There were one or two isolated storms throughout the month but, for the most part, March was characterised by hot, sunny days. The rains finally broke on the 27th and we can now expect a very wet April/May.
The General Elections were held on the 4th March. For the most part, the elections went off very peacefully and in a very calm and orderly manner. There were a number of glitches and, in some places, people had to queue for over eight hours to vote – a real test of anyone’s patience and resolve. Unfortunately, the Electronic Voter Identification Devices and the mobile networks were unable to cope with the huge volume of data and the IEBC resorted to manual counting of the votes – a very slow and tedious process. Although people were very patient when it came to waiting to vote – they became restless when there were delays in getting out the results. This gave a chance for all sorts of conspiracy theories to take root but in the end Mr Uhuru Kenyatta was proclaimed the President Elect on the 9th – with 50.07% of the vote. Mr Raila Odinga, the runner-up, immediately said that there were election irregularities and that he would contest the election result. The overwhelming mood throughout this period was of: we must never allow a repeat of the post election chaos that followed the elections in 2007; and lets get on with our lives. The Supreme Court, the only Court mandated to hear Raila’s petition, ruled that Mr Kenyatta is President on the 30th.
Mr S Tunai was elected Governor of Narok County and was Sworn In on the 27th. This is very good news for conservation and development in Narok and we can expect to see some major changes for the better in the coming months. Congratulations to Mr Tunai; and also Mr K ole Kijabe, who was elected as Ward Representative.
The Chief Executive met with the Senior Warden and engineer from the Council in Kilgoris on the 6th, to discuss Sun Lodge’s request for a road into the Triangle. It was agreed that no road should be opened until a survey of the park boundary had been completed – it is felt that the lodge is built illegally in the Reserve – and all leases, agreements and NEMA approvals are produced and approved by the Council. Only then would a road be considered and, only if, stringent terms and conditions addressing security and revenue collections are agreed upon. It was also felt that only one road would be considered down the escarpment. There are a number of developers, each wanting to build outside the Reserve and then build a road into the Triangle. We are most concerned about the unplanned proliferation of camps and lodges outside the Triangle – all expecting to have the right of entry into the Reserve. Unless there are some controls, we can expect the Triangle to be overrun by tourists. It should be mandatory for the camps and lodges built outside the Reserve to subscribe to, and support, community conservancies outside the Reserve before that can be eligible for entry.
Two, of the three, lions killed an old lioness on the morning of the 5th. She was well known, about ten years old, with one eye and spent most of her time along the river.
Naishuro, our female rhino appeared with her fifth calf on the 6th.
The burn attracted thousands of Thompson’s gazelle and one or two cheetah.
Mr Steve Mwiti returned to the Conservancy on the 17th, to present the updated Staff Manual to our staff. We then prepared new Appointment Letters for all the staff and these will be distributed and signed in early April.
Tourist numbers dropped very dramatically in March and look set to stay at very low levels until June. Most places are recording excellent bookings for the high season – July through September – but the next three months will be slowest for several years.
A Mara Intrepids vehicle overturned on the main road between Mara Serena and Purungat Bridge on the afternoon of the 21st. The vehicle, which appeared to be driven by an inexperienced driver, skidded on a straight section of road – badly injuring one of the passengers – she lost all the fingers on one hand.
Sixteen people were arrested during March, four of them in the Triangle. This brings the total to 2,057.
The Iseiya rangers arrested four people who had been hunting warthog for six days in the Triangle on the 1st – they had killed eight! They were found along Benjamin’s Lugga, not far from Mara Serena – in a place that we would not expect poachers to hide. This was not the first time these people had been hunting in the Triangle – some of them had been here at least three times. We had seen tracks, but had never been able to locate them.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two, of five, poachers near Lempise, in the Lemai Wedge at 10.30 on the night of 6th. They were on their way to hunt gazelle with dogs and had not killed anything when arrested.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person with two wire snares on the night ofthe 11th as he came into the Lemai Wedge near Kokamange.
Eight people were arrested on the 14th. In the first instance the Ngiro-are rangers arrested three, of five, people as they entered the Lemai Wedge, near Lempise at 5.00 am. The group were on their way to camp along the Mara River and were arrested with 31 wire snares and spears. The second group were arrested on the night of the 14th, at midnight. They were part of a very large gang, estimated at around 70 people, who were hunting Thompson’s gazelle with torches, whistles and dogs. They were hunting on the large, open plains between Daraja Mbili and Watu Kumi –in the middle of the Lemai Wedge and had already killed 21 gazelle when arrested.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 16 snares near Konyoike on the 15th, the rangers had found two snares, one had caught a zebra, the previous day and returned to comb the area.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person in the Lemai Wedge at 8.30 pm on the night of the 16th. He was with one other person and appeared to be on his way to check snares when arrested – no snares were found.
Six wire snares were recovered during the last week of March.
Heritage, one of our large, collared, bull elephant, was shot and killed near Kawai on the evening of the 31st. Heritage used to spend time in the Triangle, near Oloololo Gate, but spent most of his time in the forest on top of the escarpment.
Revenue and Accounts
Our management accounts for the period ending February 2013 showed that our gross margin was slightly better than budget (Ksh 120.8 million against budget of 114.2 million). However, expenses were higher than anticipated (Ksh 101.9 million against 92.2 million). After taking finance charges into account, our net income for the period was within 2% of budget (17.9 million against budget of 18.3 million).
All the indications are for a very poor low season and we fully expect that we will not meet our budget projections. However, this net surplus will almost certainly be wiped out in the coming months. Fortunately we had set aside additional funds for just such an occasion and should be able to meet all our obligations.
We burnt a block on the 6th. We had planned the burn for just before the rains – and had a good storm on the area the day after.
We worked on the perennially flooded area along the road to Ngiro-are by digging a small dam on one side and extra long drainage ditches on the other; to drain the water away from the road.
We have decided to make an all-weather bypass – using an old culvert that has not been in use since the 1980’s. A new road has been graded and we have resurfaced a portion. We will now start on rehabilitating the crossing.
We have virtually completed the office extension and only have one or two finishing touches left to do. They will be ready for use in early April.
Report on focus for March
Focus for April 2013
· Survey boundary
· Collect Land Rover from CMC;
· Move into new offices;
· Get all staff to sign letters of appointment;
· Work on Mugoro by-pass;
· Hold Board meeting on 19th April; and
· Complete KAPS evaluation.