The rain continued for the first three days and then stopped for the remainder of the month, making September one of the driest months in a long time.
The Chief Executive met Trisha Ghose from the Habitats Trust in India to discuss possible adjudication on funding proposals for conservation in India. The possible date has been set for 20th December.
Mr John Ward visited Serena on 12th , a day before the 30th Anniversary of his daughter Julie’s death. Apparently Serena was the last place that Julie was confirmed being seen alive.
Mr Philemon Chebet, Warden Kilgoris, collected the found ivory from our store on the 12th. He came with a list of requests for assistance and we will see where we can help. The Kenya Wildlife Service now have a trained prosecutor in Kilgoris and we discussed funding a training course in wildlife law, the preparation of statements and court procedures for our non-commissioned officers (NCOs).
The Naliki family from near Kawai brought in surveyors from Kilgoris on the 20th, to determine their boundary – they claim part of the Triangle as theirs. They were stopped from surveying by our rangers, until such time as the County sends a representative and the boundary is jointly approved.
Mr Daniel Kijabe took one month’s unpaid leave to get married.
Dr Asuka Takita managed to pass her flying test and is now a qualified pilot. She has raised some funding through NGO Tears of the African Elephant based in Japan, matched by the Conservancy, to buy a kit aircraft in South Africa and it will be delivered in early October.
Morani was operated on for a torn cruciate ligament, is recovering well and returned to the Triangle on the 29th. We will be unable to use him for another two months.
Dr Limo treated an injured lioness on the 13th, she had probably been in a fight.
We still have thousands of wildebeest and zebra, mainly concentrated in the southern third of the Triangle. There have been very few crossings and most of the animals seem to have moved in from the Lemai Wedge, crossing the river downstream from Mara Bridge. The question we have to ask:
Is unregulated traffic at key crossing points actually destroying the very spectacle that attracts tens of thousands of tourists to the Mara?
In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal Yes. There is absolutely no doubt that the number of vehicles witnessed at crossing points (up to 300 were reported in one case) totally disrupted the crossings – driving the animals away to quieter spots.
Rasmus Caspersen and Sean Jellesmark completed their MSc Thesis for the University of Copenhagen. They had spent over a month in the Mara, collating all the information from 17 years of monthly reports, visiting the main poaching hotspots and analyzing trends in poaching over the years. A link can be found for their thesis at the site for those who are interested.
In a nutshell, we have virtually eliminated poaching in the Triangle, The Lemai Wedge continues to be a major hotspot. To put things in perspective:
· There were 3,450 arrests recorded during the period under review (June 2001 to December 2017) an average of 209 per year, of which 83% were made in the Serengeti and 12.7% made in the Triangle. The rest were in the main Reserve or along the escarpment;
· Of 49,541 wire snares reported as recovered, 42,347 (86%) were found in the Lemai Wedge and 7.4% were recovered in the Northern Serengeti (93.4% in the Serengeti) – only 6.5% were found in the Triangle; and
· Another interesting statistic is that animals were found in one of every 14 snares set.
There are two new interesting research papers on the Mara Ecosystem. The first is:
Rainfall trends and variation in the Maasai Mara ecosystem and their implications for animal population and biodiversity dynamics. G S Bartzke, J O Ogutu, S Mukhopadhyay, D Mtui, H T Dublin and H-P Piepho. (2018). PLOS/One
Characteristics of Human-Wildlife Conflicts in Kenya: Examples of Tsavo and Maasai Mara Regions. J M Mukeka, J O Ogutu , E Kanga & E Røskaft. (2018). Environment and Natural Resources Research; Vol. 8, No. 3; 2018 ISSN 1927-0488 E-ISSN 1927-0496. Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
We held a meeting with balloon pilots from all three balloon operators in the Triangle on the 24th, to discuss their operations, off-road driving and picnic sites. We agreed that in the rainy season we would jointly contribute to making short all-weather roads to a few designated sites.
