We had heavy rain for the first two weeks of September. Thereafter we had scattered thunderstorms – we understand that this is expected to be an El Ninõ year and that the country will be in for exceptional rains between October and December.
We held our AGM and Board meeting on the 14th. The annual accounts for the period ending 30th June were tabled and approved. The Auditors, Deloitte & Touche, raised no issues – a credit to Charles Gitau.
We hosted Leslie Roach on the 19/20th. Leslie has been a great supporter of the Mara Conservancy and we would never have achieved half of what we have done without her. She and Alison Jones gave us our start-up capital and Leslie has continued to support us when in need. We hope that it was a worthwhile investment in conservation – I believe it was. Leslie’s last donation was given on the understanding that it would go towards building a visitor centre. We have recently been in touch with people who can help design the centre and prepare exhibits.
A team from Kilgoris, including the District Commissioner, visited the Triangle on the 20th to review a proposal by Cobra Corner Ltd to build a camp near Ngiro-are. We reiterated our stand that the Ten-year Management Plan for the Mara had advocated for an eighteen bed, seasonal camp and not a 54 bed, permanent camp. There appeared to be some confusion on whether the camp should be for 18 beds (9 tents), or 18 tents (36 beds).
The Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service resigned on the 25th; he had been Director for eight years and done a great deal to raise the profile and professionalism of the organisation.
The constant rain disrupted the migration – there were days with hardly a wildebeest in the Triangle. A day or two later there would be thousands in the southern portion of the Reserve, before they disappeared again. The very high water levels in the river resulted in numerous wildebeest deaths at crossings – 483 deaths were recorded on the 11th from one crossing near Purungat.
Dr D Mijele treated a young female elephant on the 27th. It would appear that the elephant had a broken hind leg, that the injury was not very recent, and that there was some healing. We decided to monitor her and see if she could recover.
A hippo attacked a tourist vehicle on the 30th, fortunately no one was hurt, although there was a fair amount of damage to the vehicle. This hippo has been seen on a regular basis near the hippo pools and has taken to spending the day in the drainage ditches off the road. A fast-moving, oncoming car probably startled the hippo.
Shadrack Sabaaya resigned to become a teacher at Angata Barrikoi Secondary School; we wish him all the best in his new career. Mr Robert Maita will head the unit.
Our rangers graduated from the Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) training school in Londiani on the 14th.
We instituted the annual increase for all our staff, in line with the Council increase. This was retroactive to June 2012.
Tourist numbers remain high in the Triangle, although we have noted a fairly significant drop in September. However, visitor numbers to the Triangle seem much higher than for many areas of the Mara. All the indications are for a poor low season throughout the Mara, again we expect to do better than most areas.
There is a real need to regulate vehicles and tourist behaviour on the Narok side of the Reserve. We had numerous complaints about overcrowding, people out of their vehicles at strategic points, bad behaviour by drivers – many of them by people who still can not differentiate the difference between the Narok and Trans Mara portions of the Reserve.
Mr David Green gave an oral presentation on his hyena research. There appears to be significant difference in the behaviour and movements between the hyena clan in Talek and the two he is studying in the Triangle. He is also working on a report of a study they have been doing on burning. We look forward to written progress reports on his work.
Chris Dutton and Amanda Subalusky submitted their quarterly report for the period ending September 2012. Congratulations to Chris for getting his MSc from Yale, Amanda is still working towards her PhD.
As always, their report was very informative. The Mara River seems in much better shape this year than in the recent past – the result of sustained rainfall throughout the past year. Dissolved oxygen levels remained high for most of the study period, but one of the features of the Mara River is the periodic, and very sudden, drop in dissolved oxygen following heavy rainstorms – often coinciding with a fish die-off. In the past we had thought that these die-offs were the result of chemical contamination but Chris and Amanda postulated that the huge amount of organic detritus in the river was responsible – when the riverbed was flushed out in flash floods that followed these heavy storms. They still believe that this is the case but were slightly surprised when there was a drastic drop in oxygen levels after a storm in early September. They had thought that the exceptionally heavy flows over the past few months had flushed out much of the organic matter from the riverbed. However, as they report, there are over 4,100 hippo in the middle reaches of the Mara River, each contributing 25 kg of faecal matter to the river – an astounding 102 metric tonnes of organic waste into the system every day. They intend to study the rate at which hippo faeces and wildebeest meat decompose in the river.
