September 2016

General

We started getting reasonable rain in mid-September, enough to put some water in the watercourses and turn the grass green.  There were one or two heavy storms around the end of the month.

 

The Chief Executive met with Ms Azba Raj and Mr Cyrus Maingi from CMC Motors on the 1st, to discuss the handing over of the Suzuki Maruti, donated by CMC Motors.  It was agreed that it would be formally handed over at the fifteen-year celebration.  We also discussed a couple of weaknesses in the Marutis and delays in sourcing spares.

 

Mr Simon Trevor has resigned from the Board, citing pressure of work and the distance from his base in Tsavo.  He will be sorely missed and we can only thank him for the considerable time and effort he has put into the Conservancy over the years.  The Board agreed to approach Justice (Rtd) J Havelock for a position on the Board. He has since agreed.  

 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been training our staff in the use of SMART a platform, using mobile phones that tracks patrols and items of interest – maybe animals, poachers, arrests or snares.  We have just received our first report for the period end of June to September and are working with WWF to fill any gaps.  Our reports will undoubtedly improve and start giving us meaningful information on patrol areas and incidents.

 

The Chief Executive met with Mr S Kahiga, CEO of KAPS on the 26th to discuss challenges in revenue collection.  We agreed to look into a cashless system to try and curtail attempts at fraud.  Carrying large amounts of cash to pay Park fees tends to create temptation for the guides and clerks to conspire to retain some of the money for themselves. 

Research

One young male lion that was born on Ol Kinyei was collared by the Kenya Wildlife Trust (KWT) lion project and was seen in the middle of the Triangle during the month.  He had crossed the river for a brief period last month before crossing back.

 

Dr J Ogutu has published an interesting and somewhat alarming paper entitled “Extreme Wildlife Declines and Concurrent Increase in Livestock Numbers in Kenya:  What are the Causes?” (Sept 27 2016) Ogutu J O, Piepho H-P, Said M Y, Ojwang G O, Njino L W, Kifugo S C, Wargute PW.  PLOS ONE.  I provide the link below:

 

(http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0163249)

 

 This is a well-worth read by anyone interested in conservation and rangeland management in Kenya and tracks wildlife and livestock trends in rangelands since the hunting ban in 1977.  There have been declines in all wildlife species being monitored – some as great as 88% and even the most resilient populations such as Burchell’s zebra and buffalo have declined by as much as 30 – 50%.  The average decline in all 18 species monitored was 68.1%.  These declines are not that surprising;  we noticed these trends when doing a study for the Kenya Wildlife Service in 1995.  However, it is the first time that a real, scientific, analysis has been done on the vast database collected by the Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS).  Equally interesting;  the decline in cattle numbers (25%), but the exponential increase in sheep and goat numbers by 73.6%.  All these figures should raise alarm bells:  the decline in wildlife populations in rangelands BUT also the fact that cattle reached carrying capacity years ago and have actually dropped in numbers.  A very clear indication of the degradation in Kenya’s rangelands – much of the range can no longer support cattle and can only support small-stock and, to some extent camels.  There will come a time when the rangeland will be unable to even support sheep and goats, let alone wildlife.  This largely explains the huge pressure placed on our protected areas and private ranches by illegal grazers – these places are the only areas left with sufficient grass to sustain cattle.

 

Staff

Mr Daniel Kisieku died on the 17th.  Mr Kisieku was one of our rangers based at Purungat and had been suffering from a liver complaint for a few months.  He was discharged from the Aga Khan Hospital the day before he died.  Our condolences to his family.

 

Warden Francis Peenko lost his mother – again our condolences.

 

Wildlife

A few heavy showers around the 10th had the whole wildebeest population turn South into the Northern Serengeti and by the15th there was hardly a wildebeest remaining in the Triangle. 

 

The three male lions that took over the Oloololo pride killed the two remaining cubs on the 5th.  Our key prides have been very unstable for a number of years.  The cubs are killed time after time because we seem unable to retain stable male coalitions.  First we had Notch and his coalition cause havoc when they crossed the River from Musiara, then we had Scar and his group and now we have a new coalition of three males from Musiara.  Each time they kill all the cubs, take over a very large area and then relinquish territory – the new group then repeats the cycle.  How much is to do with cattle in the Reserve displacing lions is unknown, but it is probably a major factor.

 

We have noticed a drastic decline in the number of vultures this year – leaving numerous wildebeest carcasses untouched.  We have noticed this reduction over a period of time, but this year it is very apparent.  I don’t know the disease implications, but dozens of carcasses every day that are not cleaned up must be cause for concern.

 

One of our rhino – Makallah – was seen in the Lemai Wedge on a few occasions.  He was seen around Limana, an area notorious for poaching and we consider him to be at great risk there.  There is one group of poachers who hunt that area that are known for killing elephant and most probably killed another rhino that took up residence in that area two years ago.  We have been working with TANAPA to try and apprehend these poachers, so far to no avail.

