The long rains failed over most of the country, certainly April and May were driest for the past twenty years in the Mara. There were a few scattered showers over most of the Triangle that just maintained a green tinge to the grass – a far cry from the normal storms. Kenya does not need a drought this year. There will be crop failure and many of the crops in Narok County are going to fail. Narok County is a major meat supplier, Kenya’s largest wheat producer and also a major maize producer. The Narok maize crop has not only been hit by drought but has been affected by Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) – a very severe viral disease that appears to be widespread in the maize producing areas of Trans Mara. This drought will no doubt also have an impact on Kenya’s export crops – tea and coffee and possibly horticulture. There is already talk of importing maize – reduced export earnings and the increased cost of importing food. Couple this with a major reduction in Kenya’s other major foreign exchange earner; tourism, and it will be very difficult to meet growth projections for 2014/15. Kenya is very reliant on hydroelectric power and will probably have to supplement this with expensive diesel power – at least until other forms of natural, wind and geothermal, power come on line. All this is a potential recipe for inflation and devaluation.
The Mara River has been low all year, with the exception of one or two flash floods in March. Hippo contamination seems very high and the water has a dark green tinge and strong smell of rotting vegetation – probably even more marked than during other periods of exceptionally low flow that we have witnessed in the past.
The Chief Executive met with community leaders in Narok on the 12th, to discuss a revenue sharing formula from funds generated by the Reserve. The County Government, in consultation with the leaders, will make a final decision. Three of our Board members met with the Governor on the 15th.
The Unites States, Britain, France and Australia issued Travel Advisories to their citizens on the 15th – citing a credible threat in Mombasa and in densely populated areas of Nairobi. The following day two bombs went off in the Gikomba Market in Nairobi – killing around a dozen people and injuring over 70. The immediate reaction by some of the large British Tour Operators was to evacuate over 600 tourists and to cancel all flights to Mombasa until the end of October. A disaster for tourism; already reeling from the worst year in recent memory. People in the security business are saying that the bombs are becoming very sophisticated and many multi-national companies are making evacuation plans, in the event that things escalate out of control. The President subsequently announced some measures aimed at revitalising the industry: removing VAT from airline tickets, reducing KWS Park entrance fees from US$ 90 to US$ 80 and some measures that will encourage domestic tourism.
We held a Board meeting in Nairobi on the 16th. The Board endorsed our willingness to extend our Management Agreement with Narok County for a further five years; as provided for in Section 5, Clause 2 of the current agreement.
Garvey, our sniffer dog at Purungat, became ill with trypanosiamisis and had to be taken to Nairobi for treatment. He was treated on the 17th, and returned to the Mara on the 19th. The dog vaccination campaign continues and so far over 3,000 dogs have been vaccinated against Canine Distemper and Rabies.
We were awarded a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor for the third year running.
The Chief Executive and wardens attended a meeting on security at Mara Sarova on the 28th. It was decided that there should be metal detecting wands at entry points and at the camps and lodges.
Ms Ljubica Butcovic and her partner, Kevin Smallman, will be studying the Oloololo lion pride for the next three months as part of Ljubica’s post-graduate degree.
Large numbers of zebra crossed into the Mara Triangle from the Loita Plains – indicating the severity of the drought in the eastern portion of the Mara ecosystem.
One young elephant was found dead near Kichwa Tembo camp, there were no visible signs if injury and it would appear that it slipped and fell.
The three large male lions that first appeared along the Tanzanian border/Egyptian Goose area have move to near Little Governors. On the 26th they met up with a lioness and three cubs, a little under a year old. The males then chased and killed all three cubs. The mother escaped. This happens all too often in the Triangle – hopefully these three males will form their own territory and be a strong enough coalition to sire and raise many cubs in future.
The first wildebeest started appearing in the Triangle on the 27th. We can expect the migration to start in earnest by early June, at least a month earlier than normal and an indication of the severity of the drought in the Serengeti.
The Kenya Wildlife Service trained five members of staff on rhino identification and monitoring at Sekenani between the 26th and 30th.
Ms Angela Yang returned to the United States on the 26th. She has put in a number of fund-raising proposals and we hope that they will start yielding some support and funds in the coming months. Ms Yang has revamped our facebook page and we now have over 25,000 fans.
Dr Asuka Takita has taken six week’s unpaid leave. She was instrumental for the production of a documentary for the Japanese audience on poaching and the ivory trade. The documentary has been aired on Japanese television and has reached an audience of millions.
