Rain stopped at the beginning of the month but then returned with a vengeance on the 15th, with several extremely heavy storms, before subsiding again during the last week.
We held a Board meeting on the 16th to discuss the financial situation and to meet the surveyor. It was agreed that the survey would start on the 3rd November, and that Mara Conservancy Board members would make the necessary arrangements with the Administration and local community. This has been done. However, the Olorien Land Committee has asked for more time to consult and mobilise support for the survey. The Olorien Group Ranch is set for sub-division and is the one area along our boundary that may have disputes. The support of this community and their committee will be crucial in ensuring that the survey goes ahead without any hitches.
Three of the Board members met with Governor Tunai on the 22nd, to discuss the financial situation and the proposed survey of the Mara Triangle boundary.
Dr Limo removed snares from two zebra on the 8th, one animal had a very deep cut on the neck and the other was uninjured. The main zebra migration moves East/West from the Loita Plains, whilst the wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti. Zebra started moving North and East after the heavy rain and these animals would have been snared in the northern Serengeti. We still have a reasonable number of zebra but small groups are leaving daily.
Over 900 wildebeest drowned in two days near Purungat – 600 hundred on the first day and then another 300 the following day. By the 20th there was hardly a wildebeest left in the Triangle.
Lions were found feeding on an elephant calf on the 20th – it is not known whether they had killed the calf. Lions have been plentiful and at least two prides have crossed over from the Narok portion of the Reserve – it will be interesting to see how long they remain.
The cheetah with four cubs is moving over a huge range but has been seen frequently, most recently near Mara Bridge. We have seen another female that appears heavily pregnant.
A lioness was killed with a poisoned arrow on the escarpment on Oloisukut Conservancy in the week of the 23rd and found by our rangers on the 29th. We had just compensated Chief Nangida for the loss of several cattle in an attempt to save these lions – looks like it was a waste of our time and resources.
There has been a surge in elephant poaching in October – at least six elephant are known to have been killed – all outside the Reserve and all in areas of significant human/wildlife conflict.
Abercrombie and Kent (&K) had a large group of 60 clients in Kampi ya Mungu for three nights. We had to do some landscaping of the campsite in order to accommodate such a large camp – fortunately no trees were disturbed.
The Board decided to increase the booking fee for four campsites (Kiboko, Ndovu, Kampi ya Mungu and one more to be determined in the Ngiro-are corner) set aside for professional safari companies and decided on a booking fee of Ksh 40,000 (US$ 450) per group of clients and retain the maximum allotted time for a camp at two weeks. The Board also decided to charge a cancellation fee of US$ 1,000 if the cancellation is not reported within six months of the due date. KAPS have been informed of the new conditions. This was necessitated by severe competition for these campsites and bookings not being honoured; thus losing a number of potential bookings, significant loss of revenue and irate safari guides.
A new lodge is being constructed at Ol Kurruk – site of an old, defunct lodge. The lodge is scheduled for opening in time for the high season next year.
A total of 22 poachers were arrested in October, all of them in the northern Serengeti. 149 wire snares were recovered – a significant drop from thousands collected in the previous two months. With the migration gone we can expect a change in focus from snaring to spotlighting gazelle and spearing hippo and warthog.
One person was arrested on the 1st with 10 wire snares as he entered the Lemai Wedge near Kigonga. The four people with him escaped.
The Ngiro-are rangers recovered 68 snares around Lempise on the 4th. Encounter Mara was robbed on the night of the 5th and they asked for our dogs. The dogs followed the tracks for a distance and the rangers recovered a suitcase – US$ 400 and a camera were missing. It would appear that the thieves had used a motorcycle to escape. Our rangers arrested one poacher the following day near Lempise – he was hunting with three dogs. The patrol collected three snares.
A total of 20 snares were found on the 7th – 10 during the day patrol and a further 10 when the rangers set an ambush near Kichwa ya Ndovu in the Lemai Wedge. They arrested two people and another two escaped.
