The wet weather continued through December with heavy and prolonged rainstorms interspersed with a few days of sunny weather early in the month.
There were evening thunderstorms for the first few days at the beginning of the month, especially along the escarpment and between Mara Serena and Oloololo Gate. The unusually hot and dry weather towards the end of May and early June triggered an early onset of the migration, with large herds of zebra crossing into the Triangle from the 11th.
The Chief Executive met with Mr George Orr on the 2nd to discuss the Audit report on Earthview, a further meeting was held with him and the auditors for the 6th before the final report was produced.
The Chief Executive and Mr S Tunai met with Mr J Greene of Ridgeback on the 8th. Ridgeback is a security company that is offering to provide training and equipment to our staff.
The Chief Executive and Mr George Orr spent time with Taws Limited on the design for new park tickets that will become effective on July 1st. The new tickets have a number of security features that will make them difficult to forge and were delivered on the 28th June.
We ordered one new tractor, with a shovel and trailer and two new Land Rovers from the CMC Motor Group. The new Land Rovers should be ready for delivery in early July and the tractor by the end of July.
The tender committee sat through two presentations by potential consultants for the 10 year management plan on the 16th. Both consultants were very experienced in the production of management plans for protected areas but in the end the committee decided on CDC.
Dr Stephanie Dloniak, a wildlife researcher set up camp near Mara Serena on the 14th, she will be working in the Triangle for at least the next year.
Four Swedish students under the supervision of Dr Jens Jung started work on the 21st June, they will be here for two months.
There have been three vehicle accidents in the Triangle in the past month; two vehicles overturned on the road to Oloololo gate and one vehicle rolled 15 feet down the river bank.
The zebra started crossing into the Mara Triangle from the Narok side of the river on the 11th, a good month earlier than usual. The wildebeest also came in much earlier than usual, with the first few animals observed on the 14th – by the end of the month there were a few scattered groups of wildebeest in the Triangle and a greater concentration on the Tanzanian side of the border.
One cheetah, with five cubs, has been seen regularly near the Kichwa Tembo airstrip.
Two lionesses had cubs on the main Serena/Oloololo road, the cubs were seen for the first time on the 9th.
The Chief Executive spent one week in Madagascar, where he presented a short paper on Community benefits and their link to Biodiversity Conservation to Conservation International’s Global Symposium.
The Warden Operations, Mr E Nkoitoi started his annual leave on the 10th and is due back on the 20th July 2006.
We are awaiting the new salary scales from the Council, so that we can implement in July.
The camps and lodges all filled up around the middle of June and will remain full through September.
We sent a copy of the park rules to KATO at the beginning of the month for circulation to all their members. We are also printing key rules on the back of each of the new tickets, so that no one can profess ignorance.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in June
A total of 33 poachers were arrested during June, one of them in the Triangle and two along the escarpment. The remaining 30 were all arrested in the Serengeti. This brings the total arrests in five years to 601. 243 wire snares were recovered during the month.
On the night of the 3rd a routine ambush three wa Kuria poachers were seen hunting at 2.20 am well into the Lemai Wedge, unfortunately they escaped. They had killed one impala with dogs.
One Kuria poacher was arrested by the Ngiro-are team in the Lemai Wedge on the 9th, he was one of two people found fishing along the Mara River.
One hippo was found with a spear in it near Mara Serena on the 9th, the same hippo died that night. A second hippo was found butchered between Mara Serena and the river the following day. For three days we searched both sides of the Mara River and found considerable signs of poaching on the Narok side of the river. There were no indications of poachers camping along the Triangle side of the river and it was not until we looked further inland that we found their camp about five kilometres from the river, in a thicket near Benjamin’s lugga. We did locate the hippo poachers’ camp but they had left the night before. However, we did arrest one, of three, wa Kuria poachers on the 14th. They had arrived the previous night and had killed one warthog on their way in; they had two wire snares.
