The dry weather continued well into October, drying up springs and most of the water courses. The spring at Oloololo Gate dried up for the second time this year. We had a number of thunderstorms and heavy showers in the last week of the month that settled the dust, but little more.
The Chief Executive met with the Chief and elders from Kawai to discuss grazing in the Reserve. The water has run out completely on the escarpment and they requested permission to water their cattle at a spring near Sankuria. The matter was discussed in the Board meeting and it was agreed that cattle would not be allowed into the Triangle to graze.
The Clerk, Chairman and Union Chairman held a meeting in the Mara on the 14th to discuss salary arrears. In the end it was agreed that we would split the difference between the amount the Council had calculated and the amount paid by the Conservancy – this amounted to Ksh 508,000; over and above the Ksh 2 million already paid in salary arrears.
The Phelps family from Minnesota and Abercrombie & Kent have very kindly raised US$ 9,500 for the purchase of a second “Cheetah 1”, monitoring vehicle. Mr George Orr of Earthview has also pledged US$ 1,000 towards the cost of this vehicle and has pledged a further US$ 1,000 if we are to purchase a second vehicle.
Ms Suzi Eszterhas, a wildlife photographer who spends time in the Mara has kindly made her vehicle available for anti-harassment work when she is away – to be used as and when the need arises. This means that, at times, we will have up to three vehicles on monitoring and anti-harassment duties in the Triangle.
The Board agreed on the core planning team for the 10 year management plan the team will be made up of the Chief Executive, The Clerk, County Council of Trans Mara, one other Director of the Mara Conservancy, The Chief Executive of KATO, M/s Malpas and Henson from CDC and Dr S Dloniak.
One cheetah with five, eight week old cubs, was seen along the Tanzanian border, near Ol Donyo Ol Paek, at the beginning of the month. A day later a second female was seen in the vicinity with two cubs of the same age. We now have five female cheetah with cubs in the Triangle.
One serval kitten was brought in by a tour driver on the 5th, the kitten was found abandoned on the road, in an area that was being burnt on the Narok side of the Reserve. Two other kittens had been killed in the fire. We are raising the kitten and hope that it will return to the wild.
A leopard trapped by KWS for killing livestock near Kilgoris was released in the Triangle, along the BBC lugga, on the 17th.
The rains towards the end of October triggered a mass movement of wildebeest southwards – for a short time there were huge concentrations between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge but by the end of the month most of the wildebeest had crossed the border and were concentrated in the northern Serengeti.
Mr Charles Ngugi Gitau joined us as Finance/Administration officer on the 15th. Mr Jaswinder Soin, the outgoing accountant has been working with Mr Gitau and familiarising him with the accounting system.
The Chief Executive will be taking time off in November to move house.
There has been a decline in the number of tourists visiting the Mara over the past two weeks. Lodges like Serena continue to have large numbers of visitors and will have ended the month with more than 90% occupancy but other, less successful lodges will have seen a significant drop in occupancy rates.
Narok County Council are increasing their Park entrance fees to the same levels as the Triangle from the 1st November. They will also be increasing their filming fees; from approximately US$ 300 to US$ 3,000 per week – this has implications for the Triangle, as it will probably drive film makers into the Triangle – because of our lower rates.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in October
A total of 39 poachers were arrested in October, the most in any one month since the Conservancy started operating. All of the poachers were arrested in Tanzania and there were no reported incidents of poaching in the Triangle. We have now arrested 711 poachers in just over 5 years. The majority of poachers were arrested at night, many of them very early in the morning, as they returned home from hunting. It is now difficult to find poachers camping in the Lemai Wedge, nearly all the poachers come into the Park at night, either early evening or after mid-night – they hunt and try and return before dawn. There are still large camps on the far side of the Mara River, in areas that are difficult to access. The Serengeti rangers are now using informers, who locate camps and then call in the anti-poaching teams. TANAPA (Tanzanian National Parks) are very short staffed and they have been relying heavily on us to assist in their anti-poaching operations.
The Ngiro-are team arrested two people during the morning of the 3rd along the Mara River, opposite Saiyari Camp. Two other poachers crossed the river and assistance was sought from the Tanzanians, one of the two was arrested. They were camped along the river and had killed three wildebeest, 16 wire snares were recovered.