Tourist numbers have declined in September, it is probably busier than September last year, but things are easing off and the game viewing experience is all the better for it. However, we still have issues with drivers not obeying the rules when they think that there is no anti-harassment vehicle to monitor them. On the 23rd we had nearly 20 vehicles around a leopard sighting around eight from the main reserve but 12 were resident vehicles. It is most unfortunate that we can not rely on our resident drivers to police themselves and follow the rules. Some of these drivers are extremely well trained from our top camps.
We had two cases where professional safari guides left their campsites in a real mess – it is incumbent upon all campers to ensure that they take everything with them.
We arrested 65 poachers in September, the second highest number in a single month. All the arrests were made in the Serengeti and most of them at night. We recovered 599 wires snares and ten more made from rope. A total of 18 wildebeest were rescued, four wildebeest and one zebra were found dead in snares, 16 wildebeest and one buffalo had been butchered. Have we turned the corner in our fight against the poachers? Certainly there are only a fraction the number of snares, nearly all of them set very close to their homesteads. The poachers are finding it increasingly difficult to operate, certainly in the Lemai Wedge, and our patrols are going further and further afield. Use of the Flir equipment has greatly enhanced our nighttime capabilities and the rangers are getting better at using our dogs. Combine all this with much stiffer sentencing for poachers in Tanzania, the high risk of getting caught, the relatively meager returns, we will soon turn the corner and will start seeing a significant reduction in poaching. It is already the case in the Lemai Wedge.
A total of 94 wires snares were collected on the 1st, 14 around Miungu and Limana, the rest of them along the escarpment in Tanzania. Two wildebeest were rescued and two were found dead in the snares.
Our ranger teams joined up with their counterparts from Machechwe in the Serengeti on the night of the 2nd and managed to arrest three people near Ngira. They arrested one from a group of three around ten pm and then a further two at 3.00 am. They were cooking maize porridge when arrested and were carrying two snares that they intended to set. Earlier in the day five other snares had been recovered.
The Nigro-are rangers arrested two people at around 9.00 pm along Lugga ya Ngiri on the 3rd . They were part of a group of six who were on their way to set snares – eight snares were recovered.
One person was arrested on the 4th between Kokamange and Lempise in the Lemai Wedge and seven snares were recovered. One wildebeest had been butchered. The following day two more people were arrested as they set snares near Lempise ; 18 snares were recovered. That night shots were fired at a vehicle full of charcoal near Olopikidongoe, on the road to Lolgorien, one tyre was shot. Our rangers from Oloololo went with a sniffer dog and recovered one round fired from an AK47.
Two zebra were seen carrying snares near Nyakita Pembe in the Lemai Wedge on the 6th . The Anne Kent Taylor/Oloololo scouts patrolled around Maji ya Bett and recovered 12 snares. One wildebeest was rescued, one had been butchered and one was dead in a snare. An ambush was set that night near Lempise and two more arrests were made – as a group of four returned at 1.00 am after setting their snares.
A total of six people were arrested on the 7th: two, of eight, by the Iseiya team near Kinyangaga during a night ambush – they were carrying wildebeest meat and five snares had been recovered earlier. The Nigro-are team managed to arrest four from a large gang of 12 in an ambush they laid across the river in an area called bush-tops. They were carrying buffalo meat.
One more person was arrested by the Iseiya team near Lempise. We are noticing that the poachers are becoming more aggressive – they tried to slash one of our rangers with a machete and also fired poisoned arrows at the rangers. The Nigro-are rangers recovered 27 wire snares near Kinyangaga and rescued two wildebeest.
A total of 36 snares were collected on the 10th and two wildebeest rescued. The following day 33 more snares were found around Nyakita Pembe and Lugga ya Ngiri. Four wildebeest were rescued and three had been butchered. Than night the Nigro-are rangers set an ambush with their Serengeti counterparts and managed to arrest five people near the Lemai airstrip.