The Ngiro-are team, together with their Tanzanian counterparts, arrested three wa Kuria poachers on the 10th near Kokatende, on the far side of the Mara River. They were part of group of five who had not yet started hunting; 78 wire snares were recovered.
Two wa Kuria poachers was arrested by the Ngiro-are team, in collaboration with their Tanzanian counterparts, on the 14th. They were fishing along the Mara River below Kokatende when arrested.
One wa Kuria poacher was arrested by the Ngiro-are team, in conjunction with their Kokatende counterparts, near Kokatende. The poachers had killed one wildebeest; 20 wire snares were recovered.
Two Kisii poachers were arrested by the Serena team on the night of the 16th at around 11.00 pm. The poachers had killed a female eland near Kawai, outside the Reserve, by setting sharpened stakes around a maize field. The eland had jumped through an opening in the fence surrounding the field and had impaled herself through the stomach -it then went approximately three kilometres before dying. The poachers were observed butchering the animals by one of our community scouts and followed to their homestead, where they were arrested.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested by a joint Ngiro-are and Kokatende team on the 17th near the Namailumbwa hills. They were part of a group of six that were setting snares in anticipation of the migration. 50 wire snares were recovered.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested around an area we know as Watu Kumi in the Lemai Wedge on the 21st by the Ngiro-are team. The poachers had killed one wildebeest, 19 wire snares were recovered.
On the night of the 22nd the Serena team arrested five wa Kuria poachers around Watu Kumi. They were hunting Thompson’s gazelle with dogs and torches and had killed a number of gazelles by the time they were apprehended.
One poacher, from a group of eight, was again arrested on the 23rd at Watu Kumi by the Serena team. 25 wire snares were recovered. On the same day the Ngiro-are team, together with rangers from Kinyangaga, arrested three poachers at Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge. 12 wire snares were recovered.
One poacher was arrested by the Ngiro-are team, together with their counterparts from Kinyangaga, on the 25th with a machete, he was hunting near Kokatende on the other side of the Mara River. On the same day the Serena team arrested 5 wa Kuria poachers along the Mara River, downstream from Mara Bridge. The Serena team found two different poachers camps and arrested two people from the first group – this group had stayed in the area for a week and had killed two wildebeest. Three poachers were arrested from the second group of four. They had just arrived that morning and had not yet started hunting. A total of 14 wire snares were recovered.
The Ngiro-are team arrested one wa Kuria poacher , from a group of five,on the night of the 26th near Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge. The poachers were hunting Gazelle and had killed one Thompson’ Gazelle.
On the 28th two wa Kuria poachers were arrested by a joint Ngiro-are, Kokatende team near the Bologonja/Mara River junction in the Serengeti. Six wire snares were recovered.
One wa Kuria poacher was arrested on the night of the 30th by the Ngiro-are team at Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge. The poachers were on their way in to camp along the Mara River, 7 wire snares were recovered.
We cut the grass around, and also repaired the cement markers at each end of the Serena airstrip.
We completed most of our grading programme for the season by grading the roads to Ngiro-are, the main road to Oloololo and the roads going to Kichwa Tembo, Little Governor’s and Mpata Club.
The tractor completed cutting all the game viewing tracks and the road team then spent time in opening blocked culverts and repairing pot holes on the main roads.
We put up signs along the river near major crossing points to stop people getting out of their vehicles.
We painted the Ngiro-are office and will purchase a desk and chairs in July.
We erected signs along the Mara River warning people not to get out of their vehicles at crossing points.
Revenue and Accounts
The County Council approved new park fees at a full Council meeting on the 30th May; this meeting gave us authority to print new tickets in readiness for 1st July 2006, when the new fees will take effect. The new fees are set at the same values as for KWS category “A” National Parks.
