The rains continued through the first week of October and, a apart from a few showers, it dried out for the remainder of the month.
We had a problem with internet in the Triangle for several weeks. At one stage we were told that we had not paid, but the problem persisted. It would appear that Safaricom have a major problem.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Lena Munge – County Executive for Tourism in Narok County – on the 15th to discuss an number of issues including: the deployment of rangers, revenue collection and a proposed Council of Governors Conference scheduled for the Mara in February 2017. It is estimated that there will be somewhere between 4 – 8,000 people attending in one capacity or other. Unless properly planned, this could be a logistical nightmare and the County leadership are already making arrangements.
The Chief Executive met with the Chief Park Warden, Mr Samson Lenjirr to discuss improved collaboration between the Mara Conservancy and the Narok portion of the Reserve.
We hosted the President and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Carter Roberts and a team of high-level WWF personnel on the 22nd. They had a good day in the Triangle and were most complimentary about our work.
We assisted the County by organising rations for the staff in the main Reserve – their staff have never been given rations in the past.
We received a report on the 30th that a viral disease known as Peste de petits ruminants (PPR) was decimating sheep and goats in Kajiado and that there was a likelihood that this disease may cross into Narok. This disease is related to rinderpest, measles and canine distemper has been known to kill wildlife in a zoo situation. It could potentially cross into the wildlife population in Narok and the Mara. We have alerted people and recommend a widespread vaccination programme of the sheep and goat population surrounding the Mara.
We received 50 new recruits from Narok County on the 15th. Ten of them were deployed with the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) and six were deployed on the Mara North Conservancy (MNC). One County Warden has been allocated to oversee these recruits and they will be answerable to the Mara Conservancy management. The remaining 34 recruits were distributed within the Triangle and we opened two new stations – one at Ol Kurruk and one at the base of the escarpment below Mara Engai and Sun Lodges.
Six of our non-commissioned officers (NCOs) were re-deployed to the County and we promoted a number of our staff to fill the gaps.
We held a meeting with the Narok Public Service Board to discuss Narok County absorbing all the Mara Conservancy rangers. We reached agreement on promotions, salary differences, training and terms of secondment and it was agreed that the rangers would be absorbed from the beginning of November.
Most of the wildebeest moved South with the rains that fell from mid-September to early October. We still had a few small crossings at the main crossing but these animals immediately headed towards the Tanzanian border, where they joined a large number of zebra. Interestingly, a few herds of wildebeest appeared along the river on the 27th – it would appear that part of the migration may return until the rains start in earnest.
One of the lionesses from the Oloololo pride started going around in circles on the 1st, a day later it was recumbent. We consulted with veterinarians from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and it was euthanized on the 3rd, having not moved for 24 hours. It appears that the lioness had Babesiosis (Babesia felis?) – a tick-borne infection that has been known to kill lions, including Elsa of Born Free fame.
We received a report on the 6th that two lions had been poisoned at Mbitin – an area near En Donyo Erinka on the edge of the Bardamat Hills; well outside the Reserve but within the proposed Bardamat Conservation area. These lions had killed three sheep and the owner had retaliated by poisoning one carcass. One person was arrested by a combined Seiya/KWS patrol.
The cheetah with cubs lost all three on the 7th – either a leopard killed them, one had been seen on the same hill that day, or they were killed by some buffalo bulls that were also in the area.
We had reports of two people killed by elephant in the Mara ecosystem during the month – one person near Maji Moto on the 15th and another near Talek on the 16th.
October was reasonably busy but numbers dropped off in the last week – the onset of the short low season that will continue until mid-December.
Eleven people were arrested for poaching in October. We collected 454 snares; two zebra and three wildebeest were rescued; one bushbuck, four zebra and eight wildebeest were butchered; and one hippo, four zebra and 6 wildebeest were found dead. We received two reports of armed poachers targeting elephant in the northern Serengeti and came across the carcasses of four animals killed at the beginning of the month. No doubt there will be further threats and a Wardens’ meeting held on the 31st highlighted the potential threat on our rhino and elephant.
Ten wire snares were collected in the Lemai Wedge on the 2nd. The following day the Oloololo rangers acted on information from our community scouts and arrested one person with bushbuck meat on the escarpment.
On the 6th the Oloololo rangers, again acting on information from our community scouts, arrested a person with a fresh zebra carcass at Ngos – between Kawai and Lolgorien. The same day we received a report of three elephant shot and killed near Machechwe in the Northern Serengeti. The rangers went and assisted our TANAPA counterparts but the report was 36 hours old and our dogs were unable to follow any tracks. These elephant had obviously been shot by someone who knew what he was doing – the two big bulls were shot in the brain by a large calibre rifle – possibly a .458 and were only meters apart. The female was some distance away. The poachers had removed five tusks, one female tusk had not been taken.
