We had sufficient rain in the first half of the month to fill some watercourses and get the grass growing; we then had a week of dry weather towards the end of March. Most of the Triangle looks absolutely stunning and we are beginning to see many of the birds associated with the rains and tall grass: several whydah and widowbird species, crakes, kestrels and harriers.
Mr Tristan Voorspuy was shot dead on Sosian Ranch in Laikipia on the 5th March – Tristan owned Offbeat Safaris and conducted horse safaris through the Triangle as one of his trips. He was also a part owner of Sosian. He went up there after Pokot and Samburu tribesmen invaded the ranch and burnt down three houses. The security situation in western Laikipia was out of hand and in the end the Government deployed the army to stabilise things.
The Chief Executive took a week off from the 7th to the 15th.
We closed grazing within the Triangle on the 7th, after three weeks of rain had allowed the community grazing areas to recover to some extent. I would like to congratulate our neighbours for the responsible way in which they managed the grazing and adhered to the conditions that we jointly set. The community were very grateful for the assistance we gave and it undoubtedly saved numerous cattle from starvation and death. The Chief Executive and Wardens met with the community on the 22nd to thank them, and to meet the committees responsible. The three committees expressed their gratitude but then had a list of requests that included: de-silting two dams; setting up a security post on the escarpment; assisting KWS in controlling elephant incursions into maize fields around Angata Barrikoi between May and August; increasing the number of nursery school teachers we employ and also increasing their salaries; and increasing the number of community scouts. We explained that we were establishing a new ranger post at Kilo 2 on the edge of the escarpment and that the rangers would be able to assist with security incidents. We also explained that we were talking to the KWS Warden in Kilgoris about establishing a temporary base at Angata for the maize ripening season. We also agreed to look at the dams and to review teachers’ salaries but feel that some of the burden should be carried by the lodges adjacent to the reserve and will set up a meeting in April.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) sent a team to benchmark our revenue collection system on the 9th. They met with the KAPS manager on the ground and also with members of our tourism and anti-harassment teams. Subsequent reports indicated that the team were most impressed – we must remember that any system is only as good as the people operating it and we congratulate the KAPS management on the ground and our staff for their honesty and diligence.
We held our Board meeting on the 17th. One of the items discussed was a new Management Agreement and options that were acceptable to the Conservancy. It looks as if we may have found a way forward. Mr R Carr-Hartley very kindly offered to provide a further grant of US$ 150,000 to the conservancy from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for our anti-poaching efforts. The first tranche has already been received.
The Chief Executive met with a small delegation from Benin. They were introduced by Mr Ninian Lowis on the 19th. The team, headed by Mr José Marie Pliya, Director General of Benin’s National Agency for the Promotion of Heritage and the Development of Tourism and Mr Jean Marc Froment, Conservation Director from Africa Parks Network, were visiting Kenya to get conservation and management ideas for Pendjari National Park, an area that covers 2,755 square kilometres.
Mr Peter Braat visited on the 2nd to start planning for the live feed transmissions that they will be working on with Graham Wallington. The first transmissions are planned for mid July.
Erick Becker and Sarah Fogel from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) visited for four days from the 22nd. Eric managed to deal with the small glitches on our Flir equipment and both cameras are working perfectly. They were joined by Ms Briana Duggan, from CNN on the night of the 25th.
CMC Motors handed over the “donated” Suzuki jeep on the 27th – for us to be told that it was actually on loan to us for three months.
Six members of staff went on a weeklong course on management and governance for Trustees of the Pension Fund and 12 people are on a three-month course at the KWS training school in Manyani.
The Triangle is looking amazing but the tall grass is making predator sightings far more difficult. We have several hundred elephant and thousands of buffalo in the Conservancy. The elephant are all in small family groups scattered throughout the Triangle. Buffalo are providing food for the lions and several were killed during March. Leopard sightings continue to be excellent – the female along Maji Machafu is seen almost every day with her cub.
We are certainly into low season but visitor numbers are very variable – some days we are nearly empty and others are very busy. Those visitors who have been to the Triangle have been very fortunate, excellent game viewing coupled with glorious sunny days. What rain there has been has tended to fall late evening, or just after dark.
