The weather was beautiful for the first ten days of October and then the weather changed – it started raining and we had a week of very unsettled weather before the weather cleared again for a week. The experts have predicted an El Niño year, with exceptional rainfall.
Mr William Kiprono Kibet has been appointed as Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). He comes to KWS from Government Administration as a District Commissioner. The appointment is an indication of the seriousness with which the Government treats wildlife conservation and security.
We hosted 50 Government departmental heads from Trans Mara on the 11th. They were fortunate to see 20 lions and the migration in very large numbers – probably the best it has been for three years.
Mtango Mtahiko, Chief Park Warden for the Serengeti, visited on the 12th and Mara Serena hosted him and his party for lunch. Mr Mtahiko commended our collaboration and sent his commiserations to those people who were injured in the car accident, whilst on patrol earlier in the month.
We were awarded a 5/5 Certificate of Excellence for 2012, by tripadvisor, the most respected international forum for traveller feedback on the Internet. This is an honour: unsolicited and most unexpected – congratulations to all our staff who have worked so hard in making the Mara Triangle the exceptional destination it has become.
Lucas Mfuon Agan completed the annual vaccination campaign against rabies, canine distemper and parvo virus. He vaccinated 3,794 local dogs and 206 cats along the western boundary of the Triangle in 90 days – a total of 4,000 vaccinations.
The migration returned to the Triangle within the first week of October – for a few days we had one or two hundred thousand animals in the southern and western portions of the Triangle before they moved northwards towards the Olpunyatta swamp – they then turned East, past the Serena airstrip before crossing back into Tanzania, or into the Narok portion of the Reserve. At one point I estimated over 500,000 wildebeest in the Triangle; the most for several years. Sadly, it was only for a few days before the rain came down mid-month and chased off all the wildebeest. Again, we had one or two disastrous crossings – > 3,200 wildebeest carcasses were counted from a crossing on the 17th – it was estimated that many more carcasses were washed further downstream, beyond the 2.5 kilometres the counters went into Tanzania. The wildebeest continue to cross in the most unsuitable places. One place in particular, near Purungat, causes most of the deaths – and yet the wildebeest insist on crossing there, despite every effort to divert them.
One of the male lions from Oloololo Gate was caught in a wire snare on the escarpment. He had a deep cut on the neck, which was treated by Dr Mijele on the 17th.
Dr. Asuka Takita is conducting carnivore census in the Mara Triangle with a group of volunteers. They will photograph and identify lions, cheetahs and some leopards during the month of October and November.
On the night of the 3rd our rangers had a bad accident when chasing poachers at midnight in the Lemai Wedge. The vehicle, a new Land Rover, overturned and three people were seriously injured. Warden Joseph Kimojino broke his fingers, Koiseiyie Naiyoma broke a leg and Kiletia Kominkoi cracked his pelvis. All three were airlifted out by the Flying Doctors the following morning and admitted into the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. The three were all released from Hospital, but Naiyoma and Kominkoi remained in Nairobi for follow-up treatment until the 27th.
We have just heard that the Government have awarded a 60% pay increase to all County Council staff – this follows a similar increase awarded less than two years ago. Such an unbudgeted, additional, expense will almost certainly cause financial problems for the Conservancy – especially as it comes at a time when Kenya is experiencing a considerable drop in tourism.
Tourist numbers continued to drop well below last year’s levels. For those fortunate enough to visit the Mara in October: they were lucky so see the Triangle at its very best. The number and variety of animals were astounding – and there were so few vehicles to mar an absolutely amazing wildlife spectacle. I saw crossings with only one vehicle, and on several occasions I saw predators: cheetah, lion and leopard without another vehicle in sight – what a privilege.
However, having said the above, our resident drivers still do not understand the need to follow rules. This; despite Responsible Guiding awards, and a major emphasis on good, responsible guiding. It is most disappointing that the camps and lodges do not take more interest in their drivers’ behaviour. On the 31st, I witnessed 14 vehicles watching a cheetah: 11 of them from one camp. The eleven vehicles then proceeded to follow each other in a convoy. Surely clients can’t be happy to follow in the dust of other cars, especially when in an open vehicle.
A total of 38 people were arrested during the month, bringing the total to 1,972, only 28 short of 2,000 and another trip for the staff. We recovered 931 wire snares. We have now recovered 22,511 snares. Most of the people were arrested near Machochwe, on the far side of the river, but most of the snares were recovered closer to home, in the Lamai Wedge.
In the first two days of October 93 wire snares were collected and six wildebeest rescued.
On the 3rd, 4th and 5th our patrols recovered 32 snares and rescued three wildebeest in the Konyoike/Maji ya Bett area, just across the border in Tanzania. On the 6th there was a robbery at Mara Enkai camp on the escarpment; Ksh 140,000 (US$ 1,665) was stolen. Our dogs were used and took the trail straight to someone’s house. The matter was then left in the hands of the Police.
The Ngiro-are team arrested one poacher on the 8th, and on the 9th both teams joined our Tanzanian counterparts in an operation near Machochwe. On the first day they managed to arrest three people and recover 260 wire snares. The same night they managed to arrest two more people – three wildebeest and a zebra had been butchered.
