The exceptionally heavy rains continued through most of May, compounding the damage that had been done in April and making a few sections virtually impassable. A series of springs appeared in the road to Ngiro-are, cutting of access to the ranger post for a few days, until we managed to get the tractors there to drain off the water and pile rocks in the worst areas.
We held a lodge managers meeting at Kichwa Tembo on the 16th and discussed a number of issues, including: security and possible terrorist threats (we reiterated Park opening and closing times and reminded everyone that the Reserve closes for entry at 6.30 pm); getting Certificates of Good Conduct for all security staff; the Ilkarekeshe Group Trust and their claims on the Triangle; responsible guiding; ballooning and respect for the roads (a long section on the road to Ngiro-are will be impassable for at least another month because one balloon lorry plowed huge ruts down the middle; they are full of water). The meeting was well attended and we are most grateful to & Beyond for hosting it.
We had a Board meeting on the 18th May in Nairobi. Mr Simon Trevor joined the Board at this meeting. We welcome Simon to the Board, he has been a great supporter of the Mara Conservancy, is a renowned film maker and his African Environmental Film Foundation makes wonderful educational films. The Board approved our Work Plan for 2012/13.
The Chief Executive gave a talk to students from Michigan State University on the 27th.
The County Council Game Committee visited the Triangle on the 28th and held a four-hour meeting with the Chief Executive. Topics covered included the cheetah cubs, proposed developments in the Triangle, the boundary survey and security. It was an excellent meeting and should occur more often.
We have received confirmation from the Registrar of Lands that there is no Title Deed issued for any part of the Mara Triangle to the Ilkarekeshe Group Trust. Hopefully this matter will now be laid to rest.
On May 12th The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) collected three cheetah cubs rescued at the beginning of March, after our request to rehabilitate them in the Mara was rejected. These cubs were taken to the Nairobi Orphanage where they will be destined to a life in captivity. The issue generated a great deal of heat and emotion, with many people advocating for their chance to be “re-wilded” in the Mara and KWS issuing statements that basically said:
“The Kenya Wildlife Service decision to move three orphaned cheetah cubs from the Mara Conservancy to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage has been guided by the Kenyan law, the national conservation and management strategy for cheetahs and the specific circumstances under which the rescued cubs were being reared. The KWS scientists considered all the available options on the rescued cubs and decided that their relocation to an animal welfare facility dedicated to the care of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in Nairobi was in their best interests.”
We issued a statement on our website on the matter as follows:
“The Mara Conservancy never disputed KWS’ jurisdiction over these cheetah cubs. The Conservancy made a request that the cheetah remain in the Mara and that an attempt be made at rehabilitating them. The request was rejected and the Conservancy undertook to abide by the decision – and did so.
The KWS decision to take the cheetah cubs to the Nairobi orphanage was absolutely within their rights and within the law. However, we can, and did, challenge the decision on humanitarian and moral grounds and this was comprehensively addressed in a statement put on the KWS web site on the 15th May.
We believe that freedom is a fundamental right, not only for us, but for animals – whatever the risks – and were prepared to do whatever it takes to give those cubs that freedom. We hear that the risk of failure is too high, that there are no successful rehabilitations of cheetah to the wild. We beg to differ; there are numerous records of the “re-wilding” of cheetah – obviously some more successful than others. There is a lot of experience out there, including our own. This could have been tapped into for a joint KWS/Mara Conservancy project in the Mara.
We hope that the door has not been closed on this issue and still look forward to the day these cubs can run and play in the wild, hunt, sit on an anthill looking for prey and watching a sunset, procreate and add to the diminished cheetah population in the Mara/Serengeti – and of course take risk, be chased off by hyena or lions. That is their right”
The more this issue attracted attention, the more apparent it became that the removal of these cubs was part of an orchestrated plan by a cheetah expert, in conjunction with KWS, with an agenda to possibly re-locate them to a proposed cheetah orphanage. One is planned for one of the Rift Valley ranches. An organisation called Cat-Haven has teamed up to establish the “sanctuary”. Cat-Haven has a reputation for using cheetah as promotional animals – there are numerous images and clips of their cheetah on the internet: posing with nude women painted to look like a cheetah, used in chasing lures as a tourist attraction. How demeaning for such magnificent animals. Even if they never return to the Mara we will plead that they do not end up living such ignominious lives.
