There was light rain almost every day in early October, with a few heavy thunderstorms along the Tanzanian border. Thereafter, the weather cleared and we had wonderful, cloudless skies with hot days and cool nights.
The ecology committee established for the 10 year Management Plan sat for the first time on the 2nd in the AWF Board Room. The committee is comprised of scientists with an intimate knowledge of the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem.
We were visited by a large delegation of senior government officers on the 6th, they were on a fact finding mission of the Masai Mara and had spent the night at Mara Safari Club before coming to Serena for lunch and then proceeding to Narok. This was followed-up by a negative article in the Standard newspaper, in which the Director of KWS said “Give us the Mara” and accused the Mara Conservancy of inefficient revenue collection amongst other things.
Dr Asuka Takita has vaccinated 2,570 dogs against canine distemper and rabies along the escarpment as part of a programme to protect the human and domestic animal population against rabies and to minimize the risk of disease transmission between the domestic dog population and predators in the Reserve. This project was supported by the Anne Kent-Taylor Fund and we are most grateful for this. Asuka is now working on introducing a Turkish breed of guard dog to protect livestock from predators and we hope to bring in the first dogs early next year.
The Chief Executive and Warden Operations met with Mr Martin Loibooki, the Chief Park Warden Serengeti National Park, on the 10th in Seronera to discuss cooperation and security issues between the Conservancy and Serengeti.
The Chief Executive met with the American Ambassador to Kenya whilst he was on a private trip to the Masai Mara on the 10 - 11th.
Ms Leslie Roach visited the Triangle for five days from the 20th on a private visit.
The Chief Executive met with Dr Cheryl and Mr Manny Mvula on the 22nd to discuss their proposal to work with, and train, resident drivers. They have received a grant from the Travel Foundation in Britain for this work and were doing a preliminary assessment of the standard of guide in the lodges.
We held meetings with WildlifeDirect regarding the Mara Conservancy blog and it was agreed that Wildlife Direct would support one person to revamp the blog and start using it as a fundraising tool.
We held a meeting on the 29th with Ms Anne Kahihia, KWS Assistant Director for the South Rift Region, the Research Officer based at Sekenani Gate and the District Warden, Kilgoris on the KWS role in the Mara and areas of possible collaboration.
The migration this year has been very fragmented and disappointing, probably as a result of sustained rain in the northern Serengeti. Some heavy rain along the border did bring in a reasonable concentration of wildebeest as far as the salt-lick but few animals made it as far North as Mara Serena. There was a large concentration of wildebeest around Musiara on the Narok side of the River and some of those moved South into the Triangle, but then headed straight for the border.
We collected new uniforms for all the staff and these were distributed.
The Chief Executive will take a week off, from November 3rd.
Tourist numbers in the Triangle remain high, with Mara Serena full on most nights. The number of visitors from Narok has dropped to about 120-150 per day, well down on the 500+ that we were getting in August and September.
We still have a major problem with off-road driving. Despite clear instructions that drivers should remain on the roads and cut-grass tracks – and only leave them to approach certain species before returning to the track – this is seen as a licence to cut across country in search of lions and cheetah. It is important that drivers see that this is a privilege that is not accorded to them anywhere else, certainly not in the National Parks. Failure to honour this privilege will result in it being withdrawn and we will limit drivers to roads and clearly defined tracks only.
We arrested 23 poachers during October; 22 of them wa Kuria in Tanzania and one Kipsigis in Kenya. This brings the total arrests to 922 since June 2001. Over 469 wire snares were collected, about 15 animals were rescued and at least 46 animals were found either dead in snares or recently butchered. The poachers are operating almost exclusively at night and are becoming increasingly difficult to catch – not only have they changed their hours of operation but they now operate in increasingly difficult terrain – either very rocky or broken terrain. Most of the arrests are late at night or very early in the morning. This means that we have also had to change the way we operate and most of our work is now late at night – this comes with a cost, we have to pay allowances for night work.
A routine patrol on the 1st found 220 wire snares around Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge. 11 wildebeest were rescued and 10 animals were found dead in the snares. The Ngiro-are and Serena teams set up an ambush but no one returned – our people had obviously been seen.
A combined Serena, Ngiro-are and Tanzanian force, arrested one wa Kuria poacher on the evening of the 4th. The poacher was on his own and had 30 wire snares – he had obviously had a successful hunt, probably killing at least two or three wildebeest and was on his way home, having first carried the meat.
The Ngiro-are team recovered 35 wire snares on the 5th near the Kinyangaga ranger post in Tanzania – two wildebeest were found dead in the snares.
