Two weeks of heavy rain in the middle of the month has greened up the whole Reserve. There has been considerable grass growth on the western side and most of the tracks that had the grass cut off them are now overgrown.
The wildebeest have all returned to the Serengeti, leaving the Reserve almost empty of ungulates. Cheetah and lion have been more apparent in the past month than they were in September and October and one lion was killed in a fight with two other, nomadic, males near the Mara Bridge. Two lionesses gave birth to three cubs each between Serena and Kichwa Tembo.
One young elephant was reported with a wire snare near Little Governor’s by a balloon pilot. We called in Dr Kashmiri the same day and he flew in from Mombasa the next morning to remove the snare. Dr Kashmiri has been very supportive and even flew up to try and save the lion killed in the fight but was too late.
The Chief Executive visited the Senior Warden, Serengeti on the 27th November. A brief meeting was held with all the section heads, at which they expressed a great interest in the Conservancy and strongly endorsed the collaboration that has been established with the two ranger outposts on the border. We hope that we will be able to hold regular meetings with the Senior Warden and his staff in future.
One vehicle, KAN 707K drove off the causeway at Kokotende, the Tanzanian Ranger post on the Mara River. Fortunately no one was hurt, although two people were washed downstream for 50-70 metres when we were trying to recover the vehicle. In the end we had to borrow equipment from the Gold mine at Lolgorien to remove the vehicle from the river, it was slightly damaged on the left bumper and has been taken to Nairobi for servicing and repair.
A proposal to fund the security component was submitted to a potential donor, the proposal was rejected but the donor made a commitment to provide US$ 50,000 for security and strategic planning. A new proposal has been submitted and we are awaiting feedback.
Lodge occupancy rates were very low for the month of November, and the prognosis of early December is poor.
A meeting was held with lodge managers at Olonana on the 9th November, it was the first time that the managers had met each other and we hope that such meetings will become a regular feature. We used the opportunity to show the wetland system at Olonana to managers from the other lodges.
Peter Behr has held meetings with lodge drivers on behaviour within the Reserve and will work with them to define game viewing tracks that will have the grass cut.
Seven poachers were arrested during the month. Four were arrested in a joint operation with Tanzanian rangers on their side of the border and six snares recovered at the beginning of the month.
Three out of a group of five Kuria poachers were arrested by the rangers in a night ambush near the Tanzanian border, 11 snares were recovered. On the night prior to theses arrests a large group of poachers came into the Reserve with dogs, the rangers shot at and wounded one poacher in the arm but he escaped. We subsequently heard that the wounded man had been treated in Tanzania. On that occasion we recovered one Thompson’s gazelle that had been killed, together with spears and clothing.
One group of five potential stock-thieves were surprised at Ol Are (the salt springs) but unfortunately they escaped. Subsequent reports indicated that one of the five was armed with a G3 rifle. We conducted joint patrols with the GSU at Sankuria (the forested area below Ol Kurruk) and discovered where a small group had taken meat off a dead giraffe. This was probably the same group of stock-thieves. The community were informed and one attempt at stealing cattle was thwarted.
We now have one group of five rangers camping out in the bush, in areas where there is a likelihood of poaching, or on likely traversing routes for stolen cattle.
We have been in communication with the Commandant of the GSU, the refresher training will start in the New Year. The GSU have requested that any new recruits first be registered as Kenya Police Reservists before they are trained.
A number of fires were lit along the Oloololo escarpment, they appear to be lit by Maasai looking for new grazing along the escarpment.
The Chief Executive took a week off to visit England from the 12th to the 19th November.
The Senior Warden, David Seur, has taken his annual leave from 10th November, he is due back on the 15th December.
Two staff members were dismissed for theft of diesel at Oloololo gate; the driver Tom Lelimoi and the workforce headman, Jackson Mwangi had both been casuals with the County Council and not permanent staff.
Mr David Nkedianye will start as a community development consultant on the 6th December for a period of three months. David is a Maasai who has been has been working in Kajiado on community development and land tenure issues for Friends of Nairobi Park (FONAP).
Mara Serena have rehabilitated their incinerator, after gentle prodding by the Conservancy. This has enabled us to cover over the two refuse pits that Serena had been using for the past two years. Little Governor’s are in the process of installing emersion heaters, to replace their existing wood-fuel boilers.
The grader has started work on the Serena – Oloololo road. The first six kilometres from Oloololo gate have been graded, and the grader has now started from the Serena end. We have had discussions with Sibimo, the Gold mine at Lolgorien, about hiring an excavator and tipper lorries to put murram on the road.
The houses at Ngiro-are have all been painted, work remaining includes replacing broken windows, ceilings and doors. The carpenters are working at Oloololo and should be finished by the end of December.
Peter Behr has taken M/s Construction Consultants to look at rehabilitating the ranger station at Mara Bridge. They have also looked into constructing at least one blind for tourists to sit in. Reconstruction of the ranger post would cost Ksh 2.7 million and the blinds would cost Ksh 1.3 million each.
Revenue and Accounts
A budget has been prepared for the period November 2001 to May 2002 and a summary is attached.
The grader has been paid for in full, US$ 112,000.
Anticipated gate revenues will only just cover recurrent expenditure, with no additional funds available for development. We are due to start payments for vehicles from CMC in January 2002. The commitment amounts to Ksh 725,011.20 for Mara Conservancy Land Rover each month for twelve months and a further Ksh 165,000 for the tractor each month. We are also due to pay Ksh 571,370.75 per month for two Land Rovers purchased on behalf of the County Council of TransMara. This amount will then be deducted from their share of gate revenue.
Given the downturn in tourism there is no doubt that paying for the vehicles will put a severe financial strain on the Conservancy and we will almost certainly have to source additional donor funding to cover the payments and any significant development. The situation will improve slightly once the season picks up again next July.