Report on focus for June
Focus for July
· Repair housing at Mara Bridge and re-thatch gate house;
· Implement new salary scales;
· Collect new vehicles;
· Implement new Park fees;
· Complete grading of all roads;
· Start security training;
· Finalise recruitment of finance/admin officer; and
· Finalise appointment of consultant for 10 year management agreement.
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.
The rains continued throughout the first three weeks of April; the rains were characterised by clear mornings, heavy afternoon thunderstorms, followed by overnight showers. We then had a week of beautiful, clear weather with strong easterly winds.
Ms Alicia Keys visited Mara Serena on the 8-9th as a guest of the Serena Hotels, Ms Keys supports AIDS programmes at the coast and also visited Mombasa.
We held a meeting with driver guides and lodge managers at Kichwa Tembo on the 10th. The first part of the meeting was to discuss driver discipline within the Triangle and we started off by tabling an article from Africa Geographic titled “Migration Misbehaviour” that highlighted a number of issues relating to driver/guides in the Mara. We circulated the minutes of the meeting to all camps and also to KATO, for them to follow-up with their membership. The second part of the meeting was held with lodge managers and brought them up to date on such issues as the proposed increase in park entrance fees, the development of a ten year strategic management plan and the Conservancy’s ten year mandate to manage the Triangle.
We held a Board meeting on the 12th. Dr E de Memerode from the Africa Conservation Fund gave a talk to the Board on the fund and possible collaboration with the Mara Conservancy.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Michael Wairagu on the 14th. Mr Wairagu is an environmental consultant who was conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment on proposed developments at Kichwa Tembo. We expressed concerns about the disposal of waste water and sewerage at Kichwa in general and would like this issue to be addressed in the current situation and paid particular attention to in any new developments.
His Highness, the Aga Khan visited Mara Serena for three nights from the 17th on a private visit with his family.
Mr P Siampei attended a Masai Mara Management Association meeting in Narok to discuss an application to the Tourism Trust Fund for funding an Integrated Mara Ecosystem Management Plan. The association does not have the full support of the Councils and it really needs their support to be an effective body.
On the whole the Triangle is very empty, although there are small concentrations of grazing animals in the short grass areas near Mara Serena and Mara Bridge.
The large pride of lions that was resident around the salt lick for several months has moved into the Lemai Wedge, where there are still very large concentrations of animals on the short grass ridges between the border and Masanja and Nyanguki. Resident lions in the Triangle are struggling to find enough to eat and the lioness with very small cubs towards Mara Bridge spends all her time hunting. She has lost one of her cubs and now has three.
There were several cheetah at the beginning if the month but again most of them have moved into the Lemai Wedge in search of the very large concentrations of Thompson’s gazelle. One cheetah may have given birth in the middle of the Triangle but we have not located the cubs.
We met with the Community Scouts on the 3rd to warn them on such issues as cattle grazing in the Reserve, poaching, illegal cutting of trees and collection of firewood. They were warned that they may receive their salaries if any of the above activities continued along their sections of the escarpment.
Mr E Nkoitoi took ten days off from the 15th.
We have advertised for the position of Finance and Administration officer through Deloittes. Applications are due in by the 5th May and we hope to be able to recruit someone by the end of June.
We have prepared and circulated staff appraisal forms to the staff and will start the appraisals on the 2nd May.
Mara Serena operated at an occupancy rate of 65% for the month of April and this may reduce further in May. However, given that April and May are considered low season and traditionally have the lowest number of visitors, the Triangle is doing remarkably well. Serena have started briefing visitors on the Park and Park rules which will be of great assistance to us.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in April
There were a total of six arrests during the month, bringing the total to 568. Of the six arrests, two were of cattle thieves from Tanzania and the other four were poachers operating to the North of the Triangle. Sixty six wire snares were recovered. Two zebra and six impala were killed in snares.