Four more people were arrested on the 12th, at night. The Iseiya team patrolled along Kokamange/Olaro Nyioke and saw three people at dusk. They managed to arrest all three, although those arrested said that they had in fact been five of them. The third was arrested by using one of our dogs to track him. They had set six snares, all recovered. All three were juveniles aged between thirteen and fifteen. This is an increasingly common occurrence – the adults send in juveniles, knowing that the sentencing will be more lenient for youths. The same evening the Nigro-are rangers crossed the river and set an ambush at Serengeti Ndogo. They managed to arrest one person carrying wildebeest meat.
Another five were arrested by the Iseiya team, together with their counterparts from Kogatende and Tabora B soon after dark on the 13th. Two large groups of poachers were seen at 7.30 and the five were arrested from the second group of 15 people. A total of 49 snares were collected on that day from three different sites: 24 from along the escarpment below Masanga, 11 from Lempise (the poachers were actually seen setting the snares but they managed to escape) and another 14 from the Nigro-are swamp. Three wildebeest were rescued and one zebra was found dead in a snare.
One person was arrested on the 14th at Serengeti Ndogo and 28 snares recovered surrounding the Nigro-are swamp. The following day five more people were arrested; Four youngsters, aged around 13, came in to kill a wildebeest that had just been caught near Lempise, had killed it and were butchering it when arrested by the Iseiya team. Four snares were recovered. The Nigro-are rangers caught the fifth on a night ambush on the swamp below their camp.
The following night the Nigro-are rangers saw three people come down the escarpment at 11.00 pm and go into the swamp. They disappeared until three in the morning, when they returned carrying wildebeest meat. All three were arrested. Sixteen snares had been recovered near Kasarani during the daytime patrol. The arrests continued and two more youngsters were caught the next day, as they set snares at Lempise, 23 snares were recovered.
Twenty six more snares were collected on the 18th, all along the escarpment at near Lempise. Two wildebeest were rescued. One person was arrested that night in the Nigro-are swamp. One more arrest was made just after dark on the 20th between Lempise and the Lemai airstrip, seven snares were recovered. A daytime patrol across the Nigro-are swamp and towards Maji ya Bett had found 28 snares, one wildebeest was rescued and three had been butchered.
A total of 44 snares were recovered on the 21st, 24 around Nyakita Pembe in the Lemai Wedge and a further 20 along the escarpment, two wildebeest had been butchered. On the 22nd an Iseiya patrol saw youths chasing wildebeest with dogs, sadly they escaped, but only after they had been tracked through the Lemai swamp by our dogs for two hours – an excellent effort. Five people were caught that day; two, of five, by a second Iseiya team; another two, of seven, by Nigro-are rangers near Lempise. A total of 40 wire and 10 rope snares were recovered, one wildebeest was rescued and one found dead in a snare. That night the Nigro-are rangers joined forces with their TANAPA counterparts and arrested one person carrying topi meat near Kogatende.
Four wire snares were recovered along Lugga ya Ngiri on the 23rd and then the following night our Iseiya rangers joined up with their counterparts from Lemai and set an ambush between Olaro Nyioke and Chumvi. They saw three groups of poachers enter the Wedge and managed to arrest six people. One, out of a group of three, and then another five from a group of seven. All the poachers were on their way to set snares and a total of 28 were recovered.
Six snares were recovered along the escarpment on the 27th, one wildebeest was rescued and three had been butchered. That night the Nigro-are rangers managed to arrest one person across the river, towards Ngira. Lots of torch was reported in a wide area South of the River. Both our teams joined forces with rangers from Machechwe on the 28th and returned to Ngira. They started seeing poacher activity soon after dark and by 7.40 pm the first poachers arrived in the ambush area. Our combined teams managed to arrest five people, but not before they had killed one zebra, one wildebeest and a topi calf. 20 wire snares were recovered, some of them as they were being set.