The Anne Kent-Taylor/Care for the Wild team joined forces with our rangers from Oloololo Gate and recovered 33 snares near Ol Donyo Olpaek, just in the Triangle. One hyena was found dead in the snares and two wildebeest had been butchered. The following day, the 10th the same team recovered 125 snares near Maji ya Bett – a large number of animals had been butchered, including a giraffe.
The combined operation set an ambush near Maji ya Bett on the 11th, after recovering 28 wire snares and rescuing five wildebeest in the Daraja Mbili area of the Lemai Wedge.
Our community scouts rescued one wildebeest along the escarpment on the 11th and then found a zebra and wildebeest dead in snares in the same area the following day. They recovered five wire snares. These snares were probably set by Kenyans taking advantage of the huge number of animals all along the escarpment.
Routine patrols on the 14th and 15th recovered 122 wire snares and rescued several wildebeest in the Maji ya Bett area of the Lemai Wedge. The Iseiya team went across the Mara River and joined forces with their Tanzanian counterparts on the 14th. They arrested six people, four in the evening and two more at night – this was in the same, Machochwe/Ngira area that they had patrolled a few days earlier. The rangers reported that there were well over twenty people hunting in that area. Four snares were recovered from the first group; the second group were not even using snares – they drive a herd of wildebeest into a steep water course and, as the wildebeest mill around looking for a place to cross, the poachers slash their hamstrings with machetes.
The rangers concentrated many of their activities across the Mara River, towards Machochwe – especially once the wildebeest moved away from the escarpment. However, the Ngiro-are rangers did manage to arrest two people near Kokamange on the night of the 16th. They also recovered 75 snares in the Lemai Wedge between the 12-14th.
The patrols returning from Machochwe and the Ngira watercourse reported very high poaching levels and managed to arrest 12 people in separate day and night operations between the 17-21st. Many of the people were hunting without snares but the rangers did manage to recover 9 snares on the 17th and a further 19 snares from two people on the 20th.
A total of 93 snares were recovered during patrols on the 23, 26 and 27th, eight near Nyamalumbwa in the Northern Serengeti and 85 near Maji ya Bett in the Lemai Wedge. Two wildebeest were rescued.
There was a robbery at 1.00 am at Ol Seki camp on Naboisho. The rangers and dog team went but the track was ruined by heavy rain during the night. This must be the fifth robbery this season in the Mara region, all in the early hours of the morning – when the clients are asleep – people break into tents and steal money, cameras, laptops, phones and ipads. All camps should make sure that their watchmen are particularly alert during dinner and after midnight – these seem to be the time when most robberies take place.
Twelve people were arrested on the 30th for poaching. The Iseiya team managed to arrest ten people across the river, all in the Machochwe area. Four people were arrested during the day with the meat from two wildebeest. That night the rangers set an ambush and managed to arrest six more people between 7.30 and 9.30 pm; they had 30 wire snares. The same evening, at 8.30 pm, the Ngiro-are rangers managed to arrest two people from Kegonga, close to the Kinyangaga ranger’s post in the Lemai Wedge. They were carrying three snares.
Revenue and Accounts
As expected, revenue dropped considerably in September, from Ksh 67,105,224 in August to Ksh 39,857,773 in September – a drop of 41% - and a drop of 23% on September 2011. We can expect this trend for the remainder of the year, and possibly until after the elections in March 2013.
In September we came across the first attempt to forge KAPS tickets. This was picked up at a Narok roadblock. When KAPS were asked to verify the ticket, it was found to be fraudulent, there was no such number in the system, and there were a number of discrepancies in the format. We were unable to trace the ticket in the Triangle and it would appear that it was used to gain entry into the Narok portion of the Reserve.
Our management accounts for the first quarter indicated that we were within 1% in our estimates for revenue: Ksh 76.5 million against Ksh 75.7 million. We are most concerned about the drop in tourism, and hence revenue - expected to continue for the remainder of the financial year – and managed to keep expenditure within 4% of budget – with one major exception. Our major, unbudgeted, cost was the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) evaluation on withholding tax. The full amount was charged to the Council but the Conservancy contributed Ksh 4,576,200, as it would have been deducted from our share of revenue. In all, we spent Ksh 42.7 million against a budget of Ksh 36.5 million. This one tax item accounted for nearly the whole differential. One other unbudgeted item will also have a major impact on our reserves – the 60% salary increase awarded to Council employees, expected to take effect in November.
We fitted fire extinguishers in all the stations.
We completed all the renovations at Purungat, including repainting all the building and installing an additional water tank.
The road team concentrated on the flood prone section of road to Ngiro-are – raising it by 6-8” (15-20 cm). We hope that this will make access to Ngiro-are easier.
We employed a team of casuals to clean all the culverts and ensure that the drainage into the culverts is clear.
We started on replacing all our road signs with etched metal signs. The few that we had done a year ago still look excellent. They are expensive but hopefully they will last a lot longer than the wooden signs we had been using in the past.
We sent the damaged Land Rover to Nairobi for repair and it should be ready in early November. We managed to repair the gearbox on the old Land Rover – this will be sold once the new one is repaired.
We started constructing an office for KAPS at Purungat.
Report on focus for October
Focus for November 2012
· Continue with new signs;
· Build office for KAPS at Purungat;
· Repair buildings at Ngiro-are;
· Complete KAPS office at Purungat;
· Repair new land Rover and sell old one; and
· Survey Park Boundary.