The rangers recovered 20 snares downstream from the Ngiro-are swamp on the 7th and found where two zebra had been butchered. That evening they set an ambush in the same area and immediately after dark began to see poacher activity. They first saw two people by using the hand-held Flir – those two escaped by going into a rocky ridge. Soon after they saw another four people, who also escaped, and then three more people – we were able to co-ordinate the rangers into position using the big Flir and managed to arrest two people. They had just checked their snares – found nothing in them and were on their way home.
Our ranger teams collected 67 snares from the Ngiro-are swamp/Limana area of the Lemai Wedge on the 8th and found where one wildebeest had been butchered. That evening they set an ambush near Limana using the Flir and managed to observe a group of three people for some distance before positioning the rangers and arresting two of them – these poachers were carrying food sufficient for several days in the Park and were probably heading for the Mara River.
A total of 86 snares were collected between the 9th and 13th – one zebra and one wildebeest had been butchered.
On the 15th six snares were recovered in the evening – all on the Triangle side of the border, one wildebeest had been butchered. That night our teams set an ambush and arrested one, of four, people. He was carrying five snares and the rangers found two more snares – one with a dead zebra and one with a dead wildebeest. In all 13 snares were recovered that day.
A total of 70 snares were collected along the Mara/Serengeti border on the 16th – three of them in the Triangle. One zebra was rescued, one was found dead in a snare, two wildebeest were found dead and five had been butchered.
A total of 113 snares were recovered in the Lemai Wedge between the 18th and 20th – virtually all of them in the Konyioke/Limana/Nyakita Pembe areas of the Wedge. One wildebeest was rescued, one wildebeest was found dead, as was one zebra. The patrol also came across a butchered hippo in a watercourse between Limana and Nyakita Pembe.
The rangers returned to the Lemai Wedge on the 21st and recovered 22 snares between Sampura and Nyakita Pembe. That evening they set an ambush on the snares at Nyakita Pembe and used the FLIR to arrest two people who had come into check their snares - one person escaped.
One person was arrested at Kokamange 7.00 pm on 22nd as he and his three companions came into the Lemai Wedge to hunt with dogs. The following day the Ngiro-are rangers collected 31 snares in the same area.
Our TANAPA reported four people with guns near Machechwe on the 26th – apparently going to hunt elephant. Our rangers joined forces to comb that area, but without success. However, they did find one old carcass – probably a fourth one from the poached elephant found on the 6th. The same evening one person was arrested near Kokamange, as he came in to hunt with dogs.
Four snares were recovered on the 29th – one wildebeest was rescued, one zebra was dead, as was one wildebeest. That night, at 11 pm, we received a message that some elephant poachers had entered the Lemai Wedge from Kigonga. An intensive patrol yielded nothing.
Eighteen snares were collected on the 30th between Miungu and Nyakita Pembe and one zebra was rescued.
Revenue and Accounts
There was a significant drop in revenue between August and September, but it was still an improvement on September last year – by 22%.
When we look at our first quarter’s accounts for the period ending 30th September we see that there was a significant increase in our share of Park Fee revenue over last year – from Ksh 58 million to Ksh 82 million. This had largely been anticipated, but still we were up by 4% on budget. However, we were down significantly on balloon revenue (through lack of payment by Governors and Skyship) and the sale of promotional items. The Table below highlights our income and expenditure for the first quarter. It is disappointing that, although our high season Park fees were up by 70% on last year, we were not able to set up a greater reserve to see us through the rest of the year.
We have managed to keep staff costs close to budget. However, this will not be the case in future – the added cost of 50 new recruits from Narok County will push these costs through the roof. There are some measures that will help cut these costs – the County will take on Conservancy rangers and we have deployed 16 people with the Mara Elephant Project and on Mara North. We still have to pay for allowances, bonuses, rations and any disparity between the County rates and our rates in salary.
There were two major variances in expenditure: Insurance, which in the budget is expensed evenly throughout the year; and office expenses, to be explained.
Table 1: Summary of Income & Expenditure for 1st quarter 2016/17
Repairs and maintenance
We ordered two new vehicles, one Land Rover to replace the CE’s vehicle and one Land Cruiser to replace the administration vehicle. The Land Cruiser was delivered and we expect the Land Rover to be delivered in early November. We have buyers for both vehicles.
Land Rover no longer make the Defender and we have decided to take one of the last new Defender pick-ups in the Country and sell two of ours. The price for a new Defender is half that of a new Land Cruiser at Ksh 2.9 million.
We replaced the hydraulic rams on small trailer and also repaired two on the back-hoe loader.
We completed opening up most of the drainage ditches on the roads and continued with minor repairs. Most of the roads are in very good shape and should be able to withstand damage caused during the coming rains.
We have started renovations at Ngiro-are and they should be completed in November. We have virtually completed replacing all the pipes from the Ngiro-are windmill and replacing the sand filter for the same windmill.
Report on focus for October
Focus for November 2016
· Complete work at Ngiro-are;
· Complete pipeline at Ngiro-are;
· Collect new Land Rovers;
· Sell two, possibly three, vehicles;
· Hold Board meeting on the 30th;
· CE to take 9 days off from the 8th; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.