The rains continued to be well below average for this time of year, fortunately the Triangle is much better off than most areas but some of our dams and water courses have not been replenished. The Mara River continues to very low for this time of year.
We held our Board meeting on the 17th and approved the Annual Work Plan and Budget for 2019/20.
Mr D Aruasa and Warden A Bett attended a Mara River Crossing Tourism workshop at Saiyari Camp in the Serengeti on the 19th and 20th, they were joined by the Chief Executive on the 20th. The workshop was aimed at developing a policy on how to handle up to ten crossing points along the Serengeti section of the Mara River and they invited us to share our challenges and experiences. The meeting was well attended by senior Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) staff, some researchers and leaders in the tourism industry in Tanzania.
Mr Mark Jenkins and Ms Sarah Stoner visited the Triangle from the 26th to the 28th , Ms Stoner is an intelligence expert working with the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) and came to evaluate our capacity and whether we require support. We also visited the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) who have an excellent intelligence/information gathering section.
Seventeen of our rangers spent the month in Narok, preparing for the Madaraka Day (the day Kenya was granted self-rule 56 years ago) celebrations – the rangers will form part of the march-past. The President is scheduled to preside over the celebrations on the 1st June.
Wardens L Langas and A Bett have started their respective courses, as has Ms Maureen Jepgoskei.
Our staff held two Annual General Meetings for the savings co-operative (KENTOURS) and for the Pension Scheme (Madison).
Two of our staff attended a two day workshop on dog training and handling in Nairobi that brought together dog handlers from Southern and Eastern Africa.
Ranger J Nasiti’s brother was murdered on the 14th, the culprits have not been found. Our deep sympathy to Nasiti and his family.
The Chief Executive’s cook died from a sudden heart attack at 2.10 pm on the 31st. She had worked for me for 28 years.
Another interesting paper was produced in April, this time on Human-wildlife conflict.
Human-wildlife conflicts and their correlates in Narok County, Kenya. Mukeka J M, Ogutu J O, Kanga E, Røskaft . Global Ecology and Conservation (April 2019)
The biggest driver for Human-wildlife conflict in Narok County has been the tenfold increase in the human population since the early sixties. This rate of increase is unsustainable and has led to the loss of valuable rangeland and forest in favour of agriculture and settlement. The consequences of this are extremely worrying; we have already seen the catastrophic decline in wildlife populations, the Mara River reaching the lowest levels in recorded history; and equally worrying an increase of average temperatures of over 2oC over the past forty years. This has led to dryer conditions and more unreliable rainfall.
Six species plus non-human primates contributed 90% of all conflict in the past 17 years; totalling 13,848 recorded cases. Specifically, elephant (46.2%), buffalo (10.6%) Burchell's zebra (7.6%), leopard (7.3%), spotted hyena (5.8%) and lion (3.3%), collectively contributed 80.8%, whereas non-human primates contributed 11.7% of all the conflicts. The three most common conflict types were crop raiding (50.0%), attacks on humans (27.3%) and livestock depredation (17.6%). Crop raiding was most acute where cereals (wheat and maize) are grown on a large scale. Carnivores were more likely to attack livestock species with body sizes comparable to their own. Thus, the leopard (44.0%, 3,368 animals) and spotted hyena (37.9%, 2,903) killed most sheep and goats whereas the lion were responsible for most of the cattle predation (63.1%, 531 cattle) and spotted hyenas (14.5%, 122 cattle).
These figures for predation are probably low, the Conservancy alone (With considerable support from the Angama Foundation) pays out in excess of Ksh 2 million (US$ 20,000) each year in livestock compensation.
Under the Wildlife Act of 2013 the Treasury is responsible for the payment of compensation, through the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, and in response to reports from the County Wildlife Compensation and Conservation (CWCC) Committees. These Committees are not functioning and indeed the Treasury is overwhelmed by claims for human death and injury attributed to wildlife, they have never begun to process claims for crop damage, or loss of livestock. Annual claims for human death and injury alone exceed the whole Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) budget, with the majority of claims resulting from snake-bite. Snakes have now been taken off the list of animals for which people can claim. Although Treasury is responsible for compensation, it is KWS that bears the brunt of criticism for delays in compensation. This leads to a bad relationship between landowners and KWS, as they are seen as disinterested and non-caring.
Cases of human-wildlife conflict will only increase unless one, some or all of the following happens;
· Recognise conservation as a legitimate form of land use in rangelands;
· Give rights and responsibilities for wildlife to landowners who host the wildlife;
· Create incentives for landowners to protect wildlife; and
· Create fences along hard boundaries between wildlife and agriculture.
A KWS veterinary team spent several days darting buffalo, starting the 4th. The team, led by Drs Mutinda and Limo were to sample 48 buffalo from five separate breeding herds for anti-bodies to Peste de Petites Ruminants (PPR). The Triangle was selected because of minimal contact between our buffalo and livestock (the vets wants to see if animals with no contact to wildlife can harbor the virus). PPR is a viral disease that affects small ruminants and can potentially devastate wildlife populations, as it did to the Saiga antelope in Mongolia, where it killed 80% of the population in 2017. The purpose of this research is to find out if certain species like buffalo act as a reservoir for the virus – it is similar to the rinderpest virus that was responsible for millions of livestock and wildlife deaths until it was eradicated in the 60s. There is an aim to eradicate PPR by 2030.