 

One of our cheetah gave birth to four cubs.  The first time the cubs were seen was when a pride of lion were chasing the cheetah;  they managed to kill one cub before our rangers intervened and chased off the lions.  She has moved the three remaining cubs and they appear to be safe for the time being.

 

Tourism

Tourist numbers dropped suddenly at the beginning of September but we expect numbers to be higher than for September last year.

 

The Ngiro-are rangers went up the escarpment on the 16th to investigate a report that a new camp is to be built near Mara Engai – post-holes were being dug for a fence.  They reported that the site appears to be encroaching on the Triangle.

 

Security

A total of 36 people were arrested for poaching in September;  2,247 snares were recovered, 166 animals were rescued, 84 were found dead in snares and 173 animals had been butchered.  The rangers focused on the Lemai Wedge, in particular along the escarpment, but when they crossed the river they saw signs of extensive poaching – nearly all done with machetes – driving animals into steep water courses and slashing their spines.  On one occasion they found three animals that had been immobilised in this fashion – presumably the poachers were going to return at their leisure.  This year to day we have arrested 334 people and recovered 6,458 snares – a record on both counts.  This would not have been possible without the dedication, experience and hard work put in by our rangers.

 

The Oloololo and Anne Kent-Taylor scouts recovered 168 snares and rescued three wildebeest on the 31st.  The next day a further 112 snares were recovered near Lempise:  five animals were rescued, two were dead in snares and 12 animals had been butchered.

 

A total of 103 snares were recovered on the second and one animal rescued.  Our rangers were called to assist in a robbery that had occurred in the northern Serengeti in a camp called Lemara – US$ 3,000 and € 600 had been stolen from a camp the previous day.  The dogs tried to follow a track but lost it in camp – it would appear that the theft was an inside job.  That night our Ngiro-are rangers arrested two people with wildebeest meat at Kondamet – on the escarpment.  This was on information from one of our community scouts. 

 

The rangers crossed the Mara River on the 3rd and arrested four people who were poaching near Machwechwe – they had driven a herd of wildebeest into a steep watercourse and had killed two animals by slashing their spines.  The Oloololo rangers and Anne Kent-Taylor scouts recovered 113 snares near Masanga in the Lemai Wedge – nine wildebeest and one zebra were rescued, two were dead and about 20 butchered. 

 

The rangers left at 3.00 am on the 4th and set an early ambush – poachers came down the escarpment from Kigonga but managed to escape arrest.  Twenty three wire snares were collected;  eight wildebeest and one zebra were rescued.  The following day eleven snares were collected along the escarpment between Kigonga and Masanga.  That evening a combined patrol set an ambush near Lempise and arrested three people as they were setting snares just after dark;  eight snares were recovered.  

 

We continued to collect large numbers of snares and recovered a total of 309 on the 6th and 7th – all of them along the escarpment in Tanzania.  At least ten animals were rescued;  six animals were found dead in snares (including a topi and two zebra) and six animals had been butchered, including two zebra. 

 

On the 8th 183 more snares were collected.  Two animals were rescued, two were dead in snares and four had been butchered.  That evening the rangers set an ambush and managed to arrest one person as he and his companion came in to set snares near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge. 

 

Another 220 snares were recovered on the 9th and 10th.  Twelve animals were rescued, one topi and nine wildebeest were dead and three had been butchered. 

 

The rangers patrolled during the day on the 11th and recovered 32 snares;  18 animals were rescued, and three were dead.  That night they used the Flir and managed to follow two people who were butchering a topi – they managed to arrest one person.  The next day 1 further 120 snares were collected:  17 were rescued, 13 butchered and seven were dead in snares.  That evening the rangers went out again and managed to arrest two people using the Flir – they were butchering a wildebeest. 

 

A combined patrol again recovered 178 snares on the 13th – 32 wildebeest and one vulture were rescued from snares.  Twenty-one animals had been butchered and 15 were dead in snares.   

 

We continued to collect snares every day:  14 on the 14th and 170 on the 15th.  Two people were arrested on the 15th near Kokamange, they were part of a larger group of at least ten people.  Twenty-nine wildebeest were rescued, 40 had been butchered and 11 were dead in snares. 

 

The rangers left at 3.00 am on the 16th to set an ambush near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge.  They arrested three people and four escaped.  They arrested one more person as they were leaving in the morning;  he was carrying some meat from at 10 wildebeest that had been butchered.  One hundred and twenty snares were recovered and 15 animals were found dead in the snares.  That evening the rangers went on a late patrol to the same area and arrested one more person and found a further 28 snares. 

 

A further 126 snares were recovered on the 17th by the Ngiro-are team as they patrolled the escarpment from Kinyangaga.  Twenty animals had been slaughtered and butchered and two animals were rescued.  That evening our teams were setting up an ambush near Lugga ya Ngiri and arrested one person at 7.00 pm, before the ambush was properly set.  Another ten people were seen but in very difficult terrain. 