People in the tourism industry are all complaining of a 25-30% reduction in the number of visitors. Operators who have taken out loans are having to re-schedule payments and there is a chance that a number of camps will have to close. The Government has just announced the release of funds for promotion and marketing – probably too little, too late to have a significant impact on this year. The other measures announced by the President on the 23rd will also help, but whereas filling beds with local tourists will help the industry, it will not make a substantial difference to Park and Reserve revenues – you need six local tourists to pay the equivalent of one non-resident in Park fees. Kenya’s Parks and Reserves, the foundation on which the tourism industry is built, are facing increasing pressure from encroachment and poaching and any reduction in revenue will only compromise the ability of the Kenya Wildlife Service and Counties to protect and maintain these invaluable areas.
We had another attempt at defrauding the Triangle of Park fees on the 27th – people using someone else’s identification to get citizen rates, instead of paying the non-resident rate. They were fined Ksh 10,000 each and made to pay the full Park fee.
Twenty-five people were arrested for poaching in May – five of them on the Narok side of the Reserve.
One person was arrested on the night of 27th April by the Iseiya team.
Three people were ambushed by the Ngiro-are team on the night of the 2nd near Lempise, in the Lemai Wedge; two escaped and one person was arrested.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person during a late patrol on the evening of the 5th – two managed to escape.
A routine patrol found some poacher tracks near Nyumba Nane on the 6th – a thorough search of the area found no further signs. The following day the rangers crossed the river and found a recently butchered hippo carcase and a spear from a freshly speared hippo. They found a vacated camp along the same stream and another on Sand River.
The Ngiro-are rangers patrolled the escarpment towards Lemai on the 10th and came across three people on the Mara River. Two of the people escaped across the river, the third was arrested with a machete and fishing gear.
The Ngiro-are team arrested one person, from a group of five, on the 11th- as they came into the Lemai Wedge from Kigonga. They had dogs, machetes and spears when arrested, and were on their way to hunt warthog. Five days later, on the 16th, three more people were arrested in the same area with dogs, spears and machetes – again on their way to hunt warthogs.
Our teams continued monitoring the area just across the Mara River, on the Narok side of the Reserve and were rewarded on the 18th – when they came across six poachers who had killed and butchered a hippo. The team managed to arrest five people – from Kigonga and Masanga in Tanzania. Morani, one of our dogs, was responsible for locating one of the poachers. The five all pleaded guilty to poaching and being in Kenya illegally – they were each jailed for two years for poaching and an additional three months for illegal entry.
The next day one of our patrols came across a large load of dried meat, saucepans and maize meal abandoned upstream from the Talek junction, on the Mara River. There was no sign of a poachers’ camp on our side of the river and so our rangers crossed over on the 21st and found where the poachers had been camping on the Narok side of the river and where they had killed and butchered a hippo.
The Ngiro-are team set an ambush at Ol Donyo Nasipa – on the Kenya/Tanzania border – on the night of the 20th and managed to arrest two people. The two were part of a group of five who were hunting Thompson’s gazelle with dogs and torches. No animals were killed.
The Ngiro-are rangers joined forces with their Tanzanian counterparts from Kokatende for a late patrol in the Lemai Wedge on the 27th. The patrol was a great success, with the arrest of ten people – armed with spears and knives and on their way to hunt gazelle with dogs at around 6.00 pm.
Revenue and Accounts
Our revenue in March and April was actually slightly higher than for the same period last year. However, the overall trend has been consistently downwards since 2011 – our share of revenue between July and April was Ksh 131,427,000 in 2011/12, Ksh 121,003,000 in 2012/13 and Ksh 112,050,000 so far in the2013/14 financial year (see Table 2). We are faring better than most, hopefully because we offer the best product in the Mara.
The Kenya Shilling was also slightly stonger in 2011; trading at around Ksh 82. It remained remarkably constant in 2012 and 2013, at around Ksh 85/86, but has begun to slide to Ksh 87 : 1 US$ in the past month.
We removed a huge boulder from the main road near Purungat. The boulder was forcing vehicles to pass at a dangerous angle.
We have started grading our main roads and this work should be complete by the end of June.
A very large tree had been washed up against the lower bridge at Purungat, we had to use a power saw to remove it.
We installed grills on the windows at the Gate House, Purungat.
The waste water system was unblocked at Iseiya. We also did a major clean up of the compound and collected over two pick-up loads of rubbish – much of it discarded lunch boxes and water bottles from the car wash area.
The mess tent in the Chief Executive’s tent was repaired and a new flysheet made.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2014
· Cut game viewing tracks;
· Continue grading roads;
· Prepare annual work plan and budget;
· Hold Board meeting in the Mara;
· Work with County on stakeholders’ meeting; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.