We had our first rain on the 28th, after a very long and hot dry spell. The Mara River virtually stopped flowing – it was certainly the lowest we have ever seen it – probably the lowest ever. Many of the watercourses in the Triangle virtually dried up – leaving large numbers of catfish stranded – they provided a feast for hyena, jackals and birds. A few were rescued and trans-located to Egyptian Goose. Cattle have started dying in large numbers and we can expect further deaths with the change in weather. The drought has led to a number of incursions into the Triangle and hundreds of cattle were briefly impounded for grazing illegally at night. The pressure on the Triangle will continue until the rains are well established – the experts are predicting that this might not happen until May.
The Chief Executive compiled the information requested by the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and submitted it as requested.
Deloitte and Touche have completed their Annual Audit and we expect a report out in early April.
Senior County officers, including Executive Committee members, the County Secretary and Chief Officers had several days of meetings at Mara Serena from the 15th. The Governor opened the meeting the 16th – a number of the Executive Committee members have been reshuffled.
We have received a letter, approving a new, ten-year contract, and giving us an extension on our existing agreement; pending finalisation of a new contract. This largely addresses concerns about the Mara Conservancy and provides some assurance to our staff about their future in the Mara.
The President, in his State of the Union Address on the 26th, highlighted corruption and has asked those people adversely mentioned in a confidential report by the EACC to step down and pave the way for further investigation. A number of Cabinet Secretaries were mentioned and have stepped aside.
The Tanzanians burnt large areas of the northern Serengeti and fires crossed over into the Triangle. They were stopped at the Main Purungat – Mara Serena road and the road to Ngiro-are – but the whole of our common boundary with the Serengeti has now been burnt.
Dr Jens Jung revisited some of the Balanites trees that his team had been monitoring about ten years ago. We look forward to his report.
The Chief Executive took nearly three weeks off from the 7th – until the 25th.
Angela Yang visited the Triangle for three weeks to work with our staff on a monitoring system called SMART.
Our road team took two weeks unpaid leave from the 1st to the 15th.
The Hyena researchers reported a dead elephant along Benjamin’s Lugga and our rangers removed the tusks, weighing 2.5 kg each. Soon afterwards an orphan elephant was reported. This calf was seen being attacked by hyena and then disappeared. It was later found and rescued by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Large numbers of zebra and wildebeest crossed over into the Triangle from the Narok side – presumably a portion of the Loita population. These animals stayed until the end of the month and provided a much-needed windfall for our predators. People are reporting that the Serengeti population had moved northwards, as far as Lobo.
Visitor numbers to the Mara continue to be exceptionally low and this is placing a great strain on established tourism ventures. Those managing to weather the downturn are properties with a portfolio outside Kenya and those in which tourism is not the core business. The situation will continue to be dire for the coming three months and everyone is banking on some reprieve in July/August. However, we can’t expect a magical turn around and it may take years for things to recover to 2011 levels.
A total of 21 poachers were arrested in March – many of them for hunting warthog, others for hunting zebra with wire snares and some for fishing. One lion was killed in a snare and butchered between Maji ya Bett and Miungu, in the Lemai Wedge, on the 16th. One other lion appears to have broken free from a snare in the same place. These are probably the two male lions that traversed the border and were occasionally seen near Ol Donyo Olpaek. One hundred and forty one snares were recovered.
Between the 2nd and 5th two people were arrested in the Lemai Wedge. The first on the second, for hunting warthog near Lugga ya Ngiri; the second near Kokatende. Five wire snares were recovered near Kokamange by the Ngiro-are team. Two more people were arrested for hunting warthog on the 10th, near Lemai, by the Iseiya team.
On the 13th our patrol teams joined forces and crossed the Mara River to Ngira in the northern Serengeti – six people were arrested in two incidents. In the first, two people were seen and arrested in daylight and were found to have been fishing. That night the teams set an ambush and arrested four more people – again with fish.
On the 14th two people were arrested with three wire snares near Olaro Nyioke.
A total of 56 wire snares were recovered in the Lemai Wedge, between Maji ya Bett and Kichwa ya Ndovu, on the 16th. One zebra was rescued and one lion (already mentioned) was found to have been skinned and butchered.
Our teams joined up with their Tanzanian counterparts on the 17th and 18th and arrested a total of six people in the Mama Kent and Ngira areas of the northern Serengeti. The first two were arrested on the 17th and had already killed six warthog. The following day the other four - out of seven people - were arrested in an ambush on the road – they had an axe and spears. On the 21st our teams crossed the river again and arrested two more people near Machwechwe with machetes and a hoe – they were obviously targeting warthog.
A total of 26 wire snares were recovered between the 24th and 25th and the Ngiro-are team arrested one poacher near the Kinyangaga ranger post. The Iseiya and Ngiro-are rangers recovered another 30 and 21st snares on the 28th and 30th respectively – at least six zebra had been killed and butchered.
Revenue and Accounts
We normally have a spike in revenue for February – as visitors escape the cold in Europe and America. This did not happen this year and, in fact February revenue was way lower than for January. February Revenue was Ksh 11,771,010 - 42% down on the same period last year and 56% down on February 2013. Our share of revenue was Ksh 4.2 million – less than one third of our monthly running expenses. Indeed, the total collection, including the County and KAPS share did not cover our monthly running costs. If this were not bad enough: March, April and May will be worse.
We graded one or two sections of our main roads at the beginning of the month.
We focused on maintenance and minor repairs. The road team went on unpaid leave from the first and then concentrated on the main road near Oloololo for the remainder of the month.
The impeller on the oil pump on our newest Land Rover broke and nearly seized the engine – recently the springs on the fuel pump broke. This particular engine model – the same as in the Ford Ranger – seems very troublesome and we will either have to sell the vehicle, or replace the engine with a different model. This vehicle has given us nothing but problems since we purchased it.
Report on focus for March
Focus for April 2015
· Hold Board meeting on the 10th;
· Receive Audit Report from Deloitte;
· Work with County on finalising a new Management Agreement;
· Repair Land Rover;
· Continue with unpaid leave; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.