One person was arrested at Nyakita Pembe on the 8th, he was carrying zebra meat and had seven wire snares with him. That night the Iseiya rangers went on an early morning patrol, leaving at 3.00 am. They set an ambush near the Kigonga poachers’ route and managed to arrest three people with 13 snares. The first two people were arrested fairly easily; the third was well hidden and only arrested with help from the Ngiro-are dogs.
The Ngiro-are rangers patrolled along the Bologonja Stream on the 11th and managed to arrest one person with five snares, he was carrying zebra meat. The following day another three people were arrested in two different operations. In the first, the Iseiya team arrested two people near Nyakita Pembe carrying zebra meat. That evening the Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person near Kokamange with five snares. Two additional snares were collected the following day.
Our Senior Warden was invited to meet his counterparts in Lemai on the 17th. The Tanzanians praised the collaboration between TANAPA and the Mara Conservancy.
Three people were arrested between the 18th and 20th. The first was arrested by the Iseiya team near Miungu; he was carrying two snares. On the 20th two more people were arrested near Masanja in the Lemai Wedge. Two more snares were recovered on the 21st.
Mara Elephant Project (MEP), Mara North and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers arrested three people on the 24th. These people were based at Mara Timbo Camp and were suspected to have shot a number of elephant with poisoned arrows. They had been seen shooting at an elephant with arrows two nights previously.
Two more poachers were arrested on the 22nd and 28th respectively. The first was arrested near Kokamange and was hunting with dogs; the second was arrested by the Ngiro-are rangers near Olaro Nyioke as he and his companion came in to hunt. With the wildebeest gone, people are no longer setting many snares and only one snare was collected in the whole week.
Five poachers were arrested in two different operations on the 29th. In the first, the Iseiya team crossed the River at Kokatende and patrolled towards Machechwe. They managed to arrest three, of five, people carrying hippo meat and recover 11 wire snares. The Ngiro-are rangers arrested two more people near Nyakita Pembe as they were on their way to hunt with dogs.
Revenue and Accounts
September revenue was down by 38% on September last year, compounding an already dismal situation. We have prepared two simple graphs that amply illustrate the situation. All the indications are that October will be down by 20% on last year and that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
We rely heavily on these high season months to replenish our reserves and provide a sufficient cushion to see us through the rest of the financial year. When we project forward we can see how serious the situation is and have prepared three scenarios to illustrate the situation:
- Revenue will be at 100% of budget – highly unlikely, given the recent trends;
- Revenue drops by 10% on budget – unlikely;
- Revenue drops by 20% on budget – most likely, given recent history.
There isn’t a single month between now and June next year – the end of our financial year - in which we expect revenue to exceed expenditure. As can be seen from the graph above, we run out of reserves and start operating on a deficit within this financial year. If we experience a 20% drop in revenue we will run out of operating funds in February and will have a Ksh 20,000,000 (Ksh twenty million, or US$ 225,000) deficit by the end of June. There is a chance that revenue will drop below the 20% we are anticipating – this will obviously just exacerbate an already dire situation.
We are already running on an extremely tight budget and there is little room for further cuts without radically cutting staff costs – a political minefield for us. However, this may be the only option open to us if we are unable to raise donor funding.
We have just started building a classroom for the community at Partikilat, on the escarpment as part of our Social Responsibility. The classroom is a joint endeavour with the community and they have provided burnt bricks, sand and timber. We are providing the expertise and builders, cement, reinforcing iron, ballast and corrugated iron roofing – most of the materials for this project had been purchased over a year ago. The project should be complete by the end on November.
We graded our most heavily used roads and patched up others that had been damaged by some of the very heavy rainstorms experienced in October.
The windmill and spring at Oloololo are functioning and we seem to have resolved the water crisis experienced in September.
Report on focus for October
Focus for November 2014
· Complete classroom at Partikilat;
· Build simple shelter at Purungat;
· Continue with patching our major roads;
· Negotiate with Narok County Government on budget mitigation options; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.