We had reasonable rain for the first week in May and then a couple of very heavy and destructive storms in the middle of the month. However, rainfall for May was well below expectations and there is little hope for much more rain in the coming months. Those farmers who planted early will probably get a reasonable maize crop, but those who delayed in planting will probably expect low yields. It hasn’t helped that there has been an outbreak of armyworm in some areas and we can expect that Kenya will have a maize deficit for a while to come. The Mara River is incredibly low for this time of year and any prolonged dry weather will result in it virtually stop flowing – as happened in February this year. There are reports of the Government wanting to build large dams on the upper reaches of the Mara – no one quite knows the implications of such dams on the river flow but they could have a major impact on a river that is already under threat.
We flagged off the Tri-annual Serengeti/Mara Cross Border Aerial Census in Narok on the 16th. Senior personnel from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Narok County, the World Wildlife Fund and other supporters attended the function. The exercise was due to end by the 28th May.
We were informed on the 20th that the Suzuki donated by Angama would be ready for collection in the week of the 22nd. This is a very kind donation that will go a long way to helping us with our rhino surveillance. The vehicle was officially handed over on the 31st at a small ceremony held at the Conservancy office.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Lena Munge and Mr Moses Chelanga to review the draft Management Agreement on the 26th. We should now have a final draft for presentation to the Board at the next meeting in early June. There is one amendment required to the Draft Tourism Bill before the Narok County Assembly – one the amendment is made and the Bill passed we should be in a position for us to sign with the County Government.
Mr E Molai returned from his annual leave.
Mr Molai and Warden F Peenko went to see the trainees at Manyani and give a lecture on conservation to them. They will pass out on the 13th June.
Five security staff requested, including Warden Daniel M Tunai, and were granted, a transfer back to the County.
We found a giraffe with a dead foetus on the 1st, she then disappeared for a day and was found again on the 3rd. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) flew down Dr Mijele from Nairobi to treat the giraffe but sadly she died when undergoing treatment. It was amazing; this animal sought out people and came right up to them before the vet arrived.
Dr Limo treated an injured buffalo near Olonana on the 18th and an elephant calf near Maji ya Ndege on the 20th. The buffalo had been speared in the shoulder and the elephant calf appears to have been attacked by lions; the wounds were consistent with lion bites.
The poor long rains will probably lead to an early migration and we can expect to see the first wildebeest around mid-June, or soon thereafter.
Elephant have started going up the escarpment and raiding maize fields. We will work with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) to establish a small patrol base near Angata Barrikoi to assist the community in keeping elephant out of the fields. In the long term there will probably be the need for a fence along the hard boundary between the Triangle and farmland.
May looks as if it will be the busiest May since we started operations in the Triangle sixteen years ago. Those visitors who did come to the Mara were treated to some good weather and excellent game viewing.
All the camps and lodges are gearing up for a bumper season and cite excellent bookings for July and August.
Garvey, one of the sniffer dogs was treated with Berenil against a possible tick-borne infection on the 31st.
Once some of our dog handlers return from training at Manyani we will be back to full strength and will be able to reinforce our training regime, we still have a problem when deploying dogs after poachers.
Twenty-five people were arrested in May, one person was part of an armed gang that raided Kawai village, the remainder were all arrested for poaching. Fifteen wire snares were recovered but the main focus, as always at this time of year, was on hippo, warthog and Thompson’s gazelle. Two warthog are known to have been killed, as were at least four hippo, eight gazelle, a zebra and several impala.
There was an armed robbery at Kawai, the village on the escarpment on the night of the second. The thieves had an AK 47.
The Ngiro-are team arrested one person near Limana on the 4th. He was one of a group six people who had killed a warthog. That day the Ol Kurruk rangers followed up on a lead from the Kawai robbery and managed to arrest one of the suspects in Pusangi. He was found with a mattress that was confirmed to be from the shop that was robbed. He was handed over to the police and hopefully he will divulge more information.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two people on the Island near the VIP camp towards Lemai on the 7th; one person escaped. They had killed a hippo and were drying the meat before transporting it out.