There was a general increase in insecurity throughout Trans Mara in April with inter clan-conflict becoming an issue of concern. Although there was virtually no sign of poaching during the month, most of the wa Kuria were cultivating their fields, there was a considerable amount of stock theft between the wa Kuria and Masai or Kipsigis and also between the Masai clans. Stock theft became a major issue throughout the pastoralist areas of the country with constant raids in Trans Mara, Samburu, Turkana, Pokot and Marsabit districts – the after effect of the drought when people are trying to re-stock their herds through cattle rustling.
12 cattle were stolen from one of our community scouts at Kawai on the night of the 10th, unfortunately the theft was not discovered until the following morning and reported to us until 7.50 am. We immediately mobilised the rangers and the cattle were followed through the Lemai Wedge in Tanzania and into the wa Kuria homeland – the rangers were within a few hundred meters of the cattle when we had to abandon them, as we have no authority outside the Serengeti. The Tanzanian police were informed. We had set an ambush along the bottom of the escarpment in anticipation of stock-theft and the rustlers passed within a few hundred yards of the ambush without our knowledge. This incident highlighted the need for good quality night vision equipment.
A further 12 calves were stolen on the night of the 12th from Kawai; again we did not receive the report until the following morning. The cattle were discovered hidden in a valley near Ngiro-are and the community mobilised along the top of the escarpment. We managed to arrest two of the cattle thieves; unfortunately a third was killed by community members before we could save him. The matter was immediately reported to the Police, who then came to inspect the scene and claim the body. A fourth cattle thief was handed over to the Tanzanian police the following day with an arrow in his neck, he subsequently died.
Our patrol from Ngiro-are found two dead zebra in snares below an area we call “watu Kumi” in the Lemai Wedge on the 19th . They recovered 20 wire snares but could not locate the poachers.
The Serena team found 10 wire snares in the same area on the 22nd, again we could not locate the poachers. An ambush was set that night but no one returned to check the snares. On the same day the Ngiro-are team recovered 6 wire snares in an area known as Kasarani in the Lemai Wedge, no arrests were made.
Four Kipsigis poachers were arrested near Kirindon, 15 kms North of the Triangle, on the 29th by a joint, Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service and Anne Kent-Taylor Fund patrol. The poachers had killed six impala and had 30 wire snares, spears, knives and bows with arrows.
The grader was repaired and worked on some sections of the main roads that had been damaged in the rains.
We cut some of the main grass tracks and will cut them all in either June or July, depending on the rains.
The office at Ngiro-are was completed and will be painted once the cement had dried sufficiently.
We up-graded the solar system at Ngiro-are by installing more panels, the system is now working very well.
We made blinds for the staff canteen at Serena and fitted them at the end of the month.
Revenue and Accounts
March revenue remained relatively strong at Ksh 9.8 million for the month. Our accounts at the end of February indicated a cash balance of Ksh 3,739,122. This did not take into account advances of Ksh 3,303,745 made to the group ranches and Council made to assist them during the drought. We will be able to recover this amount by the end of June. We should close the financial year with about Ksh 5 million in the Bank, a reasonably healthy situation and slightly more than we had budgeted for,
The Audit of Earthview continued throughout the month, with a field visit by the auditors between the 11 – 15th. We are expecting their report in early May.
Report on focus for April
Focus for May
· Complete staff appraisals and issue contracts;
· Hold Board meeting and AGM on the 17th ;
· Submit work plan to Board;
· Paint office block Ngiro-are;
· Continue on recruitment of consultant for management plan;
· Gazette new entrance fees in line with KWS; and
· Hold staff welfare meeting.
There were a series of very heavy rain storms in the first ten days of March, leading to considerable damage to the roads and tracks, flooding all the water courses and the Olpunyatta swamp. The weather then cleared somewhat, with clear, sunny days and isolated thunderstorms and heavy showers most evenings.
The Chief Executive met with M/s Mori and Kalongo of Mpata Club on the 1st. Mr Mori reported that Mpata had received US$ 20,834.00 (Ksh 1.5 million) from the Kaidaren Trust for developing the road improvement programme; this will be paid to the Mara Conservancy. The first phase of this programme, to improve the river road between Mara Serena and Oloololo gate had been designed and budgeted for by the Ministry of Works in Kilgoris and already submitted to Kaidaren.