Three poachers were arrested in the Lemai Wedge on the early morning of the 7th by a combined Conservancy and Serengeti team. The first poacher was arrested at 5.30 am, as he and three others, returned from four days hunting near Waga Kuria. They had killed two buffalo and were carrying the dried meat. The other two people were arrested at 7.00 am as they came down the escarpment near the Kinyangaga ranger post.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three wa Kuria poachers near Kokamange in the Lemai Wedge on the night of the 10th at 7.30 pm. The three were on their way into the Park to hunt and had three wire snares with them. The previous day the Serena team collected six wire snares and rescued two wildebeest.
The Serena and Ngiro-are teams arrested two a Kuria poachers at 8.45 pm on the 12th at Kokamange. The two were part of a group of seven poachers who were hunting wildebeest with dogs and had killed one animal. This is the first time we have seen dogs used to catch wildebeest.
The Oloololo Rangers, in conjunction with community scouts, arrested one Kipsigis poacher on the 14th near Kerengani on the escarpment. He was one of five people hunting with dogs and the had killed a duiker and a bushbuck.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested at 11.00 am on the 16th by a joint Serena and Ngiro-are team, as they entered the Lemai Wedge on their way to hunt at Nyakita-Pembe. They had 30 wire snares on them.
One poacher was arrested on the 17th near Waga-Kuria. He was one of six poachers who had been hunting and had killed one zebra and two wildebeest.
A combined Conservancy and Tanzanian team arrested three poachers on the 22nd at about 10.30 pm. The Ngiro-are team had found signs of poaching near Nyakita Pembe in the Lemai Wedge: at least five freshly butchered wildebeest carcasses and meat hidden in a tree. An ambush was set up and the people arrested when they came in to check n their snares – at least 30 wire snares were recovered.
19 cattle were stolen from a manyatta near Olonana on the night of the 22nd. The theft was not reported until 7.30 the following morning. The tracks were followed into the Reserve but then lost near the River. We searched, but were unable to locate the thieves or cattle. The following night we set up ambushes, on the assumption that the cattle had been hidden somewhere along the river, we were right but unfortunately one of the thieves walked into the ambush, managed to escape and then alerted his companions, who diverted the cattle and escaped. However, the rangers did manage to arrest three poachers whilst waiting for cattle thieves, the Ngiro-are team arrested one person at 8.30 pm, as he was going into the Serengeti and the Serena tem arrested two people at 5.00 as they returned home, after hunting.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the night of the 26th, at 11.30 pm by the Serena and Ngiro-are teams near Nyakita Pembe. The Ngiro-are team had found a number of snares during he day and had found where at least five wildebeest and two zebra had been butchered the previous night and the snares re-set. The two were part of a group of six who had returned to check their snares – 23 snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are team arrested two poachers on the early morning of the 28th as they, and one other companion were entering the Lemai Wedge near Kinyangaga. They had not started hunting and 15 wire snares were recovered.
Wire snares were being recovered on a daily basis and between the 28th and 30th at least 80 snares were found. On the 29th the Ngiro-are team found a place with 39 snares, at least 15 wildebeest had been butchered and the snares re-set. A combined team set up an ambush on the night of the 29th. Six poachers entered the ambush area at about 2.00 am but all managed to escape.
Revenue was down by 24% on August, to Ksh 21 million; this from 7,226 paying visitors. This is the first month this season that we have had more visitors than last year. In the first four months of the financial year we have had 27,666 paying visitors; down from 28,797 during the same period last year.
We have negotiated the sale of the grader for Ksh 5.6 million. This now paves the way for the collection of the new machine and we expect delivery in early November. We have paid a 30% deposit and the remainder will be financed over three years.
We purchased 10,000 sacks for the Japanese Road project and continue to fill them with ballast and lay them down. We have been informed that the Keidernen Trust has paid Ksh 660,000 towards the cost of this project and expect the funds in the near future – this only covers the cost of 100 metres of road works, and we have 1,500 meters to complete.
The road contractors worked hard on the main road between Mara Bridge and Serena but they ran out of murram near Egyptian Goose and are awaiting a bulldozer before this project can be completed. Work has also started on the road between Oloololo and Serena and a number of culverts are being installed.
We have completed the plumbing and plastering in the new housing for Assistant Wardens and will complete installation of the ceilings and electricity before painting in early November.
Report on focus for October
Focus for November
· Ranger visit to Lewa;
· Complete new house for Assistant Wardens;
· Collect new grader and transfer old machine;
· Hold Board meeting;
· Continue work on main roads; and
· Continue with Japanese funded road – weather and funds permitting.