The rains started on the 12th – several days of all night rain, followed by cool, overcast days. It then cleared for a while before the rains returned in the last week of March. There were several very heavy storms around Oloololo Gate, one of them was nearly 100 mm (4”).
There seems to be a general downturn in the economy – suddenly credit is much tighter and Government is wondering how to make ends meet. A four-day retreat by Government Secretaries met to discuss cost-cutting measures and identified the huge public sector wage bill (supposedly 13% of GDP) for review. The President announced that he would take a 20% cut in salary as a start.
We started our annual dog vaccination campaign and had vaccinated 1,066 dogs and 71 cats as at the 28th February.
Drs Richard Leakey and Paula Kahumbu from Wildlife Direct held a press conference on the 19th to highlight elephant and rhino poaching and asked the President to declare poaching a national disaster. Elephant poaching seems down on the past few years but rhino poaching continues at the rate of 3-4 animals a month. There have been daily articles in the local press and journalists are becoming bolder at naming some of the high-ranking people involved in poaching. However, the Kenya Wildlife Service has come out publically to state that there is no poaching crisis in the country.
The Government has formed a Task Force to report on wildlife issues – the Task Force was in the Mara on the 26th. The Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) gave their views, which were essentially: The Government must recognise the role of landowners in protecting wildlife and either; give rights over wildlife on their land; or provide incentives such as tax breaks. The Chairman of the Task Force seemed unsympathetic to the MMWCA position and it will be unfortunate if this opportunity to rectify the fundamental problem facing wildlife in Kenya – the role and rights of landowners in wildlife conservation is not addressed.
The Chief Executive was involved in several meetings during March. A series of meetings were held with community leaders to discuss an equitable means of sharing revenue from the Reserve with communities. Another series of meetings were held to chart a way forward on improving security within the Reserve.
A cross-border security meeting was held between all the agencies on both sides of the Kenya/Tanzania border between the 23-25th at Keekorok. Warden Joseph Kimojino represented the Conservancy.
The Governor, Mr Samuel Tunai, won the petition against him on the 28th. The petition had contested his win in the last elections. Hopefully Governor Tunai will now be able to put such attempts to derail the good work he has initiated behind him, and let him concentrate on dealing with some of the major issues facing Narok County.
The quarterly report from the Hyena Research Project produced some very interesting information on tourism development, human population, livestock and wildlife trends in the Talek area since 1988. The frightening figures:
- A 1,600% increase in the number of lodges;
- A 450% increase in the number of settlements;
- A 500% increase in the number of cattle grazing in the park since 2006 – this continues to increase exponentially;
- A 50% decrease in resident wildlife populations.
It was interesting to see that the rate of increase in the Talek hyena population almost mirrored the rate of increase in the number of cattle grazing in the Reserve.
The above figures show that nothing has improved since Ogutu published his findings in the Journal of Zoology (Dynamics of Mara-Serengeti ungulates in relation to land use changes; Ogutu J O, Piepho H T, Dublin H T, Bhola N and Reid R S pp 1-14 (2009) & Continuing wildlife population declines and range contraction in the Mara Region of Kenya during 1977-2009; Ogutu J O, Owen-Smith N, Piepho H P and Said M Y pp 1-11 (2011)). Indeed, the rate of environmental degradation and wildlife depletion is, if anything, increasing – a tragedy.
Hundreds of zebra returned to the Triangle in the first ten days of March – the rains then started and many of the zebra returned to the Conservancies.
One elephant was found dead between Dirisha and Little Governors on the 28th – it had been reported to have an injury on the escarpment and probably died as the result of a spear or arrow wound.
We have had to implement a 200 - 300% increase in housing allowances for staff. This, coupled with the 60% increase in basic salaries and a 100% increase in Commuter allowances, will cripple the Conservancy.
Ms Naomi Sapato had a son on the 29th – congratulations to her and her husband.
Tourist numbers continue to be well down on last year and this trend will certainly continue until the high season.
One group of visitors tried to defraud the Conservancy by using resident identity cards for non-residents. The i/d cards belonged to people working for the United Nations in Kenya. The group were made to pay the full fee, fined Ksh 10,000 each, and the cards returned to the Protocol Office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the issuers. It would appear that this method of fraud is common in the National Parks and the Narok portion of the Game Reserve – that was certainly the impression that this group gave us.