The 10 year management agreement was endorsed by the Minister of Local Government on the 3rd, this now means that we officially have a new 10 year mandate to manage the Mara Triangle in partnership with the County Council.
Ms Alison Jones visited the Conservancy between the 6-10th, Ms Jones is one of our original donors, without whom we would never have been able to capitalise the Conservancy.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Wairimu Mwangi, Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Management Consulting division and Mr Fred Aloo of the Audit section on the 13th to discuss the recruitment of a full-time accountant/administrator for the Conservancy. Deloitte’s will advertise and short-list suitable candidates for the final selection by the Conservancy.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Harold Wackman of the Africa Conservation Fund in the Mara and then followed it up with a meeting in Nairobi with him and their Executive Director, Dr Emmanuel de Merode on the 17th. The Africa Conservation Fund are developing a novel way of raising conservation funds through the internet and we have held preliminary discussions on raising donations through them. We have invited Dr de Merode to give a short presentation to the Board at their next meeting in April.
The Chief Executive met with Ms Amanda Feldon, a film producer/director, who would like to make a film on anti-poaching in the Mara as part of a series for Discovery/Animal Planet. We have since corresponded and are planning something for somewhere between July and September 2006.
The Chief Executive met with Mr Ibrahim Khalif of Deloitte Consulting to discuss taxation issues on the 23rd. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has responded to our request for tax exemption by requesting audited accounts since 2001. We have been advised that KRA will conduct an audit on PAYE and withholding compliance and that we will be expected to pay any outstanding taxes.
The Chief Executive attended a meeting at KWS on the 24th to discuss proposed management plans for Meru and Tsavo National Parks. He used the opportunity to meet with Rob Malpas of the Conservation Development Centre (CDC) to discuss the possibility of doing a 10 year strategic management plan for the Mara Triangle. CDC have just completed a management plan for the Serengeti and it seems ideal to match the Serengeti plan with management objectives for the Mara in terms of developing an ecosystem based management plan.
We have started work on the 2006/7 Annual Work Plan and will have it ready for review by the Board prior to a meeting scheduled for mid-May.
Most of the wildebeest left in the first few days of March, leaving a few small groups scattered around. The zebra started leaving the Triangle, heading North within the first half of March and by the end of March there were no wildebeest and virtually no zebra left in the Triangle. This seems to follow the normal pattern, when exceptionally heavy rains trigger a movement of animals out of the Triangle.
We have one cheetah with three six-week old cubs near the border; the cubs left the nest towards the end of the month and have not been seen since. There was one pair of cheetah mating near the 4km sign from the 21st for three days.
One lioness gave birth to three cubs on or around the 20th, we have had problems with tourist vehicles approaching too close and harassing the mother and Cheetah 1, our monitoring vehicle, is having to spend an inordinate amount of time protecting the mother and cubs. One other lioness from the “Benjamin Lugga” pride is due to give birth any day.
A leopard was released by KWS on the 29th along the BBC lugga, between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge. It had been trapped for killing livestock.
Mr E Nkoitoi took over legal custody of all the Council firearms through the issuance of a new firearms certificate on the 13th March. He now has 40 firearms under control, 32 of which are in the Triangle and the rest in Kilgoris.
Mr Kipas Sairowa completed a course at Ngong for road maintenance equipment, he is now licensed to operate and drive graders and shovels.
Three members of staff attended the Kentours AGM in Nairobi on the 18th.
Occupancy rates in the lodges dropped off during the month as we enter the low season.
