The rains continued throughout May, with some exceptional storms and all-night rains. Large areas of the Triangle were flooded and the Mara River came over the bridge at Mara Rianta on at least two occasions – virtually cutting off Trans Mara from the Narok.
We completed the Annual Work Plan for 2016/17 and are anticipating a reasonable increase in revenue as a result of improved tourism. It would appear that we don’t have sufficient funds to replace three of our vehicles and one tractor – all now 7-8 years old. However, we have attached a wish list in the event that we have sufficient funds.
The East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) sent a team to the Triangle as part of a Narok County Audit of camps and lodges in the Mara, funded by USAID’s PREPARED project. They spent a week auditing the camps in the Narok portion of the Reserve before moving to the Triangle for two days and expect to also audit all the camps outside the Reserve in Phase II. However, before the audit report was released, Narok County wrote a letter to nine camps and two Balloon operators, closing them down for a lack of valid leases and non-compliance. They are: Ashnil, Entim, Matira, Naibor, Rekero, Alex Walker, Enkerende, Mara Crossing and Mara Eden in Narok. They included Hammerkop, one of our campsites that we closed years ago, as the tenth in the list. The two balloon operators are Adventures Aloft and Hot Air. This directive will undoubtedly be challenged and we can expect protracted wrangling over their closure.
Narok County want to push ahead with the Ten-year Management Plan for the Mara and propose a small committee to complete the Plan. We hope that some progress will be made in June.
KAPS have been working hard to ensure that their system runs well before the high season and there has been a considerable improvement in network issues in May. We hope that Safaricom will improve the bandwidth and improve connectivity.
Glen Edmonds trained seven drivers in advanced driving skills free of charge. We paid for transport and accommodation. These courses are very popular and will hopefully greatly enhance our drivers’ skills and care of their vehicles. A report was written on each driver and two were rated good, the others were rated as satisfactory.
Mr G Ng’ang’a started his contract with Narok County to rehabilitate all the buildings at Sekenani. He has started with the main gate, Wardens’ offices and workshops and these are nearly complete. He will then rehabilitate at least 60 staff houses, starting with the officers’ houses.
We held the Annual General Meeting for the pension scheme on the 25th.
Mr Joash Kilianga will go on a one month’s heavy machinery course from 6th June.
We tendered for the provision of rations and kitchen supplies for our staff canteens and solicited Tenders for: Hard rations, vegetables, cooking gas and eco-charcoal. The Tenders were opened and evaluated on the 31st.
Scar, the famous old male lion was treated by Dr Limo from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)/David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for an open wound above his eye. The eye seemed in reasonable condition but Scar keeps the wound open by constantly pawing at it.
Game viewing has been difficult with all the tall grass and we are fortunate that we managed to burn an area in March. Lions seemed to concentrate on killing buffalo and hippo and ne noted several buffalo kills – it is not surprising, there was little else for them to feed on.
This month has probably been the busiest May for years, thanks to an influx of visitors from India.
The American Travel Agents Association are planning on promoting Kenya, in particular the Mara in 2017. They will be having a conference in Spain in June at which they will announce the Mara as their new area of focus. Apparently, the next targeted area hosts a dinner for the travel agents at the end of the Conference and Narok County have been asked to host the dinner in early June – to the tune of Ksh 6 million. The County will almost certainly ask for contributions from tourism players in the Mara. We then expect up to 2,000 American Travel Agents visiting Kenya and the Mara in early 2017.
A total of 11 poachers were arrested in May. The high water levels in the Mara River washed a number of hippo downstream, many of them ending up near the Lemai Ranger post. It was very easy for the wa Kuria to then spear and butcher them very close to home. In some cases the poachers were killing a hippo, tethering it or tying a rope to it and then letting the current take it downstream and out of the Serengeti. We know of at least seven hippo that were poached in May – probably a fraction of the number actually killed. The easy hippo pickings meant that there was little night activity after Thompson’s gazelle and we saw no sign of hunting warthog.
One person was arrested in the Nyanguki thicket on the third. He was part of a group of three who specialised in stealing kills off lions – they had arrived the night before and already taken a wildebeest kill and were drying the meat.
One of our patrols found were a hippo had been freshly killed and butchered in the Triangle on the 7th. It would appear that the poachers came in at night, killed the hippo and then left the same night. There were signs of people resting but no sign of a camp.
The rangers found a dead elephant at Watu Kumi in the Lemai Wedge on the 10th and handed the tusks over to TANAPA rangers. The following day they patrolled along the Mara River, downstream from Kogatende and came across three poachers who were fishing and looking for hippo to hunt. All three were arrested. The rangers continued with their patrol and found where two hippo had been killed, one had been butchered and the meat taken.
Two people walked into an ambush on the night of the 13th – unfortunately both escaped. The next day Chief Mathew from Angata Barrikoi arrested a person who had been cutting trees in the Triangle and had then threatened our rangers. He was found with illicit alcohol.
Our rangers patrolled along the Mara River on the 16th and came across two hippo that had been killed by poachers near Lemai – one of them had been tethered to a tree with wire cable to stop it being carried downstream. They joined forces with TANAPA rangers and managed to arrest three, of eight people, as they came in to butcher the tethered carcass at 1.00 am. The rangers decided to spend the remainder of the night in Lemai and managed to arrest one more person on their return the next morning.
The Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush on the 19th and arrested two people at Kichwa ya Ndovu in the Lemai Wedge. The poachers had dogs with them and were on their way to hunt gazelle.
The Iseiya rangers patrolled along the Mara River very early on the 24th and saw 13 people hunting hippo towards Lemai, but on the far side of the river. Later in the day the Lemai rangers joined up with our team from Ngiro-are and found two freshly killed hippo downstream from the ranger post. They surprised five people butchering one of the hippo and managed to arrest one person – the other four swam across the river and escaped. The rangers recovered five spears.
Revenue and Accounts
Our revenue was well down on March but 50% higher than for the same period last year – a good indication of the sustained recovery since September last year. April and May are traditionally the worst months of the year and although we noticed a significant improvement in revenue, our share is still well below our monthly expenditure.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has given us three months to pay off our VAT arrears – this will put further pressure on our meagre resources but should be manageable.
Repairs and maintenance
Kenya Power did a survey to bring power to Oloololo Gate. This would greatly enhance operations at the gate, especially for KAPS, where a lack of power is a constant issue.
We completed painting and renovating the buildings at Oloololo gate and have moved to the camp at Little Governors.
We continued with filling potholes and draining water off the roads where necessary. We could hardly keep up with the damage caused by the rain but our roads have held up remarkably well, given the traffic and constant rain.
We replaced whole cutting system on the gyromower and then cut the grass on the airstrip. We will start gutting grass tracks at the beginning of June if the weather remains clear and sunny, as it has done in the past few days of May.
We had to reface the brake surface on both axles of the New Holland tractor and replace the steering box. The tractor is now working. We also had to do minor repairs on both the back/hoe loader and the Case tractor. Hopefully our equipment is ready for the heavy workload once the rains subside.
Preparation for cutting all out tracks as soon as it dries off sufficiently.
We cut the grass on the Serena airstrip.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2016
· Hold Board meeting on the 3rd;
· Work on Management Plan for the Mara;
· Hold First Aid training for 30 staff;
· Cut grass tracks and grade roads, weather permitting;
· Possibly bring power to Oloololo Gate;
· Continue with housing renovations; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.