There were very heavy rains during the first three weeks of May, causing extensive flooding and making many of the tracks impassable. The rains stopped towards the end of the month and we were able to repair the main road between Mara Bridge and Oloololo gate.
There was an emergency Board meeting at the beginning of May to discuss the Chief Executive’s offer to resign. He was asked to remain and has accepted. He worked with Mr Giles Davies to develop a Terms of Reference for the Chief Executive, this has yet to be finalised.
One leopard, trapped by KWS at Ongata Baragoi for stock killing was released between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge on the 1st May – there has been no sign of this leopard since.
The young lion cubs whose mother was reported killed last month were abandoned by the pride and disappeared for a week – two of the three cubs were found emaciated and very weak on the 6th May – they were taken to Kichwa Tembo for two days and fed before being collected by KWS and taken to Nairobi. We have had no report of them since.
We have received our new HF radio frequency, it is 9314.0 LSB, from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). We have also changed all our frequencies on the VHF system to the frequency allocated to the Conservancy by CCK. We have applied for new frequencies for the community scouts and are awaiting a response from CCK.
We have received a request for landing permission by M/s Balloon Safaris who plan to operate balloon flights from Oloololo Game Ranch into the Reserve. We are awaiting clearance from the County Council of Trans Mara before we can grant permission.
We were given a demonstration on the use of Smart Cards by a Korean company, they were to give us a quotation in the last week of May.
We were visited by the Acting Senior Warden Narok, Mr Lenjirr, and his deputy, Mr S Menes. We have agreed, jointly with Mara Serena, to grade the road between Mara Bridge and Keekorok Lodge. Mara Serena will pay all costs for the grader, Narok will provide tipper trailers and a shovel. We also assisted the Senior Warden Narok with designs and quotations for a toilet block at the hippo pool near Mara Bridge.
Earthview Management threatened to cease operations from the 1st June unless the Conservancy renegotiated their commission. We have agreed on a fixed increase for four months, to enable us to complete the Tender process. We received six applications to tender and have short-listed suitable candidates to four. We will prepare Tender documents in June and hope to complete the process before the end of September.
The Chief Executive met with Dr Richard Hogg of DFID to discuss a possible proposal for funding. Dr Hogg explained that DFID is not interested in funding capital expenditure but that DFID would look favourably on a proposal that concentrated on taking the model elsewhere – this would include funding exchange visits, training and possibly additional costs incurred in establishing another conservancy elsewhere. It was agreed that the Chief Executive would prepare a concept paper in June and take it to DFID for consideration.
The US Fish and Wildlife Department have approved our request for a grant of US$ 36,000, which goes towards the cost of purchasing our vehicles. The forms have been completed and returned to them for processing.
A proposal was sent to Ker & Downey Safaris for the provision of camping equipment, both for the Chief Executive and visiting directors.
As expected tourist numbers for May were very low and we can expect revenue of less than Ksh 3,000,000 for the month, possibly the lowest since the Conservancy started operations a year ago. However, the projections for the season starting July look very promising and we expect to match last year’s revenue for the months July through September.
Mr Peter Behr visited for five days to follow up on the planned construction of a viewing platform for the migration. We have received three quotations for the platform, all in the region of Ksh 360,000 – 390,000. A sketch of the proposed platform and the quotations have been given to Mara Serena and Kichwa Tembo for their consideration – they had offered to fund it.
Mr John Baxendale has raised his own funding to assist the Conservancy for one year, he will be based in the Mara from mid –June. He will be fully self-contained and will assist us with the tourism sector – specifically development of camp sites, animal harassment, development of game viewing tracks and off-road driving.
The first three weeks of May were exceptionally wet and there were very few signs of poaching. On the 22nd there was a joint operation with the Tanzanians, on the Tanzanian side of the border in which three groups of poachers were encountered and ten of them arrested. This brings the total number of people arrested by the Conservancy, either alone or in joint operations with the Tanzanians, to 66 in the past year. Over 80 wire snares were recovered and over 500 kg of dried meat destroyed. These poachers were mainly killing Zebra and gazelles between our border and Kokatende – at the time the Mara River was too high to cross and the poachers obviously thought that they were safe from the ranger post at Kokatende.