We have scheduled a meeting will all resident driver/guides and lodge managers for the 10th April to discuss driver discipline and brief managers on proposed developments in the coming financial year. This meeting will be hosted by Kichwa Tembo.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in March
We arrested a total of 15 wa Kuria poachers during the month, bringing the total up to 462, 80 of them arrested in the past four months. Of the 15 arrests, seven were in the Triangle and the remainder in Tanzania. 67 wire snares were recovered during the past month.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested in a joint operation between the Ngiro-are team and their counterparts from Kokatende on the 2nd. The poachers had just arrived in an area downstream from Kokatende on the far side of the Mara River when apprehended, they had tem wire snares.
Four wa Kuria poachers were arrested between Daraja la Mzee and the Mara River in Tanzania on the 4th by the Serena team, they had been hunting for a couple of days and had killed a wildebeest calf. 45 wire snares were recovered. One of the four had just escaped arrest two weeks before, by submerging himself in a pool of water, and had been hunting on his own until he met up with the other three.
A routine patrol on the 8th found three wire snares in the same area, two of the snares had killed zebra, one of which had been eaten by hyena, the other was just alive when found but died minutes later. An ambush was set on the snares and three poachers came in at 3.15 in the afternoon. They were with dogs and speared a warthog as they approached the ambush. Unfortunately we were unable to arrest anyone as the ambush was sprung slightly early.
Seven wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the morning of the 10th by a combined Serena, Hammerkop, Mara Bridge and Ngiro-are operation. This followed a report by one of the Serena drivers that one poacher had been seen late the previous evening between the Tanzanian Border and Nyumba Nane –immediately following the report we mounted a small operation and an ambush but were hampered by exceptionally heavy rain. It transpired that 8 poachers had arrived during the rain in the late evening of the ninth, one escaped and seven were arrested close to the area described by the Serena driver, they had 19 wire snares and had not started hunting when apprehended.
Seven wire snares were found on the Kenyan side of the border, near the Ngiro-are swamp on the 13th, an ambush was laid but no one returned.
Seven cattle were stolen from near Kawai on the night of the 14th, the owners did not realise until morning and raised the alarm at 7.00 am. Our rangers immediately mounted a joint operation with the Tanzanians and recovered six of the cattle, the seventh was found dead, well into Tanzania. It is unfortunate that we were not told that night as we would almost certainly have recovered the cattle and arrested the thieves – as they passed one of our pre-determined ambush points in the event of cattle theft.
Two poachers were arrested at 1.00 am on the night of the 24th by the Serena Team. They were part of a large group of poachers who came into the Lemai Wedge after midnight to hunt gazelle, one Thompson’s gazelle had been killed when the two were apprehended.
We have started work on the office an Ngiro-are and the mason has now completed the walls and placed the ring beam.
We worked on the lower road between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge and have repaired most of the areas that were causing problems when wet. The main road to Mara Bridge is currently being worked on.
The grader repaired the main road between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge, unfortunately the murram is now so thin in some sections that very heavy lorry traffic breaks through the murram and causes considerable damage to the road.
Revenue and Accounts
M/s Nderitu Wachira and Associated were appointed to conduct an audit of Earthview and started work in the second half on the month.
We can expect a considerable drop in revenue over the next three months, as we enter the low season.
Report on focus for March
Focus for April
· Complete Earthview Audit;
· Recruit Consultant for 10 year management plan;
· Hold lodge managers and driver/guides meeting on the 10th;
· Hold Board meeting on 12th;
· Start staff appraisals;
· Complete Annual Work Plan and submit to the Board; and
· Complete office block at Ngiro-are.
We had a few sporadic storms throughout the early part of the month, only one or two were heavy enough to stimulate grass growth. However, there was a very heavy and widespread storm from the 24th and the rains continued in earnest until the end of the month. For most of the month we were under considerable pressure to assist the locals along the escarpment with grazing and finally gave them permission to graze their cattle along the slopes of the escarpment; most of these areas had been burnt by the Masai and offered very little grazing. The spring at Oloololo gate dried up for the first time and we had to start ferrying water to the staff based at the gate. The heavy storms in the last few days of the month alleviated a dire situation; the whole area is now green, the water has been replenished in most of the water courses and the Oloololo spring recharged. The Mara River had virtually stopped flowing in the Serengeti but the situation has slightly improved with recent rain.
