisals;
· Complete Annual Work Plan and submit to the Board; and
· Complete office block at Ngiro-are.