The long-rains have been very disappointing with very little rain in April and even less in May. We had three days of sustained rain in the middle of the month and then a week of rain at the end of the month, but apart from that the days were hot and sunny.
The Director of KWS and a large group of senior officers visited the Triangle on the 3rd for one night. He was on a tour of Trans Mara and Narok Districts.
Ms Leslie Roach visited the Triangle, together with James Robertson. This visit was followed up with a meeting with Dr Rob Maplas of the Conservation Development Centre (CDC) to try and get the planning process moving again. It was agreed that we would proceed with a management plan for the whole Mara Game Reserve and there would be a Core Planning Team (CPT) meeting on the 16th. The CPT held its meeting on the 16th as scheduled and a way forward was agreed upon.
Dr Stephanie Dloniak will be completing her research in the next few months and has said that she can no longer be on the core planning team for the ten year management plan, we hope that she will still be able to give us some input during the planning process.
We held a Board meeting on the 17th. The first part of the meeting was attended by the Hon G Konchellah who expressed his concerns about one of our Directors standing against him in the forthcoming elections and about Earthview Management Ltd. The Board undertook to take his concerns into consideration. The Board also passed the Annual Work Plan and budget for the period June 2007 to May 2008.
We held a meeting between Ms Anne Kent-Taylor, Dr A Takita, Dr S Dloniak and the Chief Executive to discuss a vaccination campaign against canine distemper on the 14th. It was agreed that Dr Takita would confirm the disease and get a letter of support for the programme from the Veterinary Department prior to the release of funds. Anne Kent-Taylor has donated US$ 10,000 towards the vaccination campaign. She has also very kindly pledged funds for Cheetah III.
We hosted M/s M Sens and D Maina from DSM Construction Support Group on the 22nd. They came down to look at our grader, with a view to selling it on our behalf if we buy a grader from them. They will probably be able to sell if for Ksh 6 million but a very good import will cost us in the region of Ksh 18 million (US$ 270,000) and take eight weeks to deliver.
We held a lodge manager’s meeting at Kichwa Tembo that was very well attended. We briefed the managers on developments in the Mara and of our concerns about the influx of non-paying tourists in the high season. Little Governor’s expressed their opinion on any “game viewing” fee that might be instituted and the possible repercussions on their visitors, who mainly use the Narok side of the Reserve for game viewing. The manager was reassured that no additional fee would be levied without full discussions on the matter. Dr Cheryl Mvula also attended the meeting and brought managers up to date on the project with cultural manyattas. In the first eight months of the project revenue had increased 790%, from US$ 3,500 in the same period last year to US$ 27,680 this year.
At one point in May it looked as if the wildebeest would arrive very early his year, by mid-May they were already near Lobo in the northern Serengeti. However, the rains then sent the wildebeest back towards Seronera and continued rains will probably keep them in the Serengeti for some time.
A hippo fell into a sewerage pit at Kichwa Tembo on the 16th and had to be destroyed by KWS rangers before it could be removed. This is the second hippo to be destroyed in the Kichwa compound this year.
The large pride, 16 lions, that took up residence below Serena in February have disappeared, it seems that they have crossed back onto the Narok side of the river.
Honey’s cubs continue to thrive and are now able to hunt and kill on their own. There are 15 cheetah that have been seen on a regular basis.
We had a VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) team visit the Triangle and council staff on AIDS. A number of staff members undertook the voluntary test for AIDS as a result of the visit. We will follow this up with a training programme for some of our staff so that they can provide awareness and counselling.
We have started the annual staff appraisals; this exercise will be completed in early June.
A staff welfare meeting was held on the 26th. On the same day a NCO’s meeting was held with the Wardens.
May traditionally has the lowest visitation in the year. This year the drop in tourist numbers has not been as marked as expected, with lodges like Mara Serena having some very quiet days but also some very busy days. The tourists who did come were on the whole very lucky with the weather and also had excellent game viewing.
