The rains continued to be well below average for this time of year, fortunately the Triangle is much better off than most areas but some of our dams and water courses have not been replenished.
Heavy rain in the first half of May meant that most areas of the Triangle were waterlogged, making travel around the reserve very difficult. Grass growth this year has been exceptional and the whole Triangle is covered in 3-4 feet of grass. However, it stopped raining in the last half of May and the grass is beginning to see and dry off.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Nderitu Wachira of Wachira and Associates on the 4th to discuss their draft audit report on Earthview. A copy of the report was sent to Mr George Orr of Earthview for comment. His comments were received and circulated to the Board.
The Chief Executive met with M/s D Bhatti and N Edwards of Syner-Med between the 6th – 8th May. They have been looking for a potential lodge site within the Mara and were advised that there will be no new camps and lodges in the Triangle in the foreseeable future. Mr Bhatti donated a fridge to the staff and will also donate a computer and digital camera for Ngiro-are.
The Chief Executive met with Dr E De Merode and the Hon François-Xavier de Donnea, a member of the House of Representatives and Minister of State in Belgium. We spent the afternoon together on the 14th and showed them areas within the Mara Triangle.
We held a Board meeting on the 17th, at which our annual work plan and budget was approved for the year starting 1st June. We also held an Annual General Meeting on the 17th, at which the audited accounts for the year ending 31st May 2005 were approved. Three founder members of the Mara Conservancy were removed at the same meeting.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Wairimu Mwangi of Deloitte Consulting to review the short listed candidates for position of Finance and Administration officer on the 30th. We selected eight candidates for interview and requested that Mr Jaswinder Soin, our current accountant also be interviewed.
The Conservancy has invited Mr Martin Forster, to re-join the Board; Mr Forster resigned on a point of principle over two years ago and we are delighted to report that he accepted our verbal invitation on the 31st.
The tall and exceptionally thick grass cover has meant that animals concentrated in a few short-grass areas along the river. On the whole animals were very difficult to see in the long grass, with the exception of elephant and buffalo, which stand up above it.
One cheetah that was seen to have cubs last month has been seen with four cubs, there is another cheetah that possibly has cubs near the four kilometer sign.
At least two lionesses appear to have cubs, neither set of cubs has been seen but the mothers are obviously lactating.
The Chief Executive has been invited by Conservation International to attend their Global Symposium 2006; the theme being “Defying Nature’s End: The African Context”. The symposium will be held in Madagascar between the 20-24th June 2006.
Mr Wilson Naitoi, one of our Alpha Scouts has started a one year course at the Koiyaki Guiding School, sponsored by Ms Alison Jones. We are most grateful to Alison for her support.
We have completed staff appraisals; the only people left to appraise are those that are currently on leave. There are a number of recommended promotions and one or two people who will not be given a new contract. These recommendations will be reviewed by a management panel at the beginning of June.
The Chief Executive held a routine meeting with staff welfare committee on the 29th to review allowances, we deferred discussion on salaries, pending the new scales negotiated between the Ministry and the Local Government Worker’s Union.
Mr Tuva Mwahunga, the manager of Mara Serena has been promoted to rooms manager of the Nile Hotel in Uganda. We wish him all the best in his new posting. He was replaced by Mr Edwin Chemisto, who had previously worked in Mara Serena before being promoted to manager of Samburu Serena and then manager of Sweetwaters in Laikipia. Despite the low season, Mara Serena continues to have excellent occupancy rates and recorded over 50% in May.
The Narok County Council have implemented the recommendations of Government Task force on fees and now charge park fees to anyone entering the Masai Mara National Reserve from the group ranches. This severely affects group ranches such as Siana, that have no viable game drive areas on their land and rely on the Reserve for all their game viewing. Siana have stopped collecting park entrance fees for the camps based on their property and are in the process of negotiating with Narok County Council an a reasonable split in revenue. They are also establishing a 50,000 acre conservation area and are looking for professional management of the area.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in April
There were no poachers arrested in May, the first month that we have had no arrests for over two years. The total number of poachers arrested remains at 568. However, as mentioned before, we are concerned about the escalation in insecurity within the region. This was manifest in an armed raid against our Ngiro-are station as described below.
On the night of the 11th May wa Kuria stock thieves stole 26 cattle from the Kipsigis near Angata Barrikoi and drove them into the Triangle. The incident was immediately reported by one of our community scouts and the rangers at Ngiro-are and Serena alerted at 11.00 pm. As our security staff tried to leave the Ngiro-are compound they were fired upon by four armed bandits, at least two of whom had AK47 rifles. Our rangers were pinned down in the station until the cattle had been driven past and the Serena team was on the verge of arriving. Our security staff then followed the rustlers into Tanzania and killed three of them in a fire fight that lasted for four hours. 24 cattle were recovered alive and two were killed by the wa Kuria. There have been numerous incidents of cattle theft involving firearms outside the Triangle over the past few months but this was the first time that the wa Kuria had opened fire on our rangers.
We subsequently received a warning that the wa Kuria were going to retaliate against us and we have had to increase our security awareness and implement a number of changes in the way we operate. We will need to provide additional security lighting at Ngiro-are and increase our stocks of ammunition in case we are attacked again.
There were no known incidents of poaching in the Triangle and virtually no signs within the Lemai Wedge. However, it appears that one large team of poachers operated on the Narok side of the river, their tracks were seen in the Triangle as they traversed on their return home and the Kokatende station in the northern Serengeti reported heavy poaching across the river. For most of the month the river was too high to cross and we were only able to assist the Kokatende team in the last few days of May.
We contracted a vehicle electrician to check and where necessary, re-wire our vehicles. The electrical systems on all our vehicles and machinery are now in perfect working order.
We have repaired many of the sections of road that were damaged by the rains and have brought forward a plan to improve two short roads that were scheduled for 2006/7.
We started grading the road to Mara Bridge and also started cutting game viewing tracks in preparation for the high season.
Revenue and Accounts
We have requested that the Council approve new park entrance fees, to be in line with the new rates advertised by the Kenya Wildlife Service for their category “A” parks. Once approved by the Council the fees can be implemented, pending gazettment by the Minister of Local Government.
The Ministry of Local Government has approved new salary scales for all Council staff, retroactive to September 1st 2005. We are awaiting formal notification of the increase but anticipate that it will cause a considerable financial burden to the Council and Conservancy; not to mention many of the poorer County Councils.
Report on focus for May
Focus for June
· Cut game viewing tracks;
· Start grading all the major roads in preparation for the high season;
· Issue staff contracts;
· Institute new salary scales;
· Purchase new tickets for the Mara Triangle in preparation for increased fees on July 1st;
· Order new vehicle, tractor and V/Sat system as per AWP;
· Recruit new Finance/Admin officer; and
· Appoint consultant for 10 year Management Plan.