We had a number of rainstorms in the first week of September, sending most of the wildebeest into the Lemai Wedge and northern Serengeti. It then dried up in the middle of the month, bringing back most of the wildebeest before we had more rain in the last week..
The Chief Executive met with senior County and Immigration staff on the 10th to discuss progress on the new Immigration Post at Angama, to discuss the anticipated volume through the post and logistics for staff that will be based there.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Zablon Abuga from KAPS to discuss balloon revenue and modalities for charging landing fees to the bigger operators such as Air Kenya and SafariLink. They currently don’t pay for landing at Serena.
The County Executive for Tourism passed through on the 14th and we held a brief meeting on management issues in the Mara.
A date was set to survey a disputed section of the boundary between Oloololo Game Ranch, Ilkerekeshe and the Reserve, but it has been postponed. The Ilkerekeshe lawyer wrote challenging the survey, saying that there was a matter in Court.
Tourist numbers dropped off slightly towards the end of August but have remained high throughout most of September – it will almost certainly be better than last year.
I mention over-tourism elsewhere, but it is a fact that the extremely high tourist numbers in July and August are destroying both the Mara’s reputation and the wildlife spectacle that everyone comes to see. Over-tourism is now a reality, not only in the Mara, but elsewhere, and it is time that we look at evening out numbers throughout the year and do much more to control and manage tourism numbers in the Reserve.
We have been working on a new fee structure for the three western campsites and hope to implement it in July 2020. This will enable operators to market a more exclusive and premium product in the Mara. This is in line with our aim to make the whole Triangle a premium destination.
We completed training six new recruits as dog handlers and have now deployed them.
Mr Steve Mwiti ran a three-day training course on Staff Appraisals for senior staff from the 11th, the first two days were in how to conduct appraisals, and the best type of appraisal and the last day was in re-designing our appraisal forms.
Ten of our staff attended Mara Day in Mugumo, Tanzania on the 15th.
Two rangers were suspended and then returned to the County for absenteeism.
A lioness from the Oloololo pride was badly injured by a buffalo, her lungs were punctured and she was treated by Dr Limo but has not been seen since.
Our two cheetah are doing very well, they responded to the treatment for mange, have been making all their own kills, disappeared for ten days and then suddenly reappeared by Oloololo Gate on the 30th, looking very fit and healthy. They had just killed a wildebeest calf but were chased off by lions. They were released exactly 12 weeks ago. Both their collars have stopped functioning and next time we will definitely use satellite collars, rather than GSM.
The wildebeest moved away for a short while after the rain but then came back as soon as it dried out, concentrating along the Salt-Lick. This has been another very strange migration, with probably the fewest number of crossings in years – for a few days we had half the migration, some of them moving up as far as Oloololo; they then moved off at the first rain and never returned again in such numbers and hardly any North of the Salt-lick, until the last week of September, when large numbers moved onto the Olpunyatta plain. The scientists have noted that wildebeest are spending 35 days less per year in the Mara than they did 10 years ago and have postulated that over-tourism could contribute. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that too any vehicles disrupt and destroy the crossings. Time and time again we hear of crossings being stopped and wildebeest moving elsewhere, often downstream into Tanzania. If not careful we will destroy the very spectacle that people come to watch. There are at least ten crossing points in the Tanzanian portion of the Mara River, this is where the majority of animals crossed this year and the Tanzanians are way ahead in terms of setting controls and trying to manage the crossings.
One female elephant was found dead near Nyanguki in the Lemai Wedge on the 21st, about two kilometers into Tanzania, There was no apparent cause of death – she had a two year old calf. One elephant calf was stillborn along the escarpment, the umbilical cord was still attached.
A total of 67 people were arrested in September: 32 of them in regular patrols and a further 35 in a joint operation with TANAPA and the Tanzanian police. We collected 550 wire snares during the month, rescued 35 wildebeest, found 37 wildebeest that had been butchered, as were two zebra. A further two wildebeest were found killed and also three zebra, one of them by a poisoned arrow on the escarpment.
A total of six people were arrested for poaching late 31st and early morning of the 1st. The Iseiya team patrolled Ngira and Serengeti Ndogo and found people chasing wildebeest mid-afternoon, three people were arrested before they could kill anything. A total of 29 snares were recovered during the patrols one wildebeest was rescued and two zebra were found dead in snares. That night our teams joined forces with their TANAPA counterparts, crossed the river and managed to arrest three people at 2.00 am. One more person was arrested late evening on the 1st, when he came in to check his snares – 14 snares were recovered that day.
One more person was arrested at Kokamange as he and his companion were setting his snares on the 2nd, a total of 61 snares were recovered, 2 animals were rescued and three had been butchered.
A total of 23 snares were collected on the 3rd, 12 of them by our cheetah monitoring team following the cheetah in the Lemai Wedge, I wildebeest was rescued. Two more snares were collected on the 4th and another wildebeest rescued.
