The Westgate siege and immediate aftermath – with well documented proof of looting by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the attempted cover-up. Not to mention the bungling of the rescue efforts – showed Kenya in a very negative light. Insecure and corrupt – these are increasingly the tags that Kenya is being labelled with. Couple this with the increasingly strident anti-West rhetoric, the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases and isolationism and we could be in for a hard time in the near future. Tour operators returning from the World Travel Market (WTM) in London and other marketing trips are saying that Kenya is off the travel radar – no one wants to come to Kenya – whereas Tanzania is now a highly sought after destination. This is no short-term blip – people saying let’s wait and see for a few months – this is a much longer-term decline in interest. Until this country addresses the fundamental issues: insecurity; corruption; weak infrastructure; an increasingly poor tourist product, be it at the coast or the Mara - tourists will go elsewhere.
If we look further, we are going through a drought in many parts of the country; there is a maize shortage of ten million bags, cattle are dying in the thousands and a second pillar of our economy will suffer. Devolution is costing this country far more than anticipated. Taxes – already at crippling levels – are increasing with the new VAT laws, foreign exchange earnings are likely to decline and the cost of drought recovery increase. Now the Government is after the NGOs – saying that they can not exceed 15% of their portfolio in foreign donations. The NGOs traditionally provide more services in marginal areas than Government – they certainly more than compliment Government services and are the main providers of disaster relief. How many fronts does this Government want to fight on?
We burnt a small block on the 7th, the day the rains broke. The rains were very sporadic and light for this time of year – all the indications are that the short rains will fail in many parts of the country. This will lead to a serious drought in eastern Narok County and already cattle are dying in large numbers. Cattle owners are bringing tens of thousands of cattle into the Narok portion of the Reserve, as well as the Conservancies, and a delegation from the community visited the Chief Executive on the 30th – mainly to request grazing. This pressure will continue until the long rains break – maybe not until March 2014.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Marco van Kempen – an investor in Cobra Corner – a proposed lodge in the South-western corner of the Triangle. He produced all the documents and approvals for a 54 bed lodge – when the site is only suitable for a much smaller, seasonal camp. This was explained to Mr van Kempen, together with the fact that any new development had to be approved by the County Government. Abiding by the rules stipulating an 18-bed, seasonal camp would increase their chances of being awarded a lease.
The migration returned to the Mara in large numbers in early November – at a time they usually head back to Tanzania. This resulted in a spike in poaching within the Lemai Wedge. The wildebeest remained in the Triangle in their thousands through the remainder of the month.
One of our rhino, Makallah, has spent the better part of two months in the Lemai Wedge – we are most concerned about his safety.
The three cheetah males that live along the border have been living off wildebeest calves for most of the migration – many of the calves have severe mange and seem to have past it on to the cheetah. Two of the males have a severe case and require treatment. However, they are difficult to locate, as they move over a huge range. There is no doubt that mange in cheetah is very debilitating and severe cases can lead to death.
Fifteen members of staff graduated from their paramilitary course at the Kenya Forestry Service training school, Londiani on the 22nd. Congratulations to: Daniel Kijabe – best overall recruit; James Sampei – best in academics; Kelvin Ololtele – best in parade drills; Mohamed Moguche – best marksman; and Gloria Nkaminen Mimiyio – best female recruit. This is the fourth consecutive year that we have sent trainees to Londiani and the first time that we sent women for training. I would like to give a vote of thanks to the Principal and trainers from Londiani for their excellent facility and high standard of training.
Tour operators returning from the World Travel Market in London came back very despondent – there is little, or no, interest in Kenya. We are seeing the impact on tourism – the lodges are virtually empty.
For those tourists lucky enough to visit the Mara Triangle in November; the weather and game viewing have been second to none. Wonderful, sunny days, amazing crossings, large numbers of wildebeest and zebra and lots of predators – and without the usual hoards of visitors associated with the migration .
Mara Serena opened the last sections of their refurbishment on the 30th. They make the public areas far more spacious and provide areas for more privacy and intimacy.
Twenty-two poachers were arrested in November – three of them in the Triangle and another two for dealing in ivory. The other seventeen were all arrested in the northern Serengeti. 573 wire snares were collected and the rangers found an assortment of carcasses from poached animals: 36 wildebeest, one hippo, one giraffe, one eland, one waterbuck, a warthog and one elephant. Three suspected elephant poachers were arrested by a combined Mara Elephant Project (MEP) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) operation: the suspected ringleader is a local Chief with an illegal firearm. Two other people were arrested for dealing in ivory – one a policeman from Kilgoris.
Seventy-two wire snares were recovered near the Ngiro-are swamp and Daraja ya Mzee on the 3rd and 4th; two wildebeest had been caught and butchered.
