The heavy storms continued through the first ten days of the month, before easing off for the remainder of the month – with glorious, sunny days and cold nights.
A group calling themselves the Trusted Society of Human Rights Alliance launched a Court Case against the Conservancy, saying that the management agreement to run the Mara Triangle and collect revenue was no longer valid – because the County Council of Trans Mara no longer existed – it had been absorbed into Narok County. The group, fronted by Mr Elijah Sikona, appears to have a political grudge against two former directors of the Mara Conservancy - one who is now Governor of Narok County, as they were both named as respondents. The same group are also trying to collect 50,000 signatures to impeach the governor for unsuitability, corruption and inept practices and the Governor has only been in position for two months!
Nashipai, the female cheetah that was reported to have four cubs in April, lost two of her cubs within the first week of May and may have lost another one three weeks later. On one occasion she walked into the Purungat pride and the cub was either killed, or separated, from its mother.
The early onset of the dry season will probably mean that the migration comes in early; we can probably expect the first few animals in June.
Amanda Subalusky and Chris Dutton produced their quarterly report for the first quarter of 2013. They have been busy analysing data at Yale University in the United States. Chris did manage a trip to Kenya and Tanzania in April and tried to repair their telemetry equipment at Purungat. The very high levels in the Mara River broke the cable on two occasions – it was repaired and strengthened but the equipment appears not to be transmitting.
We arranged to have four of our best rangers trained by 51o at Ol Pejeta Ranch in Laikipia. They were to start their three-week course on the 6th but the course was postponed at the last minute and the rangers returned. We have planned an intensive course in the Mara for August.
Four of our Wardens have been transferred in a major reshuffle of security staff in Narok County. The four: Samuel Kortom, John Sogirian, John Tunai and John Olarikoni have yet to report to their new stations.
We are arranging for travel documents for all our staff so that we can send them on a tour to Tanzania. This is part of our incentive programme and is linked to the arrest of 2,000 poachers in nearly 12 years.
Visitor number remained very low throughout most of May but we did see an increase towards the end of the month and expect a significant improvement for the high season.
Three poachers were arrested in May. There were several signs of poachers and our rangers came across three fresh camps, but the poachers managed to escape undetected in all three incidents. This is almost unheard of, we are normally very good at catching people once a camp has been located.
The Mara Elephant Project, in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, had a major success on the night of the 3rd May. After days of painstaking work they managed to arrest three people with over 40 Kg of ivory. The three were almost certainly involved in killing Heritage, one of our large, collared, elephant. The tusks we recovered were near Narosura on the edge of the Loita Hills. One of the suspects was a Councillor in Trans Mara and another one is known to have a firearm. The three originally pleaded not guilty but then changed their plea to guilty on the 21st and were each fined a total of Ksh 80,000 on two counts of being in possession of ivory without a permit and being in possession of illegal trophies.
In the first week of May the same team arrested a person with three leopard skins quite close to Oloololo Gate. He was remanded in prison for failing to pay the bond of Ksh 250,000.
A routine patrol in the Lemai Wedge on the 14th came across 36 wire snares near Sainas’s crossing and then found a poacher’s camp. Unfortunately the poachers had seen the rangers and all managed to escape. They had killed a young topi.
One elephant carcass was found near Konyoike, just across the border, in Tanzania – the tusks had been taken. This is the third elephant carcass we have found in this area in the past three months. Three days later, on the 18th, we received a report of people carrying ivory near a settlement called Muradigir, on Ol Kinyei. We sent over the dogs and Morani followed the track for about a kilometre, before the people got onto a motorcycle. Two people were actually removing the tusks from a young bull elephant when first seen and escaped with one tusk. We managed to recover the remaining tusk. The Mara Elephant project continued to follow up and on the 30th arrested two people employed by a conservancy neighbouring Muradigir who had taken the tusk and hidden it. The tusk was recovered. Muradigir has been a hotspot for elephant poaching over the past two years and we hope that this will be the breakthrough we needed in stopping the killing of elephant in that area. This incident highlights the importance of patient investigative work, but it is also shocking that people who earn a living from tourism and protecting wildlife are the same ones involved in the destruction of iconic species such as elephant – animals on which their livelihood depends.
The rangers twice came across poachers but failed to arrest any. In the first incident, five people were ambushed late evening near Konyoike – they were on their way to camp in the Triangle – all managed to escape, but they left their belongings. The rangers found a poacher’s camp on the 22nd near Saina’s crossing in the Lemai Wedge. The poachers managed to escape but left behind all their belongings and a large quantity of hippo meat.
A routine patrol on the 24th came across a new poacher’s camp at Kisumu Ndogo, on the Mara River, near Little Governors Camp. For the third time this month the poachers managed to elude arrest.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three people on the evening of the 29th. The three were entering the Lemai Wedge on the Masanga route – a route that is routinely used by poachers.
Revenue and Accounts
April revenue was the lowest for a number of years at Ksh 12,038,207. This was a 22% decrease on March 2013 and a 30.5% decrease on April 2012. We can expect the same trend through May 2013 but all the indications are that visitor numbers will increase from mid-June and the high season will be extremely busy. People are also predicting a bumper year in 2014 – let’s hope that will be the case.
We deployed the new Land Rover at Ngiro-are. This vehicle was out of action for seven months after it turned over in October.
It dried out sufficiently for us to work on the roads. We managed to resurface the worst sections on the main road between Mara Serena and Oloololo Gate and started working on the road from Sankuria to Little Governors – this road had been extensively damaged by a combination of exceptionally heavy rain and heavy vehicle traffic.
We graded the main road to Oloololo gate and the Roads to the Kichwa airstrip and sections of the river road.
We started cutting all the grass game viewing tracks and completed all the ones in the southern portion of the Reserve.
We repaired some of the road signs and are awaiting new ones to replace our old, wooden ones.
We sprayed the invasive weed, Parthenium. The first spraying last year had greatly reduced the amount and we hope that we can clear it in future.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2013
· Complete cutting grass tracks;
· Complete grading roads;
· Complete crossing on Mugoro by-pass;
· Complete new signs;
· Undertake staff tour to Tanzania;
· Hire lorries to resurface sections of main road;
· Complete Annual Work Plan and Budget
· Hold Board meeting; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.