Our Iseiya team crossed the river on the 5th and managed to arrest two people in Serengeti Ndogo – the two were part of a group of five who had already killed three wildebeest with machetes. Our Nigro-are rangers joined a three-day combined TANAPA/ Tanzanian Police operation to take anti-poaching into the villages surrounding the Serengeti. In total they managed to arrest 35 known poachers in their homesteads and another six in the Park: 13 on the first night, a eleven each on the two subsequent nights, three during the day and two more on the last night and then A number of illegal items and game trophies were recovered and these included 11 rounds of AK47 ammunition, lion claws, elephant hide, one tusk, bows and arrows, lots of wildebeest and zebra meat.
The Iseiya team managed to arrest one person at Serengeti Ndogo on the 6th – he was part of a group of three and had killed a wildebeest. That same day the Nigro-are rangers recovered 21 wire snares. The following day seven snares were recovered; three wildebeest were rescued, one had died in a snare and one had been butchered.
The Iseiya rangers arrested one person on the 8th at Mbali Mbali, on the other side of the river, he was carrying three kilograms of maize meal and was probably on his way to join others. Twenty seven snares were recovered by both teams, three wildebeest rescued at Kokamange and below Kigonga and two animals had been butchered.
One more person was arrested on the 9th by the Nigro-are rangers during a night patrol. He and his two companions were seen and tracked with the Flir camera before he was arrested. The same team had recovered 53 snares that day and found where three wildebeest had been butchered,
The Iseiya team arrested two people on the 10th, in two different incidents. In the first they arrested one person at 8.00 pm near the Nigro-are swamp, they them made it look as if they had departed and some people remained. One more person was arrested at 1.00 am. The rangers had watched him enter the Park and waited for his return – he was arrested carrying half a wildebeest carcass.
Nine snares were collected on the 11th, four wildebeest were rescued and one was found dead.
Two people were arrested on the 12th in separate incidents. In the first one person was arrested by the Lemai swamp, with eight snares. The rangers found where six wildebeest and two zebra had been butchered. The Nigro-are rangers arrested the second person during a night ambush after they had recovered 32 snares, they also found where seven wildebeest had been butchered and rescued three wildebeest.
Two more people were arrested the following day, at 5pm at Nyakita Tone. They had 10 snares with them. The same patrol also recovered 19 snares and rescued one wildebeest. The Nigro-are rangers recovered 14 snares and rescued five animals. Sixty five snares were recovered on the 14th and four wildebeest rescued. That night our TANAPA counterparts called for assistance from Nigro-are, they had come across poachers carrying meat from five wildebeest – sadly the poachers escaped.
Three people were arrested on the night of the 15th by a joint TANAPA/Conservancy patrol across the river in Serengeti Ndogo. They had killed and butchered three wildebeest. One snare was recovered that day. Three more people were arrested in the same area two days later, on the 17th. One person was arrested during the day with a wildebeest that he had killed. The team remained and managed to arrest two more people that night as they were carrying wildebeest meat. One zebra was killed with a poisoned arrow on the escarpment near Kawai.
We continued intensive patrols along the escarpment in the Lemai Wedge and collected 69 snares on the 18th; two wildebeest were rescued and four had been butchered. That night three more people were arrested at Machechwe in separate incidents by both teams.
One hundred and thirty nine more snares were recovered between the 19th and 28th, all along the escarpment in Tanzania. Four wildebeest were rescued and one had been butchered.
Revenue and Accounts
August was our best month ever in terms of revenue collection, but surprisingly not the busiest month ever. Last August we had slightly more visitors (29,765 last August vs 28,819 this year). Not only that, but we had fewer, by 819, non-resident visitors this year and more non-paying visitors.
This August we collected the equivalent of Ksh 135,257,357 – up by 23% on last year year’s August collection of Ksh 109,913,108.
Repairs and maintenance
We took delivery of a new Land Cruiser to replace one of our old Land Rovers. It is having a body fitted in Nairobi.
We started on surfacing the new road and are more than half way, we have also installed a culvert where it was needed.
We had to shore up the culvert at Naisukut with gabions, the walls had been badly eroded in recent rain. This was a major undertaking and we hope that it will hold.
We paid for a new Tipper Truck and took delivery on the 28th. We also put down a second deposit on a new grader
We installed two new tanks at Purungat and connected the new borehole to the tanks, this now provides a good supply of water to the camp. Thanks to Wildeye for the borehole, generator and pump.
We spent time converting old murram pits into small dams and pans and also opened up the drainage into culverts, in preparation for the rains.
We improved the pit latrines at Purungat and put water into each of the toilets. These toilets are used very heavily during the high season, with hundreds of visitors from the Main Mara using them every lunchtime.
Report on focus for September
Focus for October 2019
· Complete new road;
· Collect new Land Cruiser and sell one Land Rover;
· Sell grader and finalise payment on new one;
· Touch up roads where necessary;
· Host all MCAs on 6th and 7th;
· Conduct routine maintenance at Nigro-are and Kilo 2;
· Complete work at Purungat;
· Finalise contract for main Reserve;
· Plan training on the Labour Laws;
· Continue with Immigration Post; and
· Possibly survey Reserve boundary.