 

On the 18th our rangers joined forces with TANAPA rangers from Lemai and managed to arrest three of seven people near the Lemai swamp.  They were carrying wildebeest meat – we recovered 25 snares and rescued three more animals.  The following day we patrolled around Lugga ya Ngiri and found 34 snares – seven animals were rescued and 14 were found dead in the snares.  Those dead included 12 wildebeest, one hyena and a topi calf.  

 

The rangers patrolled along the escarpment in Tanzania on the 22nd and recovered 62 snares.  Two wildebeest were rescued and five had been slaughtered.  That evening they set an ambush near Lugga ya Ngiri and were able to monitor 10 people entering the Serengeti with the Flir.  They used the Flir to position our rangers and managed to arrest three people at around 12.40 am.  The poachers were on their way in and five snares were recovered from them.  The following day a further 10 snares were collected and one wildebeest rescued. 

 

Our patrols arrested one person at Lempise on the 24th and recovered 65 snares;  four animals were rescued and five had been butchered.  We are beginning to see snares made of rope, six were rope snares, usually an indication that the de-snaring is working and that they are running out of the manufactured wire snares.  That night our Ngiro-are rangers joined up with TANAPA and managed to arrest two more people.

 

On the 25th three more arrests were made, all in the Lemai Wedge:  two in the morning near Olaro Nyioke were going to check their snares – 8 snares were recovered.  That night one more person was arrested on the Kigonga poachers’ route.  He was with two others who escaped – they had been hunting impala and gazelle with dogs and torches and had killed an impala. 

 

The rangers crossed the Mara River on the 27th and joined up with rangers from Kogatende.  They saw numerous signs of poaching and arrested two people from a group of four.  They first came across three wildebeest that had been slashed across the spine and paralysed – they were still alive.  Just after that they came across the poachers in camp with six slaughtered and butchered wildebeest.  That evening they set an ambush and one person who was hunting alone with a dog.

 

Revenue and Accounts

Deloitte presented our Annual Audit report for the year ending June 30th 2016 to the Board meeting on the 16th.  The key points were:

·       The Audit was unqualified;

·       There was a slight caveat about the Conservancy being a going concern – mainly due to the lack of a formal Management Agreement, but also because of the difficult financial position we found ourselves in at the end of June;

·       A summary of the Profit and loss statement shows the following: 

 

Main points in the accounts:

·       Park fee revenue increased by 21% - indicative of the upturn in tourism;

·       We received a substantial donation from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT);

·       We broke even, after a significant loss in 2015;

·       We reduced total expenditure by 6.5% - largely in staff salaries which went from Ksh 87,354,700 in 2015 to 79,323,488 in 2016; 

·       Staff salaries made up 47% of our total budget; 

·       If we added security allowances and bonuses we were still below 50% (49.4%) for staff costs; 

·       The Chief Executive took no salary during the period and was owed Ksh 12.6 million at the end of the financial year;  and

·       We have an accumulated general fund deficit of Ksh 10,374,994.

 

August revenue stood at Ksh 87.26 million, up by 75% on August 2015 and up by 27% on July 2016.  It should be noted that the Mara Conservancy only retains 36% of the revenue for their operations – the remainder goes to Narok County 55% and KAPS 9%. 

 

The average number of visitors was 710 per day – well above our estimated bed capacity of around 450 beds (excluding Kichwa), add Kichwa at around 100 beds and we were still above our bed capacity.  The visitor numbers indicate the popularity of our campsites, but more so, the influx of students (5,244 in August) and visitors from camps based on the Narok side of the river.  Although it is very important for children to learn about places like the Mara and get a taste of our amazing wildlife, the numbers in high season are becoming a real problem for us in that they stretch our resources and diminish the visitor experience for our clients.

 

It is interesting to note that the number of non-resident adult visitors – our main source of revenue – has already surpassed the total for 2015 (32,931 up to the end of August 16 vs 32,762 in the whole of 2015).  We are approaching 2014 levels of 35,467 non-resident adults and should easily surpass this in September.  Whether we reach 2011 non-resident visitor numbers of 57,937 remains to be seen but these figures give a real indication of the recovery.  Can we sustain it in 2017 - let’s see.

 

Repairs and maintenance

  • We had to replace the hubs and bearings on the big trailer, we also had to resurface the sub-axles, as they were slightly damaged by a broken bearing.
  • We completed the toilets at Purungat.
  • We opened up drainage off most of our roads and patched up some worn areas on the most heavily used roads;
  • We repaired and painted all the buildings at Purungat. 

Report on focus for September

Focus for October 2016

·       Receive Suzuki;

·       Start work at Ngiro-are;

·       Replace pipeline at Ngiro-are;

·       Continue with minor repairs on the roads;

·       Hold 15 year celebration;

·       Purchase two new vehicles approved by the Board;

·       Meet new Board member;  and

·       Survey Reserve boundary.