Nineteen poachers were arrested during March – nearly all of them intent on killing warthog or Thompson’s gazelle. This is normal for this time of year. The first rhino known to have been poached in the Mara for several years was killed on Paradise Plain on the 4th.
The Ngiro-are team arrested two, of three people at Kokamange, in the Lemai Wedge on the morning of the 28th. They were hunting with dogs and had spears and knives.
The Iseiya team went on a night ambush on the night of the 4th, near Watu Kumi, in the Lemai Wedge. Over 40 poachers came in to hunt Thompson’s gazelle but miles away, near Konyoike. The rangers followed on foot and managed to arrest one person with three dead gazelle. They got back to camp around 3.00 am.
A rhino was killed on Paradise Plain, in the Narok portion of the National Reserve, on the evening of the 4th – it was discovered early on the 5th. Our dogs followed the scent for several kilometres, until the tracks met with a vehicle near the Musiara Swamp. Initial investigations indicated that the vehicle was a saloon car – possibly a white vehicle that had been seen in the area the previous evening. The poachers took the horns, ears and penis. The following night, at 2.45 am, two shots were heard in the same area. A search was conducted, but nothing found.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two people near Kasarani, in the Lemai Wedge, on the night of the 7th. They were probably on their way to hunt warthog with dogs and spears. On the night 9th the rangers arrested one more person in the same area.
The Oloololo team joined forces with rangers from Ol Kurruk and the Kenya Wildlife Service and arrested two people at Ngilai on the escarpment. The two had four wire snares and zebra meat. They pleaded not guilty and were each given a bond of Ksh 500,000.
The Ngiro-are team arrested two people on the night of the 12th near Kasarani. They had supplies for one or two nights and were intent on hunting warthog. An informer that we employ had been following three people implicated in the killing of two elephant near Sitoka, in Trans Mara on the 19th February. The three knew that they were wanted in connection with the killing – the local Chief had given their names – and gave themselves up to the police, accompanied by a lawyer. The Kenya Wildlife Service then prosecuted them and they were each given a bond of Ksh 500,000. It would appear that the new Wildlife & Conservation Act is beginning to make a real difference.
Three people, two of them with guns, were seen on the Sabaringo Lugga on the 16th. The rangers searched the area but never caught up with them.
On the 17th the Ngiro-are rangers arrested two people near Kokamange, in the Lemai Wedge and then that evening they set up an ambush and arrested three more people near Lempise. Two people were arrested for illegal grazing in the Triangle, they refused to pay the fine and were taken to court where they pleaded guilty, expecting to get a minimal fine. They were each sentenced to one year in jail, or a Ksh 200,000 fine.
Our rangers found two dead hippo in the Mara River on the 18th – both were downstream from Purungat. The cause of death was not determined, but it looked as if they had been speared and then run off to die.
A group of people posing as fence builders on the escarpment were also setting snares. Two attempts to arrest them failed.
The Ngiro-are team arrested four poachers as they entered the Lemai Wedge to hunt at night – they had not killed anything.
At least 10 shots were heard on the escarpment at 7.00 pm on the 27th. The rangers immediately went up there but were unable to find anything. The following day they found signs of a wounded elephant, but were unable to locate it.
Revenue and Accounts
February revenue was down on February 2013 by 18%.
Ms Angela Yang spent a few days in the Triangle at the beginning of the month and then moved to Nairobi, where she has been working on a number of proposals to raise funds for the Conservancy. As it stands, with the increase in staff costs, we will run out of funds by mid-May.
We installed a water tank for Partikalat school.
We repaid the chassis on one of our Land Rovers – it was cracked
The grader was hired out to work on the Mara North airstrip and then on a road to Karen Blixen Camp on Mara North. We also hired out the Case back-hoe loader for a few days.
We worked on the lower river road, near Dirisha.
The masons spent most of the month repairing and repainting staff houses.
We completed a new kennel at the Mara Bridge gate house.
Report on focus for March
Focus for April 2014
· Dig soak pit at Ngiro-are;
· Continue with spot patching on the roads;
· Ensure all equipment in good working order for the high season;
· Continue with Fund raising;
· Continue with dog vaccinations; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.