A routine patrol along the Mara River on the 5th came across a poacher’s camp. The rangers managed to apprehend two, of three, Luo poachers from Migori who had set up camp in an area we call Kisumu Ndogo – not that far downstream from Little Governors. The poachers had killed a hippo and one intact snare was recovered. The patrol also found four broken snares, indicating that a number of hippo, and possibly one elephant, had been snared but had broken free. A second poacher’s camp was also found in the same area – the people had killed a giraffe and had stashed a considerable amount of meat in trees. They presumably intended to return for the meat. The rangers set a series of ambushes but no poachers came in – they did however, see people bringing in cattle to graze in the Reserve at night. The herders were close to Oloololo gate and it would appear that the rangers were aware and turning a blind eye to the night grazing.
The Iseiya rangers set an ambush near Maji ya Bett on the night of the 6th and arrested one person, three escaped. Six wire snares were recovered.
The rangers recovered 141 wire snares between the 8th and 10th and found one dead eland in the snares. All the snares were in the northern Serengeti. On the 11th our rangers managed to arrest two poachers near Nyakita Pembe in the Lemai Wedge – three people escaped.
We received a call for assistance by our Tanzanian counterparts on the 13th and our rangers joined forces with them across the river, near Ngira. They managed to arrest four people with meat from two wildebeest.
On the 14th three more poachers were arrested after some meat was seen hidden in a tree and an ambush laid near Miungu, in the Lemai Wedge.
A routine patrol along the Mara River in the Triangle on the 16th resulted in the arrest of one wa Kuria poacher near Kisumu Ndogo, his two companions managed to escape across the river. This is the second time in one month that we have found poachers in the riverine forest – a cause for concern. The poachers had killed a waterbuck and a warthog. That evening an elephant was shot and killed on the escarpment – the tusks were taken.
The following day a combined team of rangers included a thicket between Limana and Daraja la Mzee in their patrol that we usually ignore because it is so small. They found a well-established poacher’s camp with a thatched structure – reminiscent of 12 years ago, when such poacher’s camps were common. The poachers had been using it for three months and there were signs of at least 30 butchered wildebeest carcases. All four of the poachers present were arrested but they said that three of their companions had gone to resupply. An ambush was laid and two, of the three, returning poachers were arrested at 11.30 at night.
In all 207 wire snares were recovered in that one week.
On the 21st and 22nd 44 wire snares were recovered in the Lemai Wedge – an ambush was set on the Masanga route and four people escaped on the night of the 21st. On the 26th a further 21 snares were recovered along the Kenya/Tanzania border – two wildebeest were rescued and two were found dead in the snares.
The Iseiya team set an ambush on the 27th and at 7.00 pm one person walked into the ambush and was arrested – he was heading for 20 snares that had been set near Kokamange in the Lemai Wedge. The rangers rescued one wildebeest. On the same day, the Ngiro-are rangers recovered 52 snares at Miungu and then five snares were recoverd on the 30th.
A combined Mara Conservancy, MEP and KWS operation near Angata Barrikoi on the night of the 28th resulted in the arrest of two people at 1.30 am, one a policeman from Kilgoris, and the recovery of 17 kilograms of ivory. The policeman is also suspected to supply ammunition to people with illegal firearms used in poaching.
Revenue and Accounts
We received the draft audited accounts from Deloitte and they will be presented to the Board at the next Board meeting for discussion and approval. The key figures in these accounts are:
The figures above indicate a 16% decrease in revenue but a 5% increase in expenditure - almost all in staff costs.
When when look at total income, before distribution, for the past three high seasons, we see a continuing decline in revenue. What are the reasons: a weak Kenya Shilling in 2011 raised the exchange rate to 100 Ksh:1 US$ for a brief period. More importantly; a short high season – there is little difference in revenue in July and August. Thereafter it drops significantly in September and October. If we continue to collect reduced revenues for the remainder of the financial year – and all the indications are that we will - we will have to make hard decisions on cutting costs.
Total revenue collected in high season between 2011/13 in Ksh
We repaired the brakes on the back-hoe loader and sent the bucket for repair in Nakuru – this was returned on the 30th;
One Land Rover had a new try fitted and was returned on the 30th.
We had to send another Land Rover to Nairobi. This is the vehicle that overturned soon after it arrived and has given nothing but trouble since. We found that two valves were bent – leading to a loss of power and slight roughness in running that had been there sine the vehicle was repaired by CMC. CMC had kept this vehicle for several months and had charged the insurance company for a new – half engine. This new engine was obviously never fitted. We replaced the valves but the computer needed to be reset – and that could only be done in Nairobi;
We collected rocks and them engaged three people to break ballast, in preparation for the construction of a NCO’s house;
The road team opened up all the culverts and drains and then started collecting building sand;
We sprayed the invasive weed, Parthenium with Tordon in an attempt to control its expansion.
Report on focus for November
Focus for December 2013
· Hold Board meeting and AGM;
· Murram sections of the road to the Serena Water pump;
· Complete breaking ballast and collect sand for construction;
· Send non-security staff off for Christmas;
· Hold meetings with community leaders on grazing & security; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.