The Serena team joined their Tanzanian counterparts from Kokatende and arrested one poacher near Waga Kuria, in the Serengeti, on the 5th. He was for found in a large poacher’s camp that had been there for ten days, the others had left the night before with meat from at least 10 wildebeest and one zebra and were due to return the next day.
The Ngiro-are team arrested two poachers on the morning of the 6th . Our combined ranger force arrested one, of two, poachers at 7.30 pm on the same day. The poachers had killed two wildebeest.
On the 7th a combined Ngiro-are, Serena and Kokatende team arrested 5 poachers on the other side of the Mara River. The teams found at least three poacher’s camps and arrested 3/6, ¼ and 1/3 poachers respectively. At least 20 animals had been poached and 15 wire snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three of five wa Kuria poachers on the evening of the 8th at Limana Ndogo in the Lemai Wedge as they came down the escarpment to hunt.
The Serena team arrested two, of three, poachers on the evening of the 13th at Kokamange in the Lemai Wedge. The poachers had killed one zebra and one wildebeest and were waiting for nightfall before taking the meat home. 19 wire snares were recovered.
Eleven poachers were arrested on the 14th; seven by the Serena team, in two different operations and four by the Ngiro-are team at night. Three poachers were arrested in the morning downstream from Kokatende, near a hill called Mlima Hotel. That night four of 11 poachers were arrested and 80 wire snares recovered in the same area, the poachers had killed and were butchering 10 wildebeest.
One of three wa kuria poachers was arrested at Kokamange in Tanzania very early on the morning of the 19th by the Serena team. They had killed one zebra and one wildebeest and were returning home. Five wire snares were recovered.
The Serena team arrested three of four wa Kuria poachers at 5.00 am on the 20th as they were entering the Lemai Wedge near Kokamange in Tanzania. The poachers had not started hunting; 5 wire snares were recovered.
A combined Serena/Ngiro-are and Kinyangaga team arrested all four poachers near Kokamange on the 22nd. The poachers had not killed any animals and 18 wire snares were recovered.
The Serena team were called in to assist our Tanzanian counterparts and arrested three of 14 poachers one kilometre from the Lemai ranger post in Tanzania on the night of the 23rd. The poachers had just started operating and had already killed five wildebeest when apprehended. 30 wire snares were recovered.
Revenue and Accounts
Deloittes completed the audit and had a draft financial report out for the Board on the 16th October. Our revenue for the year ending 31st May 2006 was Ksh 64.1 million (US$ 890,000) and our expenditure was Ksh 56.8 million (US$ 789,000); giving us an operating surplus of Ksh 7.3 million – just over US$ 100,000 at the current rate of exchange. Staff costs continue to be our greatest expense and accounted for Ksh 23 million or 40% of our total costs.
Our revenue for the first three months of this financial year was Ksh 23.2 million, against expenditure of Ksh 18.6 million; giving us an operating surplus for the three months of Ksh 4.6 million. Our revenue for the quarter was 3.1% over budget and our expenditure was 7.8% over budget –this was largely as a result of having to pay a Government imposed salary increase and arrears for ten months.
We modified the Nairobi office to create space for Mr Gitau and have purchased basic office equipment and a new computer for him.
The grader was awaiting spares for the whole of October so we were unable to work on drainage ditches as planned.
We purchased all the requirements for the toilet block in the Oloololo camp site and building has commenced.
The carpenter repaired all the broken windows – there was not one unbroken window in the GSU house - at Oloololo gate. He also replaced all the transparent roof section at Oloololo.
We started work on the sandbag technique for waterlogged sections of the river road in conjunction with Mpata Club. This is a technique that has been developed in Asia for severely waterlogged areas and is being used for the first time in this country. The work entails filling 20 kg sacks with ballast and then stacking them three high, once the sacks have been stacked they will be covered with murram. 6,000 sacks are used for every 100 metres of road and the major expense is in breaking rock to create the ballast – we estimate that it will cost Ksh 600,000 for every 100 metres and we are initially planning on doing 2 kilometres. The initial cost is being borne by the Keiderenen Trust from Japan and the initial US$ 20,000 has been received by Mpata for this work.
We re-covered the water catchment pit at Mara Bridge.
Report on focus for October
Focus for November
· Complete toilet block at Oloololo Gate camp site;
· Continue working on river road with new sand bag technique;
· Finalise Audit;
· Repair grader;
· Hold first planning meetings for the 10 year management plan; and
· Complete induction for Finance/Admin officer.