The Chief Executive met with the Hon G Konchellah and Dr M Isahakia on the 7th to discuss the possibility of establishing a visitor centre in the Triangle. Dr Isahakia has been Director of the National Museums of Kenya.
The Chief Executive met with the Clerk and Chairman of the Council on the 21st to discuss issues and a familiarisation visit by the Council. This was followed by the visit by the full council on the 23rd. They had lunch at Mara Serena and then visited potential development sites for camps and lodges before going to Ngiro-are.
The tender committee, comprising M/s D Konchellah, J Robertson and J Soin sat to review tenders for the Earthview audit. They did not accept any of the tenders and we will probably seek for new tenders.
We instituted an environment day on the first Sunday of the month – our staff all went around the Reserve collecting rubbish. This will now become routine and we hope to involve the camps and lodges in collecting refuse in and around their compounds.
We still have approximately 10 - 15,000 wildebeest in the Triangle, there was a peak in births coinciding with the full moon on the 10th. The wildebeest have been following sporadic storms on both sides of the border but look as if they will stay in the short term.
The cheetah with five cubs lost three of her cubs to birds of prey on the 4-5th, she then moved her cubs. Five days later she lost her two remaining cubs, most probably to jackals. She was seen with her cubs in the evening - that night she obviously hunted and the following morning was found having fed but minus her cubs. This was most unfortunate and the second litter known to die whilst still in the nest in the past four months. “Cleopatra” the female cheetah that lost her cubs a few months ago disappeared for a while and has reappeared with severe mange that requires urgent treatment.
The lioness with two cubs near Mara Bridge also lost one of her four month old cubs somewhere between the 7-10th of February.
Dr Stephanie Dloniak submitted her annual report on predator populations within the Masai Mara for the period ending October 2005. In her report she estimated the adult hyena, lion and cheetah populations as follows:
- Hyena 424 ± 41
- Lion 269
- Cheetah 47
She estimated 60 lions in the Mara Triangle, the same estimate as ours. She was concerned about a possible 40% drop in the lion population in the past 15 years and would like to do a more in-depth and longer term study on the lion population and possibly base it in the Triangle.
A routine patrol by Anne Kent-Taylor’s scouts and our scouts from Oloololo gate found 17 dead hippo upstream from Mara Rianta. We have seen several dead hippo in the Triangle and dozens of very weak animals and can expect to see many deaths until the grazing situation improves. Hippo seem to be the worst affected but we were also beginning to see a number of thin and weak buffalo as well.
One young bull elephant was found dead near the Tanzanian border, it had slipped and wedged itself in a game trail.
Two cattle were killed by elephant along the escarpment on the 25th, there is no longer any need for people to graze their cattle along the escarpment and we will stop it immediately.
One very tame male leopard has been seen regularly in the past two weeks, we hope that it will remain in the area.
We conducted our routine staff transfers on the 13-14th.
Mara Serena ended February with 96% occupancy and has a forecast pf 91% for March. Mara Serena continues to have exceptionally high occupancy rates and outperforms all other Serena properties. They were voted one of the World’s top 500 hotels by Travel and Leisure magazine – for which we congratulate them.
Table 1 shows day visitors into and out of the Mara Triangle from other parts of the Mara in February
16 wa Kuria poachers were arrested during the month, bringing the total arrests to 547. A further 95 wire snares were recovered.
The Serena team arrested two wa Kuria poachers on the 4th, they were part of a group of four who had come into the Serengeti to hunt hippo downstream from Kokatende. No wire snares were recovered and the poachers were arrested the morning they arrived, before they had killed anything.
