The heavy rain at the end of October and first few days of November sent most of the wildebeest back into Tanzania. The remainder of the month was mainly fine and sunny, with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm.
Campaigns for the coming elections in March 2013 are increasing in intensity. As always, and despite our best efforts to keep politics out of the workplace, these campaigns polarise our staff and makes work extremely difficult.
It appears that there is no political will to survey the Reserve boundary; the Councillors will all be sent home in early January, pending the elections in March.
We are seeing an increase in serious cases of injury and death caused by wildlife in the Mara region. Two people were killed on the 2nd and 3rd – the first person, Moses Tunai, was killed by an elephant as he walked towards Kichwa Tembo camp from Skyship at dusk or just after dark. His body was not discovered until the following morning. In the second case, a hippo killed a herder as he looked after his cattle along the Mara River, upstream from Mara Rianta. Our deepest condolences go to both families.
Virtually all the wildebeest moved out in the first week of November, by the 15th we had gone from having hundreds of thousands to a few thousand animals. The wildebeest persist in crossing in the most unsuitable places and about 2,980 died in one crossing. We know of at least 9,000 animals dying whilst crossing the river this year, nearly all of them in two unsuitable crossing points near Purungat. The rangers tried very hard to stop animals from crossing at these points and managed on most occasions – the death toll would undoubtedly have been much higher if they had not done so. Both sites are in croton woodland along the river and not easily accessible to vehicles. Are the wildebeest avoiding the more traditional crossing points in order to get away from vehicle pressure?
One old lioness was found dead on the 3rd near the salt-lick. She had been seen alone for some time but appeared quite healthy.
Lions killed one male cheetah on the 9th. This cheetah had moved into the Olpunyatta swamp area and had been mating with a female on the two previous days – he was killed by the Oloololo lionesses – the second time an adult cheetah has been killed this year.
We received a report from Narok that a cheetah with four young cubs was hounded by tourist vehicles at the beginning of November; the next day she had lost three of her four cubs. A few days later she abandoned the remaining cub, again as a result of harassment. The cub was rescued and taken to the KWS Animal Orphanage. We cannot overemphasise the need for stricter control on tourist vehicles and driver behaviour. The infamous “matatu” mentality that is prevalent in the public service vehicle (PSV) sector on Kenyan roads is increasingly apparent in the Parks and Reserves.
We had a cheetah with three very young cubs near Egyptian Goose, she was seen with them on the 9th and then on the 11th the lionesses from that area spent the morning stalking her, they were kept at bay for a while, but at some stage a lioness managed to outflank the rangers and kill one of the cubs, the mother and other two cubs were not seen again until the 19th – when the same pride of lionesses was trying to kill the cheetah and her cubs. The rangers managed to fend off the lions on this occasion.
One of the immature lionesses from the Mugoro pride was killed on the night of the 12/13th; probably by males from across the river. We had not seen any males with this pride for months and were concerned that this may be the beginning of a pride take-over. Very sad if this is the case – the last lot of nine cubs were all killed in the last take-over. However, in the past week males have been seen with the pride and there is no attempt on the cubs.
Masai morans managed to kill a lion on the Oloisukut Conservancy, upstream from the Triangle. It was reported that the lion injured six, of the seven, warriors before it died – one of them seriously. The morans will graduate mid-December and there will be a great deal of pressure on our lions along the escarpment between now and then.
The County Council of Trans Mara implemented promotions that had been approved by the Ministry of Local Government. This affected many of the Conservancy staff seconded from the Council, although in most cases the promotions did not meet our recommended grades.
Charles Gitau and Margaret Wangui visited the Triangle to review a number of outstanding administrative issues. One outcome from this visit was that we decided to have a training workshop on the Labour Laws of Kenya and the rights and responsibilities of our staff. This workshop will be held mid December.
Ranger Barisho Mamaiyo absconded from work on the 14th, for the 6th time this year. He has been transferred back to the Council at his request.
The concentration of wildebeest in the Triangle probably meant that we had more tourists than expected, though the number was still down by 9% on last year (10,353 vs 11,366 last year).
Those people who visited the Triangle in November were very fortunate, wonderful game viewing – with thousands of zebra still in the Triangle and excellent viewing of the “Big Five”.
The Hyena Research Project produced their latest quarterly report. The report was informative but concentrated on academic research. We would like to see a more practical orientation to some of their work, something that gives us answers to the management problems we have to deal with, especially in relation to hyena and their impact, if any, on other predator populations in the Mara.
We received a report on lion and cheetah numbers, with an excellent dossier on the identification of individual animals. We have, after an intensive, one-month study, a file on nearly 50 individual lion and eight cheetah. Thanks to those who worked so hard to compile the report. There are a few gaps, but the majority of lion in the Triangle (at least 70%) were identified and recorded.
2,010 poachers arrested in 11 years 4 months – an average of 178 per year.
We have also recovered 22,511 wire snares.