A total of 19 wa Kuria poachers were arrested in May, a record for May, which is traditionally very quiet. This can probably be attributed to the un-seasonally dry period and the fact that large areas had been burnt on the western boundary of the Lemai Wedge, concentrating large numbers of animals close to the villages. This brings the total number of arrests to 818.
Two hippo carcasses were found in the river on the 1st – they had both been speared. The following day we mounted a joint operation with Narok and found fresh signs of poaching along the river but were unable to catch up with the poachers. A follow-up operation was then planned for the 6th, when five poachers were arrested near Look-out Hill by a combined Serena, Ngiro-are and Narok team. The poachers had arrived the night before and had already killed a hippo and warthog.
The Serena team arrested two poachers near Konyoike, on the Kenya/Tanzania border on the 11th. The poachers had arrived that morning and had not yet started hunting, two wire snares were recovered. The same night the Serena team arrested a further two, of seven, poachers who were hunting Thompson’s gazelle with dogs near Nyanguki in Tanzania. That night there were several large groups hunting on the burnt areas in the Lemai Wedge but only the one group came close to where our rangers were situated.
The Ngiro-are team, in conjunction with their Tanzanian counterparts, arrested two wa Kuria poachers on the 12th at Miungu in Tanzania. The two were part of a group of three who had arrived at 3.00 am and were hunting warthog with spears and dogs. They had not killed anything when arrested.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three poachers at 5.00 am on the 14th near Kokamange in the Lemai Wedge. The poachers were on their way into the Serengeti to hunt and had not yet started. Six wire snares were recovered. The team had also recovered five wire snares on their routine patrol that morning.
Four suspicious people were reported around Kawai, on the escarpment on the 16th – it was reported that three of them may have had firearms and they were in the company of a known thief. The issue was followed up but the people disappeared.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three wa-Kuria poachers on the 21st, they were along the Mara River, downstream from Kokatende. Unfortunately the patrol vehicle hit a large rock and bent the chassis during the operation and had to go to Nairobi for repair. The same night the team joined forces with their Tanzanian counterparts at 2.00 am and arrested a further two poachers with 14 wire snares and three spears. Neither group of poachers had killed anything.
One of the Tanzanian rangers was shot in the le with an arrow when trying to apprehend illegal grazers near Kinyangaga, near the Kenyan border. Fortunately the arrow was not poisoned and the ranger is recovering well. This incident highlights the inherent dangers that are posed to our rangers at all times and it is a credit to them that we have not had a serious injury in six years.
Revenue and Accounts
The Kenya Revenue Authority gave us notice of their intention to conduct an in-depth audit of the Mara Conservancy. Work will commence in early June. This is part of a larger investigation that includes Earthview Management and Oloololo Game Ranch. Mr Nderitu Wachira, of Wachira and Associates has agreed to assist us in this matter.
Revenue dropped substantially in April, as was expected. This level will continue through May and we can expect an improvement in June, prior to the high season starting in July. As always at this time of year, expenditure exceeds revenue but we still expect to close the year with a cash surplus of Ksh 9 million. This surplus will go towards the purchase of a newer grader.
There has been a fuel shortage in western Kenya and we had problems in receiving our delivery for this month. This meant that we had to slow down on some of the road works planned and we are not as far ahead as we would like. However, we completed grading the roads between Serena and Ngiro-are and installed a culvert in an area that has had a perennial flooding problem.
We have dug the foundations for the sergeant’s houses and are in the process of making blocks.
We repaired signboards and re-painted them where necessary.
The new trailer broke its axle for the third time in a year – we have commissioned a stronger axle, upgraded fro eight to ten tons and will see if that rectifies the problem.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June
· Complete staff appraisals and issue contracts;
· Complete KRA audit;
· Continue with sergeant’s housing;
· Burn proposed block;
· Cut grass tracks;
· Order grader; and
· Work on 10 year management plan.