Our teams joined forces again on the evening of the 29th and set an ambush in an area called Binamu, beyond the Wogga Kuria Hills in the Northern Serengeti. They saw one person carrying dried meat and managed to arrest him at 11.00 pm. He said that he was on his way to get help in carrying their meat and that he had left his companion in camp. The rangers surrounded the camp at first light and arrested the second person. They two of them had killed five wildebeest, had dried the meat and found it too much to carry. Hence, sending for help. The rangers recovered five wire snares.
A total of 28 snares were collected on the 30th, 16 by the Iseiya team near Lugga ya Ngiri and a further 12 when the Nigro-are rangers arrested 2 people along the Kigonga poachers route at 3.00 in the morning.
Revenue and Accounts
We reached one million dollars (US$) in collections for August; the first month we have ever done so. Our collections for August reached Ksh 109,490,698 (US$ 1,090,000). A reflection of the exceptional season, and a 22% increase on revenue collected in August 2017. We are still plagued with huge numbers of non-paying visitors – 44.8% of the visitors to the Triangle did not pay us. By far the majority were visitors from the Narok side of the Reserve, a clear indication of the better game viewing and management in the Triangle. To put it in some context, we had an average of 960 visitors per day and yet we can only collect from a maximum of around 550 people from our resident camps. We also saw a large number of visitors from such camps as Neptune, Mara River Lodge and Mara River Camp, also a few from as far afield as Mara Safari Lodge. One of issues we had to deal with was that these camps were paying at Musiara, not entering the Main Reserve, turning round and coming to the Triangle with “valid” Narok tickets.
Deloitte and Touche, our auditors, have presented a final draft of the audited accounts for the year ending June 2018. These will be presented to the Board at the next meeting. The key points in the accounts were:
· That they were unqualified;
· We made a profit of Ksh 10,551,642;
Below is a summary taken from Deloitte’s Financial Statement.
“Income Statement Review
There was a moderate increase in the income recorded at Sh 262,818,375 (2017: Sh 252,646,781). The increase was attributed to an improvement in the number of visitors at the Mara Triangle during the year. There was, however, a larger increase in expenditure recorded at Sh 251,867,836 (2017: Sh 218,763,606) due to an increase in veterinary costs, repairs and maintenance costs, foreign exchange loss and directors’ emoluments among other costs. This led to the overall decline in the net profit over the period.
Balance Sheet and Cash flow Review
The company’s cash balances decreased from Sh 37,261,837 to Sh 31,244,396 due to increased payments to suppliers and unpresented cheques of Sh. 4 Million. Trade and other receivables increased from Sh 28,461,479 to Sh 43,700,460 due to an increase in the June revenues while there was a marginal reduction in trade and other payables from Sh 74,891,274 to Sh 74,690,838. Cash flows from operating activities decreased mainly due to an increase in trade receivables. Cash flows used in investing activities increased due to purchase of equipment.”
Repairs and maintenance
We installed a generator, and small submersible pump in the well at Oloololo to supplement the windmill. This is working well and we may do the same at Nigro-are.
We had to return the new trailer to the manufacturer, it wasn’t strong enough and started buckling in the first week. It is being strengthened and should be ready in early October.
We improved the soak-pit for waste water from the staff camp at Serena.
We improved the small kitchen in the public campsite at Oloololo and fitted steel doors on the toilet block there. The wooden doors were constantly being broken.
We replaced the roof on the kennel at Oloololo.
We collected two new Suzuki Maruti jeeps and have buyers for both old ones – one was collected on the 27th.
We continued to repair and grade the roads and they are in good condition – we worked on the river road to Oloololo – this is the busiest road in the Triangle.
We ordered a new Toyota Land Cruiser to replace the Nigro-are patrol vehicle. It should be delivered in October.
Report on focus for September
Focus for October 2018
· Hold Board meeting;
· Collect new Land Cruiser;
· Sell old Cruiser;
· Install new signs;
· Continue with new stores;
· Continue with road works towards Oloololo;
· Start receiving revenue from Governors Balloons; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.