The rains that started in mid-August continued throughout September. Several very heavy storms in the first two weeks saturated the ground along the northern and western sections of the Triangle, recharging seasonal springs and making almost all low lying areas completely waterlogged. A particularly heavy and widespread storm (75-100 mm of rain) on the 18th did tremendous damage to all the roads and flooded the whole area between Mara Serena and Oloololo – making all the tracks and roads impassable. This is certainly the heaviest and most persistent rain since the El Ninõ floods in 1997 – and they are occurring in the height of the dry season. If they persist we will probably have to further restrict vehicle movement and stop balloon flights.
The Board held a routine meeting on the 2nd September, at which Dr C Thouless’ resignation was formally accepted.
The Chief Executive held a meeting with Mr Mamoru Matsumoto of Toin University, Yokohama to discuss the grant from the Keidaren Trust in Japan. The Trust has approved a grant for the up-grading of roads in the Triangle over three years. The grant will be given in three tranches, with funds in year one going towards determining the roads for improvement, planning and budgeting their improvement and research on the impact of the project on conservation. We hope to have equipment donated in the second year for this project. Two road technicians were sent from Kilgoris on the 8th to assist us in designing and budgeting Phase 1 of our intended improvements.
The Conservancy has been selected as a maintenance contractor on the main road between Oloololo Gate and Mara Bridge though the government’s ADB Roads Project in Rift Valley. Two of our staff will receive training on road maintenance in the coming months. We still expect the Government to improve this road later this year, thereafter we will be contracted to maintain it.
The Chief Executive met with the Commandants from the Anti-terrorism Unit and the Kenya Tourism Police on the 8th to discuss security issues in the Mara. Security personnel are particularly concerned about unrestricted access into Mara Serena and the number of vehicle movements in and out of Serena after dark.
The Chief Executive held a meeting with M/s Murphy and Thuo of Deloitte Consulting on taxation and VAT matters on the 13th.
We hosted the warden in charge of protection from the Serengeti, together with wardens from Lemai and Kinyangaga for lunch on the 19th
We held a second Board Meeting on the 23rd to review progress on the Management Agreement.
The Chief Executive met with M/s Greene and Van Beek of Ridgeback, a security company that is offering to provide training and equipment to our security staff in the Mara on the 23rd. We will follow up on this matter in October.
There was a lion fight on the morning of the 7th between the “Benjamin’s lugga” pride near Serena and some nomadic males, resulting in the death of one of the 18 month old female cubs. This is most unfortunate as the pride is probably the best known and most visited pride in the Triangle. People witnessed one of the pride males returning and trying to pick up the dead female after the fight. Dr Stephanie Dloniak, a researcher who has been looking at predator population dynamics estimates no more than 350 lions and about 50 cheetah in the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The un-seasonal and heavy rain confused the wildebeest and stopped the migration along the Tanzanian border. The crossings that had been taking place below Mara Serena stopped and for the first two weeks animals concentrated along the border and in the northern Serengeti. However, large concentrations started moving in around the middle of the month but they still concentrated in the southern and western portion of the Triangle. Over 1,000 wildebeest were killed in one crossing above Mara Bridge, a combination of the river in flood and particularly steep banks seems to have been the cause. This is probably the single greatest mortality in the last few years.
Two Cape Hunting Dogs were reported by a resident driver in the Triangle on the 13th. A few days later two professional photographers reported seeing two hunting dogs near the Talek/Mara River junction.
Cpl Charles Ololtele was suspended for one month, pending further discussions with the Clerk on a decision to return him to the Council.
The Senior Warden, D Sikawa is being returned to the Council with effect from 1st October; Mr E Nkoitoi will be promoted to Warden 1, in charge of all security.
The constant rain caused considerable problems with the roads, with vehicles being stuck on a daily basis. We had a particular problem with large supply and overland trucks using the roads when wet.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in September
As expected, the increase in the number of snares recovered and arrests made corresponds with the wildebeest migration into the northern Serengeti/Mara. The poachers focus on killing Thompson’s gazelle with dogs at night or hunting hippo between March and July, hence the low numbers of snares recovered in those months.
The roads and tracks have been almost destroyed by the incessant and heavy un-seasonal rain. The grader was repaired by the 20th and has repaired the main Mara Bridge to Serena road and most of the lower road between Mara Bridge and Serena.
One set of culverts was badly damaged by heavy rain between Serena and Oloololo Gate, we are in the process of fixing this culvert.
The Serena shelter is almost complete at the airstrip.
We brought down a technician from Telemedia to re-programme and repair all our radios on the 9th. We used the opportunity to install our community frequency in lodge radios so that they can contact our office 24 hours a day in case of emergency. This followed an agreement that we had with the police officer in charge of Kilgoris division (OCPD) to improve communication between ourselves and the lodges - Little Governor’s declined to install the frequency.
We put concrete floors in the staff uniports at Serena and then tiled all the showers in the staff camp.
We brought down a technician to repair the tents and seat covers. We started with the toilet tents in the public camp site and then repaired the Chief Executive’s tents.
We took the body off one of the Land Rovers to repair it. The brackets holding the body onto the chassis were nearly all broken.
Revenue and Accounts
August revenue was down 12% on last year, this was explained by people purchasing advance tickets in July. At present we have US$ 92,517 worth of unredeemed tickets with tour operators (tickets sold but not yet utilised); down from US$ 100,924 in July.
Our first quarter’s accounts show an increase of 6.13% on our budgeted revenue for the first quarter from Ksh 17,451,000 to Ksh 18,521,000 and a slight decrease in expenditure on budget of 8.69%, from Ksh 13,782,000 to Ksh 12,585,000.
Report on focus for September
Focus for October
· Complete annual audit;
· Finalise culvert repair and work on damaged roads;
· Complete staff laundry and canteen;
· Repair roofs on staff housing;
· Repair tents and make new vehicle seat covers;
· Design new entrance tickets;
· Hold staff welfare meeting; and
· Commence Earthview Audit