The cheetah we reported as having given birth in early April was seen with two cubs at the beginning of May. There is now one cub remaining and she has started moving around with her cub.
The staff received their Pension statements and will hold their AGM in June. The scheme grew at 6% interest, down from the previous year, but better than most pension schemes.
Work continues on two new lodge sites on the escarpment, the construction is now visible from miles away and it would seem that there is no doubt that these lodges are being constructed in the Triangle. We need the boundary survey done as a matter of urgency.
Dr Adri Hilligers has said that he will start construction at Cobra Corner on 27th June – we need to see all his approval documents before he can proceed.
Visitor numbers to the Mara were exceptionally low in May, although there was a slight increase towards the end of the month. The high season is looking good, most camps and lodges are anticipating full occupancy in July and August. However, we are still concerned about the effect of a possible terrorist attack and violence before and after the elections.
Five poachers were arrested in May, bringing the total arrests to 1,848. All the poachers were arrested in the Triangle. We are still having to concentrate on protecting our lions from Masai morans; that pressure will not ease until they graduate in August at the earliest.
Four people were spotted downstream from the Ol Are springs on the 23rd. The rangers were joined by the road-team and the combined operation managed to arrest two of the four. Ngiro-are was cut off and so it was impossible to bring in the dogs – I am certain we would have arrested all four with the dogs.
The same evening the Ngiro-are rangers arrested one youth with two snares on top of the escarpment. He said that he was using snares to catch baboon that were crop raiding – unlikely, he was probably setting them for other animals.
Our Tanzanian counterparts, in conjunction with the Tanzanian police, managed to arrest the person responsible for killing the seven elephant we have reported being killed in the Lemai Wedge. His firearm and three elephant tusks were also found in his house. The story reads like a novel – a Conservancy ex-employee, Mrefu, obtained an illegal firearm and was murdered eight months ago, his firearm, an AK47, was taken when he was killed. It was the murderer – a person called Chacha, and this firearm, who was killing these elephant. Chacha used to work as a cleaner at the Kinyangaga ranger post in Tanzania and was very familiar with the rangers’ movements. In fact, he continued to visit the ranger post to glean information on movements and ranger strength up to a few days before his arrest.
Three of our community scouts reported that seven poachers were hunting buffalo with dogs near Kilo 2, along the escarpment late in the evening of the 26th. The Ngiro-are rangers had anticipated the hunt and were deployed in the area, sadly in slightly the wrong place, they managed to arrest two before it became too dark to see. One of the two had been arrested on the 19th June last year, doing exactly the same thing in the same area.
Four cattle were stolen from the Kipsigis at 4.00 pm on the 27th. We managed to recover the cattle, but the two thieves managed to escape in the rain.
There was a joint Narok, Tanzanian and Conservancy patrol on the 27th; to look for rhino. Two were seen near the Bologonja River in the Northern Serengeti. I subsequently heard that two rhino had recently been killed in the Serengeti and that over 30 senior and junior officers from the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) had been suspended as a result.
Revenue and Accounts
In the first ten months of the financial year our revenue and expenditure were as summarised below. The financial year now ends on the 30th June and we expect to start the annual audit towards the end of July or early August.
We completed the toilets and a cover for the water pit at Little Governors.
We painted the buildings at the Conservancy headquarters and the wardens’ compound.
We repaired impassable sections of the road to Ngiro-are.
We bought and fitted four new tyres for the grader; this should see us through the season.
The riverbank at the hippo pool was washed away; we purchased gabions to protect the bank and will fill them in June. We have already started carrying stone to fill the gabions.
We repaired all the tentage and canvas pick-up covers.
We removed all the Lantana, an invasive weed, from the area around the Conservancy Headquarters. There is a need to do the same in the Serena Compound.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2012
· Complete gabions at hippo pool;
· Construct kitchen and mess at Little Governors station;
· Order mobile cattle bomas to impound cattle which graze illegally in the Triangle;
· Start boundary survey;
· Start grading roads and cutting grass tracks; and
· Spray Parthenium.