There were heavy storms in the first week of October, for two days around the 20th and then heavy storms for the last two days of the month. These storms at the end of the month seem to herald the start of the short rains.
Princess Galyani Vadhana from Thailand spent two nights at Mara Serena from the 30th September until 2nd October. This was part of a Kenya Airways promotional trip. The Thai Ambassador and travel agents have subsequently sent visitors to Mara Serena as a result.
The Chief Executive and Senior Warden accompanied Hon Elliot Morley, Britain’s Minister for the Environment, on a morning visit to the Mara Triangle on Monday the 6th. The Chief Executive will meet Mr John Virgoe, First Secretary for the Environment in the High Commission to follow up on one or two issues raised during the Minister’s visit.
The Chief Executive, M/s Giles Davies, Martin Forster and J Soin met with Mr George Orr of Earthview to discuss their reporting format on the 7th. A new format has been developed and tested, it undoubtedly provides the information required and we will check it for accuracy.
On the same day a sub-committee comprising B Heath, G Davies, M Forster and S Tunai met to prepare a draft position paper on a new management agreement. This paper was circulated to the Board for comment.
Mr Martin Forster spent the night of the 12-13th in the Triangle.
On the 7th B Heath, G Davies, S Tunai and M Forster also met with Leslie Roach – the following day M/s Heath and Tunai introduced Leslie Roach to the Hon G Konchella, MP for Trans Mara.
Ms Mary Wykstra, a researcher on Cheetah, visited the Triangle from the 8th – 10th. We will try and use Cheetah 1, our monitoring vehicle, to collect data for her.
M/s Ole Muya and Ongeri, newsmen from Kilgoris, visited the Triangle on the 23rd, they wish to do a feature article on anti-poaching in the Triangle.
The Chief Executive and Mr S Tunai met with Ms Mila Niskanen of the Washington Times on the 27th, she is preparing a promotional report on Kenya for publication on the 12th December and was particularly interested in the public/private sector partnership between the Council and Mara Conservancy.
The Chief Executive attended a WWF sponsored workshop at Mara Sarova on Integrated Management of the Mara River Basin on the 29-30th. The meeting was opened by the PS in the Ministry of Water Development Prof. Khorda.
The Chief Executive was guest of honour at Olopikidingoe Primary School on the 31st for their environmental day, sponsored by Friends of Conservation; six local schools were involved.
The lionesses with cubs near the Mara Serena airstrip lost three out of four of their cubs – the remaining cub has not been reported for a week. Four other lionesses have given birth, two lionesses have four cubs between them in a lugga near Mara Bridge and another two have three cubs in the same general area.
One leopard was trapped on about the 16th along the escarpment, for stock killing, by KWS. KWS brought the leopard into the Triangle on the 18th, where it noted that it had an arrow in it’s chest. Dr Kashmiri was called but the leopard died the same day, before it could be treated. The animal was almost certainly shot with a poisoned arrow while in the trap.
There were numerous wildebeest and zebra crossings below Mara Serena at the beginning of the month. However, these tailed off as the migration concentrated along the Tanzanian border. In the last week of October huge herds of wildebeest and zebra concentrated all along the Siria Escarpment as far as Oloololo, along the Mara River and around the salt-lick. A few animals started crossing back into Tanzania near Mara Bridge, but the crossings stopped with the onset of the rains at the end of the month.
All three female cheetah with large cubs disappeared in the middle if the month – all the indications are that the mothers are about to leave their cubs to fend for themselves. One other female cheetah has been reported as heavily pregnant and one male is seen on a daily basis along the escarpment
Mara Serena have reported a mean occupancy rate of 75% for October. However, projections for November are very low, with Serena showing confirmed bookings of only 19% - we fully anticipate this to rise but would expect no better than 50% occupancy for the month.
The tourism industry as a whole is still suffering; there are reports of camps and lodges closing or for sale – Keekorok and Mara Safari Club, two of the best known lodges in the Mara, are struggling. The lease on Keekorok expires at the end of December and there are wrangles over a new contract. We are very fortunate that the Mara Triangle is a well run and secure destination and we are able to capitalise on these strengths. In order to further capitalise on the situation we have teamed up with Amarula and will be publishing a twice-monthly bulletin in the local press on matters of interest in the Triangle.
Nine poachers were arrested and one killed during the month, bringing the total to 241. 49 wire snares were also removed.
The poachers have changed their mode of operation and now very seldom camp in the Triangle or Lemai Wedge. Instead they watch for anti-poaching activity along the escarpment and then descend after dark, hunt and then return before light. In the past they would set snares and then leave them for a day or two, or they would hunt using torches. They hardly ever do this, making it much more difficult to locate and catch them.
