There were isolated showers until the 9th, when there was heavy and widespread rain.
The weather was generally dry and sunny throughout the month and followed on less than average rainfall in November. This is bound to impact pastoralists, especially in the eastern half of Narok County which is extremely dry. This in turn will increase pressure on the Conservancies and the Narok portion of the Reserve.
We held a meeting with senior KAPS management on the 13th in the Nairobi office. It was a good meeting and we agreed that a new contract would be tabled at the next Board meeting on the 12th January and hopefully signed thereafter. It was also agreed that KAPS would reduce their commission to 7.5% (down from 9%) from January 1st 2018 and that Mr Samuel Kahiga would still be our main contact person in KAPS.
Ms Lena Munge introduced to the new County Executive Committee (CEC) member for Tourism in Narok County on the 15th. Ms Munge has stepped down and may take on a different role in the County.
Mr Gilfrid Powys was killed by an elephant on the 27th on his ranch in Laikipia. Gilfrid was a major influence on my life and will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Ranger Josephine Mwita lost her father on the 7th after he was involved in a motorcycle accident.
Ranger Justus Lenana lost his mother on the 14th
Mr Emmanuel Molai was married to Ms Viona Namaiyan Mpeti on the 15th.
One injured lion was reported on the 2nd. It was a young male that had been in a fight and was virtually unable to walk as a result of the injuries. We fed it to give it sufficient strength to await treatment but it then disappeared before it could be treated. It then reappeared just before Christmas, thin but healthy.
One lioness was found dead just on the Tanzanian side of the border near the army drift on the 9th, there was no apparent cause of death, although the neck and face appeared to be swollen. On the same day Dr Limo removed a snare from a giraffe.
Our lions from the Oloololo pride are spending an increasing amount of time on top of the escarpment – leading to a spike in cattle being killed. Although we pay compensation, the lions are at real risk from poisoning or spearing and this threat is unlikely to diminish much before June 2018.
It would appear that one of our rhino has moved out of the Triangle onto Enonkishu – it is a different rhino to Naeku, who went there a few months ago. It was first reported on the 29th.
One vehicle driven by local tourists overturned near the four-kilometre junction on the 20th. The driver was obviously over-speeding and lost control on a straight section of road. Most of the lodges and camps were full over Christmas and New Year, many with local tourists.
Olonana and Batleur camps will close down in January for major refurbishment and won’t reopen for several months. This will no doubt impact tourist numbers over the next six months.
Linda Porter and John Lutenberg have delayed their trip to Kenya until January but we have started training the puppies and they are doing well.
This is the time of year when poaching is focused on hippo, warthog and, during dark nights, Thompson’s gazelle. A total of 23 people were arrested for poaching during the month – including one person who were arrested for being in possession of a lion skin and claws. Table 1, below, gives a summary of the arrests made in 2017 and then shows the total sine the Mara Conservancy started operations in June 2001.
Table 1: Arrests made, and wire snares collected, in 2017
One rhino and at least one elephant were poached in the northern Serengeti in December or late November – possibly by the same person. The Tanzanians have identified the prime suspect and hope to apprehend him in the near future.
Four people were arrested by the Ngiro-are rangers on the 2nd. One person was arrested near Nyamburi in the northern Serengeti – he as cutting down trees in the Park and sawing them into planks. That night some cattle were stolen from Angata, our rangers were alerted at 4.00 am and set up an ambush in case the cattle were driven into the Lemai Wedge – in fact they were taken in the opposite direction and away from the Park. However, the rangers did spot three poachers enter the Serengeti with spears and dogs and managed to arrest all three. They were on their way to hunt warthog.
The Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person at Binamu, along the Bologonja River, on the 5th. He and his companion were on their way to hunt warthog and our rangers found them. The following day our rangers joined forces with a team from the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) after receiving information of trophies in Ngos, a small village on the way to Lolgorien. They managed to arrest one person with a lion skin and several lion claws.
Four people were arrested on the 7th when our teams joined forces to patrol the other side of the Mara River. Two people, one of them a woman, were arrested after our rangers followed human and donkey tracks. The two were on their way to collect meat from a poached hippo. That night two more people were caught near the old Saiyari Camp when they were seen using the hand-held Flir cameras. They were carrying hippo meat and one of them had been arrested by our rangers in December last year.
Our rangers arrested two people on the night of the 11th. They had entered the Lemai Wedge and were about to hunt Thompson’s gazelle near Miungu when apprehended.
The Ngiro-are rangers set an ambush near Ngira, on the South side of the Mara River, on the 16th and saw a group of people moving fast as they hunted. They followed for hours and finally caught up with them near the Kogatende airstrip. They managed to arrest four people around midnight. The four were all young, aged between 15 and 18 and they had killed three impala and one francolin. Three more people were arrested over the following evenings: Two people were arrested on the Masanga poachers’ route at 6.00 pm on the 17th – they had dogs and spears. One more person was arrested at the same time below Kigonga on the 19th – he and his companion were hunting with machetes and dogs.
The Iseiya rangers saw eight people carrying hippo meat along Lugga ya Ngiri on the night of the 18th but did not manage to arrest anyone. The meat was dropped when the poachers saw the rangers.
One more person was arrested by the Iseiya rangers on the night of the 21st. He, and three others were hunting with torches and dogs near Sampura in the Lemai Wedge and had killed an impala. The following day the Ngiro-are rangers arrested one person near Limana in the Lemai Wedge during the day and then set an ambush that night, they caught two more people from a group of six who were hunting with torches and dogs.
Revenue and Accounts
Our revenue dropped below the corresponding month the previous year for the first time in two years (Ksh 25,466,506 compared with Ksh 26,398,503 in 2016). This is a 4% drop and is probably a reflection on the political uncertainty that prevailed in the Country. Fortunately, we now have far more political stability and hope that we can begin to attract tourists again.
Months like November, March, April and May are always very difficult for us – expenditure far exceeds revenue and unless we have built up sufficient reserves in high season we end the year just scraping through. This year looks like it will be no exception, our share of revenue for November was Ksh 10.73 million – our expenditure for the same month was Ksh 18.76 million.
Repairs and maintenance
Epinician have worked on all our radios and we now have a very effective radio system. We now have a TV screen in the administrator’s office that will enable us to track vehicle and ranger movements.
Our Wifi router burnt out and was replaced on the 11th.
We placed six signs along the border to inform people that it is illegal to enter Tanzania without authority. We have also placed “Do not litter” signs in strategic places. The worst culprits appear to be school children on organised trips, and residents – who throw out plastic bottles, bread wrappers, milk packets and plastic bags. There is hardly a day when one does not have to stop to pick up such items.
We completed the roofing over the uni-huts at Little Governors and will install guttering and water tanks in the New Year.
We moved all the wire snares into the new store.
The drift on the way to the Kichwa airstrip was badly eroded and we shored it up with gabions until such time as the drift can be rebuilt.
Report on focus for December
Focus for January 2018
· Hold Board meeting on the 12th;
· Fix drift near the Kichwa Airstrip;
· Put roofing over the uni-huts at Oloololo Gate;
· Install rainwater tanks at Little Governors and Oloololo;
· Build barrier and gate house at Kilo 2; and
· Survey Reserve boundary.