On the 28th the tracks of between 5-7 people were found entering the Reserve near Ngiro-are, they were followed until the tracks left the Reserve and went onto the Oloololo Escarpment. The local communities were warned of a possible attempt at stock theft. The following night 13 cattle were stolen from a homestead near Kawai and brought into the Reserve. The alarm was raised and the GSU and our rangers mobilised. We managed to recover all 13 cattle; ten of them just after they crossed the Tanzanian Border at 7.00 am, the other three were found in the Reserve.
The communities were asked to identify candidates for community scouts, 35 candidates presented themselves for interview on 1st June and two were selected – with the approval of a cross section of elders. There were no candidates from a strategically located village on Olorien and we have given them the chance to present themselves on 3rd June before making a choice. We hope to equip them with radios in the first week of June, after they have had a short orientation course in the Reserve.
The Chief Executive and Clerk to the County Council of Trans Mara met with the Commandant of the GSU to follow-up on refresher training for the existing scouts and a training course for new recruits. Training will commence in July or once the rangers are formally registered as Kenya Police Reservists.
Mr Samuel Kortom has requested leave for the month of June.
The two wooden police buildings at Mara Bridge have been pulled down – we are planning on constructing one building, on a temporary basis, to replace the two. A rainwater catchment pit has been dug at Mara Bridge and a cover will be built for it in June.
The grader has completed work on the Mara Bridge to Oloololo road and has reconstructed the road from Oloololo to the Kichwa Tembo airstrip. There are plans to do the same between the Kichwa airstrip and Little Governor’s camp.
Three desks have been made for offices in Oloololo, Ngiro-are and Serena. The assistant warden’s office is being made into an Operations Room and a map prepared by Dr C Thouless has been placed there.
M/s Sebimo have offered an excavator and tipper at Ksh 10,000 each per day for the month of June. This will be used to murram the worst stretches of roads between Oloololo and Mara Serena and the work should not take more than one month.
A request was made to the County Council for their three planning and development committee members to view and approve the proposed platform – a request was made to committee members nominated by the Conservancy to review the proposed platform.
Revenue and Accounts
We received balloon revenue for Musiara and TransWorld for the months of January and February in the case of Musiara, and for the quarter ending March from TransWorld.
We have received Ksh 700,000, being annual fees for resident vehicles – this will help the cash flow through May and June.
As already stated, we expect revenue to fall below Ksh 3 million for May. This means that the Conservancy’s share of revenue will be in the region of Ksh 1.1 million, not enough to pay wages – let alone undertake any significant development projects.
Area of focus for June
- Complete road works between the Kichwa Tembo airstrip and Little Governor’s, possibly assist Mpata Club with their road to the Reserve.
- Follow-up on the US Fish and Wildlife grant.
- Follow-up on our request to Ker & Downey for camping equipment.
- Re-establish OP’s and mobile foot patrols in preparation for the migration, complete work on the Ops Room.
- Equip and train three community scouts from along the western border of the Reserve.
- Get approval from the Planning and Development Committee for the viewing platform and start construction of this platform.
- Complete Tender documentation and start the Tender process with four candidates.
- Prepare a concept note for DFID and make a presentation to their Senior Natural Resources Advisor.
- Complete the Financial Manual and Staff Charter and present them to the Board for approval.
- Synthesise Codes of Conduct for Lewa, Police Reservists and the County Council of Trans Mara into one Code of Conduct for the Mara Conservancy.
- Invite members of the Samburu County Council to the Mara.
- Follow-up the issue of Police Reservists with the Provincial Police Officer, Rift Valley and prepare for GSU training in July.
- Work with Mr J Baxendale to identify game viewing tracks and cut the grass on those tracks, work with Mr Baxendale on issues of animal harassment prior to the new tourist season.
- Re-grade the roads to Ngiro-are and start work on the road between Mara Bridge and Keekorok Lodge.