On the 1st October seven poachers were arrested in a night ambush conducted jointly between the Ngiro-are team and their counterparts at Kinyangaga in Tanzania. These people were arrested by ambushing known pathways down the escarpment and knives, bows and 15 snares recovered.
On the 5th the Chief Executive found fresh signs of poaching and wildebeest meat hidden in a tree near Konyoiki, about two kilometres into Tanzania. A patrol was sent out but four poachers managed to escape.
On the 6th one warthog was found in a snare near Nyanguki in Tanzania. The areas was ambushed that night but no arrests were made, two snares were recovered.
On the 7th a routine patrol along the Ngiro-are lugga came across one dead and one live wildebeest in snares. The area was ambushed but no one returned, 13 wire snares were recovered.
On the 12th two poachers were arrested at Nyakita Pembe, about 15 kms into Tanzania by a joint patrol of our rangers and their Tanzanian counterparts. These two had killed one wildebeest and had set six snares.
On the 25th we set an ambush following incursions into the Triangle on two of the previous four nights. At 4.00 am four poachers walked into the ambush and one was shot dead. The poachers had 10 wire snares and had killed one zebra and one wildebeest. The incident was reported to the police.
On the 29th three freshly laid wire snares were found at the salt-lick, the snare site was ambushed but no one returned. The area was thoroughly searched for two days but there was no sign of the poachers.
Mr Abdi Boru is reported on the 1st October as Senior Warden. We have segregated the duties to be undertaken by each Senior Warden with Mr Boru taking responsibility for security and anti-poaching duties and Mr Sikawa being responsible for administration of the security section. Mr Boru has taken his annual leave, to be at home for the holy month of Ramadhan and is due to return on the 1st December.
Mr E Nkoitoi returned from leave and will be transferred to Ngiro-are in order to free up housing for Mr Boru.
Mr Kornelius Magita started a three-week attachment with the Conservancy. Kornelius is undertaking a certificate course on Wildlife Sanctuary Management at the KWS training centre.
The Chief Executive took three days off during October but is hoping to take two to three weeks off in November.
The repeater has been faulty and has been sent to Nairobi twice for repair, it should be ready for installation in early November.
On the 11th we assisted the Serengeti staff clear their causeway at Kokatende; many of the culverts were blocked, severely impeding the flow of water through the causeway. By clearing away the debris we managed to lower the water level by two feet, allowing the water to flow through, rather than over, the causeway.
The grader has opened up all the culverts and drainage ditches between Mara Bridge and Oloololo Gate in preparation for the rainy season. It has also rehabilitated the road from Sankuria to a place known as Maji ya Punda on the Mara River as per the work plan. This section of the road had been graded in the 1980’s but never completed.
The road gang have been following behind the grader, ensuring that all culverts are open and that drains into the culverts are clear.
The guard post and barrier at Mara Bridge are almost complete, some minor finishing touches remain before we make the barrier operational.
We have painted the inside of the Warden’s house at Ngiro-are in preparation for Mr Nkoitoi’s transfer.
Revenue and Accounts
Deloitte & Touche, the Auditors, have completed their draft audit and this has been circulated to the Directors for comment and approval at the next Board meeting.
For the first time in over two years we had a KATO cheque returned. This cheque was for US$ 15,054, resulting in a severe cash flow problem at the end of the month. KATO have assured us that they have re-written the cheque.
Our revenue for the first four months of the year has been well down on the same period last year, though slightly better than anticipated. We can expect the remainder of this year to be very difficult and do not anticipate any significant improvement on the budgeted income for the year.
We are very grateful to Ms Leslie Roach for her donation of US$ 10,000 and to Ms Alison Jones for her pledge of nearly US$ 13,000 – resulting for her sponsored climb of Mt Kilimanjaro. We will almost certainly require further donor support to see us through the year and will following up on a pledge from Mr Paul Tudor-Jones.
Mr Martin Forster is now a signatory on the Mara Conservancy accounts and all cheques now require two signatures.
Report on focus for September
Focus for October
- Establish gate post at Mara Bridge and start recording all visitors;
- Hold lodge manager’s meeting ;
- Repair and install repeater
- Collect uniforms for staff;
- Hold Board meeting, approve audited accounts;
- Prepare site for 5 new staff houses being constructed courtesy of Mr Forster;
- Follow-up on EIA for camp-sites;
- Work on new brochure for the Conservancy; and
- Meet with Jorie Butler-Kent.