Three days later a routine patrol by the Iseiya rangers found fresh signs of poachers near the Sand River junction with the Mara. They called the Ngiro-are rangers who were patrolling near the Bologonja junction and had just collected 15 snares, and managed to arrest four people who had arrived the previous night. They poachers had already killed a warthog but were certainly targeting hippo – they had the very heavy spears that are routinely used to kill hippo.
Our rangers returned across the river on the 13th and started patrolling the thickets opposite Kiboko Camp; almost immediately they saw signs of people and managed to arrest four, of five people. They had arrived the night before and had not started hunting – they were almost certainly targeting hippo.
A routine patrol came across the remains of two hippo, a zebra and several impala between Kogatende and Saiyari Camp in the Northern Serengeti on the 18th. One of the hippo carcasses was within 100 meters of the tent closest to the River at Saiyari. That same day the Ngiro-ae rangers arrested one person as he and his companion entered the Lemai Wedge. He was carrying a spear and was probably looking for warthog.
Our rangers managed to arrest six people during the night of the 19th and early morning on the 20th. The Iseiya rangers set an ambush near Nyanguki in the Lemai Wedge and managed to arrest two people, part of a large gang that were hunting Thompson’s gazelle. They then called their Ngiro-are counterparts and set further ambushes along the escarpment at 3.00 am – to catch the escapees as they returned home. They managed to arrest three more people from a group of six. At 7.00 am, as the rangers were returning to base, they arrested one more person. In total the rangers found three Thompson’s gazelle that had been killed; two with the first group and one with the second.
The Oloololo Rangers were called to investigate an incident rear Pusangi on the 21st. They found a dead zebra that had been laced with poison – suspected Furadan – and two dead hyena and suspected that several more had died in a nearby den.
One freshly butchered hippo was found near Kogatende on the 25th – all the meat had been taken. The following day the Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush near Masanja in the Lemai Wedge and began to see torch activity near Ol Donyo Nasipa – several kilometres away – at around midnight. The team then redeployed in pitch darkness and managed to arrest two people at 3.00 am, another six escaped. They had killed several Thompson’s gazelle – five were found, but it was estimated that many more wire killed.
The Iseiya rangers went across the river on the 27th, were joined by the Sergeant from Kogatende and found nothing during the day. That evening they set an ambush near Machechwe and watched as three people entered the Northern Serengeti – they managed to arrest two people at 9.30 pm. They were carrying spears and were probably going to hunt hippo.
The Iseiya rangers joined up with their counterparts from Machechwe on the 29th but saw no signs of poaching that day. They decided to set an ambush that evening and managed to arrest two people as they approached the Mara River opposite Lemai with nets, fishing line and spears. That same day the Ngiro-are rangers came across a dead elephant in the Lemai Wedge – it was a large bull with tusks weighing in excess of 30 kg each. The tusks were taken and handed into the ranger post at Kinyangaga.
Revenue and Accounts
Our April revenue was slightly higher than for March, probably as a result of Easter. The encouraging thing was that April revenue was 54% better than the corresponding month last year; the 20th straight month of improvement.
We will end the financial year with very few reserves and are being conservative in our estimates for the coming year. We have prepared a budget and work-plan for 2017/18 and have given it to the Board for review. We will probably break even next year, but again we don’t expect to set aside any significant buffer for future.
Repairs and maintenance
We have had major problems with Land Rover KBS and in the end decided to change the whole engine block. This has been done and the vehicle seems to finally be running well.
We resurfaced the road between Oloololo Gate and Little Governors Camp and then to Sankuria – the heavy balloon vehicles do considerable damage to these roads in the early mornings when wet.
We graded the main road to Oloololo and then the roads along the river from Serena to Mugoro.
We built a toilet and shower for the additional staff at Oloololo Gate. It just needs the fitting of doors and painting;
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2017
· Hold Board meeting on 9th June;
· Complete plumbing;
· Rehabilitate the toilets at the Public Camp site at Oloololo;
· Complete new toilet at Oloololo;
· Overhaul windmills;
· Install new signboards;
· Start cutting grass tracks;
· Burn one block – weather permitting;