Chris and Amanda also documented three wildebeest crossings that resulted in the death of around 2,000 wildebeest (500, 1,000 and 483). One can blame the high river levels but the wildebeest are increasingly crossing in unsuitable places – often in areas with riverine bush and steep, rocky, banks. Are they evading the hordes of tourist vehicles? I believe so. It is time that the Reserve management and tourism industry took more responsibility in policing these crossings.
The Mara River is extremely interesting but some of the tributaries – especially the Talek – may offer more insights into the health of the riverine system. How much of the pollution, exceptionally high turbidity, and low dissolved oxygen is the result of human waste? The researchers routinely record ammonium levels of 1mg/L and dissolved oxygen levels of 40% - indicators of an extremely unhealthy river. Dr Emma Rossi-Marshall, an expert on the human impact on river systems, visited that Mara and will help them try to determine this aspect on the Talek.
Twenty-four people were arrested for poaching in September, all of them in the Northern Serengeti. This brings the total arrests to 1,934. We recorded 859 wire snares recovered and 17 wildebeest rescued; a further 21 wildebeest and one zebra were found dead or butchered.
We collected 263 snares in the first four days of September, all in the Maji ya Bett, Miungu, Kasarani areas of the Lemai Wedge. We found at least ten butchered wildebeest carcasses and managed to rescue five wildebeest. A combined ambush near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge on the night of the 4th managed to apprehend two, of three, poachers with an additional seven snares. They were hunting with ten dogs.
The rangers set another ambush at Lempise on the night of the 5th and managed to arrest another two people with 17 snares at 9.00 pm. Over the following week a further 179 snares were recovered and a dozen wildebeest rescued.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested four people for poaching near Kasarani, in the Lemai Wedge, at 8.30 on the night of the 13th. They were carrying 20 snares. The following morning a combined patrol arrested three people at “Jiko Nane”, also in the Lemai Wedge. Fifty-five wire snares were recovered in that area and the three were presumed to be the owners.
The rangers collected a further 144 snares on the 15th and then 113 on the 19th; all of them in the Lemai Wedge.
On the 22nd the Iseiya rangers crossed the Mara River and patrolled the Bologonja area of the Northern Serengeti. They came across a number of old poacher camps and then one that was currently being used. They managed to arrest three people who had killed and butchered three wildebeest; 18 wire snares were recovered.
Our Iseiya rangers joined forces with their Tanzanian counterparts and patrolled the Serengeti in the Machochwe area. They arrested seven poachers in the late afternoon – they had killed eight wildebeest and one zebra. Forty-two wire snares were recovered. The same night, at around 8.00 pm, the same patrol arrested a further three poachers in the Ngira area. They had 10 snares. The Ngiro-are rangers also had some success that same night. They ambushed the Olaro Nyioke area in the Lemai Wedge and managed to arrest three people as they entered to start hunting. A total of 13 poachers in one day.
Eight snares were recovered on the 29th.
Revenue and Accounts
The Board approved the audited accounts. The key points were:
- The accounts were unqualified;
- The Mara Conservancy was a going concern;
- We have a tax credit of Ksh 5,807,622 that can be carried forward to the end of 2013;
- Revenue share:
A large part of the 32% increase in the collection of Park Fees can be attributed to the 23% increase in Park fees, effective July 2011. Although we started collecting revenue from Little Governors, we actually had 6,387 fewer paying visitors to the Triangle (50,164 in 2010/11 and 43,777 in 2011/12). This can be attributed to the efficiency in KAPS’ revenue collection.
The new buildings at Purungat are complete, barring a few final touches.
We worked on the main Oloololo – Serena road and only have a few, very small sections left, before this road can become all weather.
We started opening up as many drainage ditches as possible, in anticipation of the expected heavy rains between October and December.
Report on focus for September
Focus for October 2012
· Complete staff appraisals;
· Work on flooded sections of road to Ngiro-are;
· Repair and sell one Land Rover;
· Complete cleaning culverts and drainage ditches; and
· Survey Park boundary.