Dr Femke Broekhuis left us a copy of the Mara Cheetah Project Annual Report for 2016. It is a comprehensive and interesting report on the cheetah population in the Mara ecosystem. They recorded 54 different cheetah (30 males & 24 females) in 2016. Ten different cheetah were seen in the Triangle; 23 in the main portion of the Reserve; four in the Mara North Conservancy; 17 in each of the Olare-Motorogi and Naboisho conservancies; and nine in Ol Kinyei. This obviously adds up to more than 54 – and is an indication of the range covered by individual animals. A total of 26 births were recorded, of which 11 were still alive at the end of the study period. Dr Broekhuis has collared five cheetah and they are beginning to give interesting information the animals’ home ranges; the time they spend inside and outside formally protected areas and their movements in relation to other predators and human/livestock.
Fourteen people were arrested in March, it is traditionally a slow month, as most of the men are out cultivating their fields. At least 40 Thompson’s gazelle were killed in one night and 16 snares recovered in total.
Three people were arrested in the Northern Serengeti on the 5th by the Iseiya team. The three were part of a group of five people who were entering the Serengeti near Machechwe with five wire snares.
Two more people were arrested near Kichwa ya Ndovu early on the 6th by the Ngiro-are rangers. They were on their way to set snares – six of which were recovered. Three nights later, at 3.00 am, the same team arrested two more people with dogs near Lemai.
The Iseiya team set an ambush near Kegonga on the night of the 12th and managed to arrest one person at 5.00 am; three escaped. These people had spears and were on their way to hunt hippo on the Mara River.
Five snares were recovered between the 12th and 19th and then two more people were arrested by the Ngiro-are rangers near Lugga ya Ngiri on the 19th morning. As our rangers were returning to camp they came across a contingent of police and a large group of people from the local community in the Lemai Wedge. Four cows and a calf had been stolen from a homestead at Ol Donyo Orok, on the escarpment, and the tracks led the followers into the Lemai. Our rangers went to inform the TANAPA rangers at Kinyangaga and were on their way back with them when they heard some shooting. The police and community had found the cattle hidden in a thicket near Kokamange and one of the thieves was shot dead; two escaped. It later transpired that the dead thief was a notorious gangster who was wanted for theft and murder.
The Ngiro-are rangers went out on patrol at 3.00 am on the night of the 28/29th and saw torch activity nearly 20 km away, in an areas we call Watu Kumi (a place where we once arrested 10 people in one day) in the Lemai Wedge. They were too far away to attempt approaching in the dark and so the rangers set an ambush on what they hoped would be the return route. They were correct and at 5.00 am about 20 people were observed through the Flir as they returned. Four of the group walked into the ambush and were arrested – the rest scattered escaped. Some of the poachers dropped what they were carrying. The rangers found eleven carcasses but estimated that at least 40 Thompson’s gazelle had been killed.
Revenue and Accounts
Our revenue collection in February was 23% higher than for the same month last year and we will probably continue to have improved revenue for the remainder of this financial year. However, expenses are beginning to significantly exceed budget as a result of the additional rangers taken on at the end of last year. Our management accounts for the first eight months of the year, until the end of February showed the following:
- Revenue stood at Ksh 182,004,112 and was an improvement on budget by 8%;
- Direct costs stood at Ksh 39.454,910, up by 26% on budget. This amount mainly related to KAPS’ commission;
- Operating expenditure stood at Ksh 113,840,804 and exceeded budget by 12%;
- The cash surplus for the period was Ksh 28 million;
- However, once consideration had been made for outstanding payables the actual surplus stood at Ksh 9 million.
Repairs and maintenance
We had a major problem with water at Oloololo Gate and spent two weeks trying to rectify the situation. In the end we had to dig up the whole intake system, clean it and return it; a mammoth task. The system now seems to be working well.
We completed one roof over the uni-huts at Kilo 2 and the rangers have moved in from their temporary camp nearby. We have almost completed installing a solar system in the completed section.
We had to replace some seals on the Case back-hoe loader and this meant that the machine was out of action for another week. It was then deployed to fix the water intake at Oloololo.
Dr Takita’s new accommodation is nearly ready and we are finalising the plumbing.
The Case tractor had a clutch problem and we are sourcing spares.
We had problems with two of our anti-poaching vehicles, the differential on one had to be replaced and the radiator on the Ngiro-are Land Cruiser was destroyed by a stump when the team were on patrol.
We graded some of the roads to Oloololo and also the Serena airstrip and continued to resurface areas that had been worn away by traffic.
Report on focus for March
Focus for April 2017
· Hold Lodge Managers’ meeting;
· Continue patching roads;
· Complete ranger housing at Kilo 2;
· Complete plumbing at Dr Takita’s house;
· Install new signboards;
· Start on Annual Work Plan for 2017/18;
· Repair Case tractor;
· Send “loaned” Suzuki to the Mara; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.