The exceptionally poor rains this year did bring in the wildebeest early and the first herds started appearing near Sand River on the 29th. By the 31st there were fairly large concentrations within a day or so of the Triangle. We have been fortunate in that the zebra have been around for a couple of months, especially on the burn near Purungat. We have also had more Thompson’s gazelle that we have ever seen before in the Triangle.
A female cheetah was treated for a wound on the 29th, she should recover without a problem.
A total of 14 people were arrested in May for poaching. We also arrested two youths for stealing solar panels from a primary school, and recovered the panels. At least six hippo and one elephant were poached for their meat. Thirteen snares were collected.
Four people were arrested on the night of the 30th April. The Iseiya team managed to arrest three people near Mbali Mbali by 9.00 pm, across the river in the Northern Serengeti – they were part of a group of four who were hunting with dogs. One of our dogs was responsible for tracking and locating a poacher who had hidden himself in a pool of water. The Ngiro-are team managed to arrest one person from a large group who had come to butcher a hippo. Three hippo had been killed downstream from Lemai – two were butchered that day – the third was submerged in the river. About 30 people came to drag it out – unfortunately some of them came from behind the rangers, saw them and alerted the others before the rangers could spring the ambush.
One hippo was killed on the 3rd near Lemai and then on the 9th five wire snares were collected near Kasarani by the Nigro-are rangers, a further four were collected near Lempise on the 9th.
Three people were arrested by the Iseiya team during a late patrol near Lempise. The three were hunting with dogs when apprehended – our dogs greatly facilitated in the arrest. The Nigro-are team across a freshly butchered hippo right on the Bologonja/Mara River junction. The meat had been taken.
There was a robbery at one of the camps on OOC/Motorogi on the 18th, three tents were cut open at around 3.00 am and phones, iPads and a little money were stolen. The dogs tracked the thieves back into the staff camp and also found were the bags had been sorted for valuables and then left. We left it with the police to follow-up.
Our rangers teamed up with the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) – who had the information, TANAPA and the Tanzanian police to arrest a person with two tusks weighing 23 kg on the night of the 18th, the poacher was handed over to the Tanzanians, as he was arrested on the Tanzanian side of the border. He was arrested with the informer and the broker – both were subsequently released. Three days later a large bull elephant was speared near Lugga ya Ngiri, in the Lemai Wedge – all the meat was taken but the tusks were left intact, a second elephant was seen with deep wounds in the kidney area. This is the second time in recent months that the poachers have taken the meat in preference to the ivory.
The Nigro-are rangers managed to arrest one, of two people, who were hunting in Serengeti Ndogo at night, across the river, on the 21st They has not killed anything. One more person was arrested the following night, at 11 pm, as he and his two companions came in to hunt at Mbali Mbali. A total of four snares were recovered that day.
One hippo was killed and butchered near the Lemai airstrip on the 24th, it was only discovered after all the meat had been taken.
We responded to two robberies on the 25th. In the first case two tents in a neighboring camp were cut and robbed. The thieves’ tracks came back into camp – Ksh 32,400 and US$ 72 in cash were stolen, as were a camera and two lenses. That night two solar panels were stolen off the Kawai Primary School – both thieves were arrested and the panels recovered by our rangers by mid-morning.
Four people were arrested on the 27th, the first three were arrested during the day near the Bologonja stream by a combined Conservancy/TANAPA team. They had arrived that day and were setting up camp when arrested – they had caught some fish and were cooking when found. That night, at around 10.00 pm one more person was arrested by the same patrol – he was part of a group of six people who were on their way to hunt.
One of our patrols came across a poachers’ camp on the night of 29th, the poachers escaped but the rangers found our first poached wildebeest of the season.
Revenue and Accounts
April revenue followed the normal trend for low season and was down on March, but higher than for April 2018 by 44% (Ksh 24,786,680 this year against Ksh 17,204,648 in 2018). We can expect May revenue to be even lower before things begin to pick up in June. All the indications are that it will an excellent high season.
Repairs and maintenance
We hired an Exhauster on the 1st and 2nd to clean out our pit latrines and septic tanks, the latrine at Purungat had been used as a dump site and was full of discarded uniforms, jerseys, mosquito nets and plastic bags.
We have graded the main roads to Purungat and Oloololo, as well as the lower road between Serena and Purungat.
We graded a flat piece of ground for the proposed solar farm at Serena, it took four days – 36 hours and 44 minutes to prepare the ground.
The Borehole Engineering (K) Ltd did a survey of potential drilling sites and identified two near Purungat and two below Angama. Angama and Wildeye will get a second opinion before drilling commences.
The road team worked on the roads to Oloololo and Little Governors.
We had to replace the wheel/gearbox housing on one of our tractors, this is the machine we want to sell in the next financial year.
We constructed two uni-huts at the main Iseiya camp to ease the congestion on staff housing.
Mara Engai have virtually completed the construction of one toilet block at Kilo 2, this will greatly help their visitors who wait there for transport.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June 2019
· Complete grading roads;
· Cut grass tracks;
· Possibly build Immigration Post;
· Prepare in case of management contract for main Reserve;
· Re-roof gate house at Purungat;
· Sell Suzukis;
· Maybe start drilling boreholes;
· Complete toilet at Kilo 2;
· Work with Angama on toilets; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.