The Ngiro-are rangers collected 119 wire snares in the first four days of the month, all of them in the Lemai Wedge around Miungu, along the escarpment and at Kokamange.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested four people on the night of the 4th near Kasarani, in the Lemai Wedge. The same team arrested two more poachers as they entered the Serengeti near Kegonga during a late patrol on the 8th.
Our rangers joined forces with Tanzanian National Park (TANAPA) rangers between the 9th and 11th in an operation near Tabora B, in the northern Serengeti. Fourteen people were arrested during the operation: seven on the 9th, four on the 10th, and three more on the 11th. The four people arrested on the 10th were carrying wildebeest meat, in eight sacks, on four donkeys. They had a “commission” and were taking the meat to people waiting in vehicles. The meat would then be transported to the heavily populated areas around Lake Victoria. Our rangers had reported seeing donkey tracks in that area on numerous occasions – it was the first time that they had actually arrested people with donkeys. The last three poachers were hunting Thompson’s Gazelle and had killed five when arrested. A total of 36 wire snares were recovered during the operation.
On the 9th, the rangers who remained at Ngiro-are saved a poacher from certain death when locals from Angata Barrikoi found him along the escarpment and were about to lynch him, for being a suspected cattle thief, when the rangers arrived. He had been hunting and had been separated from his companions. He was then disorientated and ended up hiding on the Kenyan side of the border. He was taken to Tanzania and handed over to TANAPA rangers.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested three poachers near Olare Onyoike, in the Lemai Wedge, as they were digging out warthog from their hole on the night of the 12th. One warthog had been killed.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person on the 13th, as he entered the Lemai Wedge, after crossing the river near Mlima Hotel. He was part of a large group of 25 people; the rest managed to escape across the river.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 66 wire snares on the 15/16th, 63 of them near Maji ya Bett. On the 15th our Tanzanian counterparts came under attack from the wa Kuria from Kigonga for confiscating cattle that were grazing in the Park illegally. Our rangers were called to assist and managed to avert a disaster. They arrived as the situation was getting out of hand and the TANAPA rangers were having to defend themselves from an onslaught of poisoned arrows.
On the 17th the TANAPA rangers from Kinyangaga saw poachers near Kasarani and requested assistance from Ngiro-are. Five people were arrested with dogs; they had 14. Earlier in the day a combined Iseiya/Ngiro-are patrol collected 60 wire snares near Maji ya Bett.
Our rangers were asked to assist in apprehending some people who had hijacked a motorcycle and murdered the owner on the 19th. They set up an ambush, together with some policemen, and managed to arrest one of the people involved.
We set up an Observation Post (OP) on the Kenya/Tanzania border on the 20th. The rangers arrested two people on the first night at 9.00 pm. The two were on their way into the Triangle to hunt warthog and had sufficient food and supplies to last several days. On the following two days 116 wire snares were recovered, 93 of them in the Triangle near Ol Donyo Olpaek – five zebra and an eland were killed in the snares. The rangers set up an ambush on the snares, and the poachers walked into it, but unfortunately managed to escape in the very rocky terrain.
The Care for the Wild/Anne Kent-Taylor scouts joined forces with our rangers from Oloololo Gate and joined forces with our other patrols. They also managed to arrest six people on the escarpment between the 26-28th. In the first instance three people were arrested with waterbuck meat, the following day two people were arrested with a dik dik and then one more person was arrested with a waterbuck head on the 28th. All six were taken to Lolgorien.
On the 27th the Iseiya team were anti poaching in the Lemai Wedge, near “Daraja la Mzee” and came across two zebra and one lion cub killed in snares. As they approached the lion cub a lioness; that had been feeding on one of the zebra, charged the rangers and was caught in a snare herself. TANAPA was contacted but the lioness managed to free herself before veterinary assistance arrived. 35 wire snares were collected.
Revenue and Accounts
We did better than expected in October but expect revenue to drop considerably in November.
The contract with KAPS ends in July 2013. We will start the Tender process for revenue collection early in the New Year and have already made contact with Deloitte to start the process.
We replaced the water pump and also bearings and seals on one of the front wheels on the grader. The grader then opened up more drainage ditches on the road to Ngiro-are and then to Little Governors. It then did some work on the main road between Mara Serena and Purungat.
We built a new office for KAPS at the Purungat gatehouse.
The new Land Rover was repaired after the accident and was brought back to the Mara but there is a problem in the engine and the vehicle has been returned to Nairobi. It should be collected in early December.
We joined forces with Governors Camp to resurface the road between the Kichwa airstrip and Little Governors.
We started work, with Skyship, on the roads within the Skyship compound.
Report on focus for November
Focus for December 2012
· Training on the Labour Laws 14/15th December;
· We will work with Olonana and Skyship in repairing their main access roads;
· Collect new Land Rover after repair;
· Repair gearbox on old Land Rover;
· Focus on protecting lion along the escarpment; and
· Start Tender process for revenue collection.