The first half of the month was extremely wet with heavy rainstorms on a daily basis. The Mara River almost burst it’s banks and at one stage was lapping the Bailey Bridge at Mara Bridge. Several animals were seen being swept down river including: buffalo, zebra and Topi.
The review team visited the Reserve at the beginning of the month as scheduled. They also met with some of the Directors in the last week of May.
The Vice President, the Hon Michael Kijana Walmawa spent three days at Mara Serena from the 11-14th with his wife and guests.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Shardrack Karabilo from Serena on the 17th, they discussed a number of issues including security and the road between Keekorok and Mara Bridge.
On the 17th a Serena vehicle overturned on the main road from Mara Serena to Oloololo gate, six people, all staff, were slightly injured.
The Chief Executive and Mr J Baxendale met with Leslie Roach and James Robertson on the 22nd May at Ol Kiombo. Mrs Roach has offered to fund a celebration of our second anniversary and we will plan somethingfor the end of June.
8 people sat for their KPSGA Bronze level exam and six passed.
A Board meeting was held on the 27th, a number of important issues were discussed and resolved, including the review and approval of Terms of Reference for the Board and Chief Executive. We confirmed the removal of five Directors and three new Directors were invited to join the Board. Unfortunately all three deferred a decision until the Review team completes their assignment.
The senior staff have worked on a draft Annual Work Plan and this is ready for review. However, the current tourism crisis makes it very difficult to plan and implement any programme for the year.
We have submitted a concept note to the Tourism Trust Fund and we will know within three weeks whether they will ask us to prepare a detailed funding proposal.
Mr J Baxendale has received funding for an additional year from the Headley and Staples Trusts. This support is very much appreciated.
We have been informed that Koyaki and Lemek Group Ranches have approved the concept of private management of their Group Ranches and that the Mara Conservancy will be invited to Tender – we will probably hear more in the next month.
The Chief Executive met with Helen Gibbons, Director of Friends of Conservation (FOC), and together we met some of the community scouts. FOC have supported the community scouts for the past year.
A new Community Committee has been formed to oversee the distribution of Group Ranch funds. This is a very welcome development in ensuring appropriate and transparent disbursement of the Group Ranch funds and we wish the new committee and it’s Chairman Mr Ole Sinoni all the best. Two meetings have been held and the committee will try and register themselves as a Trust in June.
One lion cub was reported killed on the 8th May, it was found being eaten by two males and presumed killed by these two nomads. This was the one surviving cub from the lioness that was unsuccessfully hunted by Masai morans in April.
On the 14th a lioness was found dead along the river five kilometers downstream from Mara Serena. The lioness had been eaten by hyena and vultures but was very old and appeared to have died from natural causes. However, we have spoken to Dr Kashmiri and asked him to collect samples from one or two weak looking lions and check for disease. Dr Kashmiri will arrive in early June.
One elephant was found dead in the Mlima Tatu area on the 25th, it apparently died of natural causes.
On the 26th there was a reported fight between lion and buffalo near Oloololo, one lion was reported injured by Kichwa Tembo drivers but our patrol was unable to locate any injured lion in the area.
Travel advisories issued by the British and American Governments warning against travel to Kenya, coupled with the fact that the British Government banned British Airways from flying to Kenya, have had a major impact on tourism. It is difficult to ascertain the scale of the problem but camps and lodges which rely on the British and American markets report a 50-60% drop in bookings, and new cancellations coming in every day.
Most of the month was too wet to conduct patrols on the Tanzanian side of the border, the sodden ground also affected poachers and there was little sign of poaching until the last week of May – when things had dried out.
On the 5th May the tracks of three people were seen crossing the Mara Bridge, they were followed along the Sand River but unfortunately the tracks were lost.
On the 17th Cllr Ole Kijabe reported that young Masai were seen chasing an eland near Kichwa Tembo camp. We sent our patrol team and ascertained that the eland had not been injured, although the Masai had spears and poisoned arrows. We have the names of the young men.
On the 18th tracks of four people were seen crossing the Mara Bridge, they were followed along Sand River and all four arrested. They had spears and bows with arrows. They had attempted to spear a hippo that morning but had missed. One of the poachers had been arrested in 2000 in Tanzania and jailed for two years. All four were released by the court on the 20th. This matter was taken up with the OCPD Kilgoris and with the Magistrate on the 21st.
Tracks were also seen crossing the Mara Bridge on the 19th and 21st May. With the River being so high the Mara Bridge is the only possible crossing point. We joined forces with rangers from Narok and combed all the likely thickets without success. The patrol did find one old snare and signs of blood from a wounded hippo. We also set up an ambush on the river in the hope of arresting poachers as they cross to or from Narok. However, a group of about ten poachers crossed back from Narok on the night of the 25th, on a night when we had not ambushed the bridge.
The Board resolved to discontinue security allowances for the GSU and Police personnel based in Trans Mara. This will be communicated to the relevant authorities.
Cpl Charles Ololtele sat for his bronze KPSGA exam and passed.
We started repairing the road from Mara Serena to Oloololo, unfortunately a part on the grader broke and has to be replaced. The part, costing Ksh 200,000 (nearly US$ 3,000) has to be imported and will be here by mid June.
The road crew have repaired the worst sections on the road from Mara Bridge to Mara Serena and also on the new escarpment road.
The Oloololo windmill was serviced and is working well.
All other non-essential work will be put on hold, pending an up-turn in tourism.
Revenue and Accounts
The 2001/2 audited accounts were approved by the Board. The 2002/3 accounts are almost complete and will be sent to the auditors in June.
The Government has approved new rates for Parks and Reserves and these will be implemented as soon as we receive confirmation from the Clerk, County Council of Trans Mara. Non-residents will now pay US$ 30 per entry, up from US$ 27. Residents will pay Ksh 500, up from Ksh 400.
The drop in tourists as a result of terrorism threats and the appreciation of the Kenya Shilling could not have come at a worse time – just as the high season starts. All the indications are that camps and lodges will suffer a significant decline in tourists – at least through June and into July. Everyone involved in the tourist industry will be affected and will have to make serious cut-backs. We will be no exception and options under consideration include: stopping all road works and laying off staff, stopping night ambushes and patrols by security staff, keeping one vehicle off the road, reducing staff shopping trips to Kilgoris.
Should the tourism crisis persist we are projecting a budget deficit of US$ 200,000 (Ksh 14,000,000). Some, or all, of this deficit could be raised through donor support if the Mara Conservancy had security of tenure. However, the current situation – with a review of the Conservancy in progress leads to uncertainty. This uncertainty has been compounded by the fact that neither the MP nor the Chairman of the Council have accepted their invitations to join the Board.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June
- Work on proposal for Tourism Trust Fund
- Complete Annual Work Plan and Budget;
- Seek for donor support to cover the anticipated shortfall in revenue
- Work on Tourism Development Plan;
- Ratify ToRs for Directors and get all Directors to sign;
- Finalise accounts for 2002/3;
- Work with new Community Committee on disbursement of Group Ranch Funds;
- Possibly prepare Tender Document for Koyaki/Lemek Group Ranches;
- Hold two year anniversary celebration;
- Implement new rates, and
- Work with Earthview to reconcile revenue account set up new reporting system.