The rains continued to pound the Triangle for the first three weeks of May, causing considerable damage, washing the murram off some of our roads, creating ruts and potholes on all our roads. It will take weeks, if not months, to repair all the damage. These rains are the heaviest recorded in over 60 years and have caused havoc throughout the country
The online version of the WIRED article is now out, see below:
There will be a short video to accompany the article.
SafariLive have produced their second short film on the Mara Conservancy; this time on our relationship with the community. For those that are interested, the link is:
Mr Eric Becker and an engineer from Flir visited on the 25th for the night, they went to Ngiro-are to check on the camera there. Flir and WWF are pledging more equipment and we might get some night vision goggles, which would make driving at night much easier for our teams.
Alfred Bett, Warden in Charge of Anti-Harassment, was selected one of 50 finalists in the inaugural 2018 African Ranger Award, funded by Alibaba and the Paradise Foundation. Congratulations to Alfred for his hard work, integrity and commitment. He will receive US$ 3,000 and has been selected as one of the ten people to collect his award in South Africa. The Conservancy will sponsor two of our key staff to accompany him.
We renewed all our staff I/D cards.
There was an Annual General Meeting for the Pension Fund on the 24th, Madison, the fund managers and the Auditors attended the meeting.
We retired Anna, our imported blood hound cross coon hound after she was spayed. She was found a home in Nairobi.
There was a robbery at the Engos dispensary, up on the escarpment, at lunchtime on the 15th. People broke a window to a nurse’s house and stole Ksh 92,300. We were called and sent one of our puppies, Morani, to the scene. Morani followed the track for about two kilometres to a homestead. Some youths ran off but two were arrested and half the money recovered, one youth escaped with the remainder. An excellent piece of work by our dog and his handlers.
Loisaba, a ranch in Laikipia, collected their two puppies on the 17th.
We received a new sniffer dog on the 25th, a German short-haired pointer called Asha, from Holland to replace Garvey. Mr Pat Nolan came from the United States to train the handlers and settle in Asha.
Our Oloololo Pride is spending an increasing amount of time up on the escarpment and on the 14th they killed a zebra near one of the homesteads. The local community raised the alarm, splitting the pride of four females, one sub-adult male and 12 cubs. At one point, there was concern that a group of young men would kill one of the cubs and the following day there were still five cubs missing. We believe that we have sufficient good-will with our immediate neighbours for them not to kill a lion, but we will have to be very careful over the coming months. Masai youth are forming the next warrior “Moran” age set and many of them will be wanting to spear a lion. We will try and work with the youth and the elders selected to mentor them to find alternatives to killing lions.
A cheetah with two, year-old cubs, moved into the Purungat area during the month. She and her cubs were seen most days and then on the 19th one of the cubs disappeared. We suspect it was killed by the resident pride of lions.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the migration this year, we can fully expect it to be late and small – there is so much food and water in the Serengeti this year – that there will be no real need for the animals to come as far as the Mara. Last year the first animals arrived at the beginning of June, this year they are still around Lake Ndutu and Seronera.
A cheetah was seen with five very small cubs on the 25th, fortunately she is a fair distance from a road, on the side of a hill. We will ensure that we have a vehicle posted there all day, to stop any possible harassment.
Mr Chris Dutton has just published a paper on the link between hippo faeces, pulses in river flow and fish die off (see the link below).
Organic matter loading by hippopotami causes subsidy overload resulting in downstream hypoxia and fish kills. Christopher L. Dutton, Amanda L. Subalusky, Stephen K. Hamilton, Emma J. Rosi & David M. Post. Nature Communications. volume 9, Article number: 1951 (2018) doi:10.10 38/s41467-018-04391-6.
The authors recorded 49 events, over three years, in which the river rose as a result of rainfall, resulting in decreases in dissolved oxygen. The managed to link the flushing of organic matter in hippo pools with this decrease in dissolved oxygen. Thirteen of those events resulted in hypoxia, or a complete depletion in oxygen levels and several resulted in fish kills (nine were recorded over a five-year period).