The Serena/Kokatende teams arrested three wa Kuria poachers on the 11th in a joint operation across the river and downstream from Kokatende. They first arrested two people and then later came across a large group of 17 people as they were entering the Serengeti. They arrested one and the others managed to escape.
The Ngiro-are team arrested three wa Kuria poachers on the night of the 16th near the Ngiro-are swamp. These poachers were armed with very heavy spears and were on their way to the Mara River to hunt hippo when apprehended. That day the same team had found 16 wire snares around the swamp. They saved one eland but found two others dead, together with one dead wildebeest and one dead zebra. Two nights later the same team made contact with a large group of poachers in Tanzania and chased them without success. The poachers had killed 7 oribi and two Thompson’s gazelle with dogs.
We set up a joint observation point with the Tanzanians on the 17th in an area along the escarpment that is heavily traversed by poachers.
The Serena team arrested two of three wa Kuria poachers in Tanzania, towards the Mara Bridge in an area we know as Daraja la Mzee on the 22nd. Both people had been arrested previously and given light sentences. This time we handed them over to the Tanzanians at Kokatende. They had killed two zebra and a topi when arrested. Six wire snares were recovered and they said that the third poacher had escaped with the remainder.
Three wire snares were recovered by the Ngiro-are/Kinyangaga teams on the 24th, they also found the carcasses of two butchered buffalo along the Ngiro-are swamp in Tanzania. The following day another routine patrol in the same area found 12 wire snares, three of which had killed animals; two zebra and one buffalo. On the same day, the 25th, the patrol arrested one wa Kuria poacher between the two bridges known as Daraja Mbili in the Lemai Wedge. The person was hunting alone and had killed one zebra and was in the process of drying it. He also had a hare that he said he has taken from a leopard and three fish that he was drying. We recovered one bow with six poisoned arrows and 17 wire snares, this was more than we normally recover from an individual and we felt that he was the third poacher who had escaped arrest in the same area a few days before.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested on the morning of the 26th at Nyumba Nane, the ridges in the Triangle between Mara Serena and Mara Bridge. They had arrived that morning and were in the process of hunting a female buffalo that was giving birth when arrested. We recovered 25 wire snares, a bow with poisoned arrows and a spear. This is the first known incursion deep into the Triangle since August 2005, when we apprehended five people in the same area.
One wa Kuria poacher was arrested along the Mara River near Kokatende on the 27th. He was one of a group of six, the others escaped across the river, who had just arrived and were intent on hunting hippo. Spears and food were recovered but no wire snares.
Two wa Kuria poachers were arrested near Wagakuria in the Serengeti on the 28th by a joint Serena/Kokatende patrol; a third poacher escaped. They had killed two zebra and a wildebeest, 16 wire snares were recovered.
We have been informed that the Tenders for the Mara Bridge to Mara Serena section of our main road were well above the funds allocated for the work. The work will go out to tender a second time and the Mara Conservancy asked to place a bid for this work. This work was originally scheduled for October 2005 and then March 2006.
We have purchased all the required items for the new office at Ngiro-are and have also stockpiled ballast, sand and stone. Building will commence in March.
The road team have continued with repairing sections of the lower Mara Serena to Mara Bridge road. The hydraulic rams for the trailer were leaking and were sent to Nairobi for repair, they were returned at the end of the month.
We sent a few parts from the grader for service and repair, in preparation for the new season.
Revenue and Accounts
Revenue continues to be higher than for the corresponding months in previous years, the high value of the Kenya Shilling reduces this increase to some extent. As we enter the low season we can expect expenditure to exceed revenue for March, April and May but we have sufficient reserves to cover the shortfall and still end the financial year with a reasonably healthy cash balance.
Report on focus for February
Focus for March
· Complete repairs on lower Mara Bridge road;
· Start building office at Ngiro-are;
· Hold Board meeting on 3rd March;
· Start preparing for staff appraisals in April and May;
· Determine way forward with or without management agreement; and
· Finalise Earthview Contract.