October, was for the most part, dry, with a few isolated storms early in the month. The migration returned to the Serengeti in late September and early October – much earlier than anticipated, especially given the dry conditions. The extended dry period has begun to take a toll on livestock and people are beginning to lose animals. As always in these conditions, grazing pressure increases and there have been constant incursions in the Narok portion of the Reserve and on the Conservancies surrounding the Reserve. We impounded 619 head of cattle and received fines amounting to Ksh 48,000 – this grazing pressure will only increase until the rains break.
The attack on the Westgate shopping mall; the protracted siege and the subsequent looting, all received prominent international coverage – causing more damage to Kenya’s tarnished image. I believe that Westgate was a watershed moment for this country. That incident, how it was bungled, and some subsequent utterances: trying to exonerate the military; deny accountability; passing new laws aimed at muzzling the press; and riling against imperialist interference - all signify a worrying first step in withdrawing from parts of the international community. There is no doubt that the intransigence, and lack of any empathy towards Kenya and it’s (democratically elected) leadership, by the International Criminal Court (ICC) may exacerbate the situation and only further break down Kenya’s relationship with the West. Not only worrying for Kenya’s short-term relationship with the West, but also of great concern to the tourism and conservation industry. We have seen a significant move towards mass tourism and the eastern market in the past two years – is this the clientele that Kenya needs? Will they help Kenya conserve this country’s amazing natural beauty, wildlife and resources; or will they contribute towards their destruction? They jury is out, but what of the links between the Chinese, and elephant and rhino poaching?
We have been using the two new dogs to check vehicles at Purungat and Oloololo gate. One of the dogs, Gage, has, unaccountably, become aggressive and we had to withdraw him from Purungat. He bit Amanda Subalusky on the lip and Amanda had to be airlifted to Nairobi and receive reconstructive surgery. We are trying to work out whether this aggression is purely behavioural, or whether there is some physiological reason – liver damage is a possible cause.
A dead elephant was found near the Ol Are spring on the 15th, it died from natural causes and the ivory was recovered. Another elephant gave birth to stillborn calf on the 19th, she stayed with the dead calf for a whole day.
A few wildebeest remained near Ngiro-are but the main herds returned to Tanzania six weeks early.
The Hyena research project reported that one of their study animals was run over by a vehicle on the 7th October. Every year we find several road kills – caused by speeding vehicles. The worst culprits are drivers who have either dropped their clients at an airstrip, or who on their way to collect clients.
The Chief Executive returned from a month’s leave on the 10th.
Warden Joseph Konchellah was transferred to Kilgoris, without the knowledge, or approval, of the Conservancy management. The matter was taken up with the County and we hope that he will be returned.
The new extension to Mara Serena Lodge was officially opened on the 10th by Prince Amin Aga Khan. The Governor for Narok County and local leaders also attended the opening.
We have noted a significant decline in the number of tourists through October. Part of this is the natural end to the high season, but the Westgate incident has definitely contributed to the drop.
Twelve people were arrested in October; this includes the four arrested with illegal timber.
Two poachers were arrested by the Ngiro-are rangers on the 1st on the Masanja route. On the same day the Iseiya rangers recovered eight wire snares and rescued one wildebeest near Saina, in the Lemai Wedge.
The Iseiya rangers stopped a lorry carrying illegal timber near Oloololo gate on the 4th, four people were arrested and taken to Lolgorien.
The Tanzanians carried out a major – joint forces patrol, headed by an army Captain, in the Lemai Wedge. This operation is ongoing. They burnt houses that had been constructed in the Serengeti National Park and killed somewhere between 40 – 60 cattle that were being grazed illegally in the Lemai. This operation virtually stopped poaching – but there were a few incidents along the Kenya/Tanzania border.
A new; combined forces, unit was also sent to Narok County and we worked with them in the Nyakweri forest for a while. The unit arrested a number of known poachers in the area.
The rangers concentrated on patrolling all the known poacher haunts in the Triangle for the better part of the month and managed to recover 147 snares between the 4th and the 18th, nearly all in a narrow strip between Nyakunguri in the Triangle and Maji ya Bett in the Lemai Wedge. Two wildebeest and two zebra were found to have been butchered. One lion was found dead in a snare on the 14th near Maji ya Bett and a warthog was found dead in a snare on the18th.
Six people were arrested on the 21st, in two different operations. In the first, the Ngiro-are team arrested three people at Limana Ndogo – they had killed a warthog and had 27 wire snares. That evening the rangers set an ambush and arrested another three, of four, people on the Lempise route.
On the 24th seven wire snares were collected at Miungu, in the Lemai Wedge and the following morning we received a call from Mr Jackson Looseiya – to say that they had seen three people hunting with dogs in the Triangle. Unfortunately the three escaped, despite a concerted effort to track them down.
We received a report of a poached elephant on the 24th. This elephant was poached along the Saparingo Lugga, outside the Reserve. The Tusks had been taken and it appeared that the elephant had been speared. The spearing of elephant is fairly common North and East of the Mara but unusual in Trans Mara.
Thirteen more snares were recovered between Ol Dony Olpaek and Konyoike on the 30th. This area straddles the Kenya/Tanzania border.
The manager of Ol Aro Conservancy, near Maji Moto was shot and wounded by armed bandits on the 26th. He returned fire and there are unconfirmed reports of him wounding one person. We sent the dogs, but it appeared that the bandits escaped on a motor cycle.
Revenue and Accounts
The auditors completed their annual audit and we are expecting a final set of accounts in early November.
The table below shows the considerable drop in revenue between August and September – nearly 40%. The short high season, coupled with the considerable drop off in revenue indicates that we may not meet our revenue targets and that we will be in for a tough financial year. We will have to be very careful with expenditure this year; we had budgeted for a number of vehicle replacements – some of these may have to be deferred.
We constructed a new kennel at Purungat;
The grader opened up drainage ditches and graded the road between Oloololo Gate and the Kichwa airstrip;
The road team resurfaced sections of the roads to Ngiro-are and then worked on the river road to Oloololo Gate;
The road team spent the last week in October opening up drainage ditches and culverts in anticipation of the rains;
We sourced for a new body for our old Land Rover, the body was damaged beyond economical repair and we have decided to retain this vehicle for the time being.
Report on focus for September/October
Focus for November 2013
· Complete opening up culverts and drains;
· Start work on new NCO housing;
· Attend trainee passing out parade;
· Receive and circulate Annual Audit report;
· Complete repair on Land Rover;
· Survey Reserve boundary; and
· Set date for next Board meeting and AGM;