Tourist numbers began to pick up in the last week of May and everyone is reporting an excellent high season ahead. We mention it again below, but one of our big problems is the increasing number of people staying on the Narok side of the Reserve who visit the Triangle for their game drives – at least ten times more than visitors going from the Triangle. This places a big strain on our facilities and resources and we will need to find a solution.
A total of eight people were arrested in May, seven of them in the Lemai Wedge – all for hunting hippo. The eighth was arrested on the escarpment for killing a buffalo.
One hippo was killed and butchered along Lugga ya Ngiri, near the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge. Our rangers saw tracks along the same water course a few days later, people obviously looking for more hippo and then managed to arrest three people late evening on the 6th, after setting up an observation point and waiting all day.
A routine patrol on the 8th came across a butchered hippo near Benjamin’s Lugga in the Triangle, some of the meat had been stashed in two trees – it had probably been killed around the full moon a week earlier. This is the first known poaching incident in the Triangle in over a year.
Our Tanzanian counterparts came across a freshly killed hippo near Olaro Nyioke in the Lemai Wedge and managed to arrest two people. There were reports of a second hippo that had been killed.
One wire snare was collected at Nyarakunguri, a thicket in the Triangle. It had been there for a considerable time.
The Ngiro-are team arrested two people near Lugga ya Ngiri during a late patrol on the 24th, they were looking for hippo. Three days later they arrested two more people in the same area. They were part of a group of four who were also hunting hippo.
One person was arrested on the escarpment by the Iseiya rangers on the 29th. He had killed a buffalo and dried the meat. The person had been arrested before and in fact had informed for us in the past.
Revenue and Accounts
We asked KAPS to do a reconciliation on the total number of visitors to the Triangle in March and give us a breakdown of the number and category of non-paying visitors during the Month. It is now part of their monthly report and the Table below gives a breakdown on the number of non-paying visitors to the Triangle – in April 56% of the visitors to the Triangle did not pay the Conservancy.
Table 1: A breakdown of paying and non-paying visitors
We have raised the issue before, and will no doubt raise it again, but we had 1,156 visitors who had Narok tickets, if we add the transit tickets, people passing through the Triangle to go to Narok, nearly as many people who pay the Conservancy (1,936 Narok non-paying against 2,532 paying) are not paying, placing a huge strain on our infrastructure and resources, especially in the rains.
As always, we have very few visitors during the rainy season. Last month was no exception – indeed, we had fewer visitors in April this year than for the same month last year. One of the few months in which this has happened.
Repairs and maintenance
The new pit latrine at Oloololo collapsed on the 1st. We demolished the structure and will build a new one.
We had to repair extensive damage to the bridge at Sankuria, caused by water flooding over the top and eating away the lower side of the bridge. We had similar damage to the crossing over the Saparingo stream near the Kichwa airstrip and also had to do some major repairs – for the third time in three months.
We tried as best we could to keep the main roads in good condition, very difficult with daily rainstorms causing so much damage. The Mugoro crossing was impassable for most of the month and the by-pass road developed some large potholes, almost impossible to repair, given the amount of rain and extensive flooding.
We have built a larger enclosure for the two cheetah cubs, they are both thriving.
We completed work at Purungat, repaired guttering at Kilo 2 and then the team moved to Ngiro-are to start repair work there.
We increased the solar capacity and Ngiro-are and also checked all the other solar systems.
We dug a new soak-pit at Iseiya, it filled in no time with all the rain and the rise in the water table.
We have started grading our roads and completed the main road to Purungat.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2018
· Hold Board meeting on the 8th;
· Continue with road repairs;
· Start cutting grass tracks, weather permitting;
· Continue grading roads;
· Work on Management Agreement for Narok;
· Continue with repairs at Ngiro-are; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.