Monthly Report August 2015

General

The Chief Executive met with some members of the International Conservation Caucus (ICCF) and their Conservation through Development group headed by Mr David Barron on the 4th. The Caucus is an “umbrella organisation that works to advance conservation governance by building political support, providing on-the-ground solutions and applying a natural resource wealth management framework to sustainably develop and manage the earth’s natural resources.” The group had been in Kenya to work the authorities to improve the prosecution of cases involving wildlife crime.

We held a Board meeting on the 6th and approved the new work plan for 2015/16. We also approved the Audited accounts for 2013/14 and held the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The County Assembly approved a new Ten-year Management Agreement for the Mara Conservancy on the 12th August. This now means that we can start finalising the agreement.

We spent a day with Mr James Robertson locating a new campsite near Ngiro-are. An excellent site was found and we will allow use for professional safaris from September. This area is amazing during the migration but unsuitable in the wet weather and we will only use it from July to October and possibly in February.

We spent two nights testing out a thermal imaging system. The equipment is most impressive and could greatly enhance our ability to detect and apprehend poachers. Google and WWF are supporting the use of this system elsewhere and we hope that they will also support us.

Work started on surveying the boundary with Olorien Group Ranch but it was stopped by the County Government when it became apparent that members of the community were trying to influence the surveyors to encroach the Triangle. A larger team of surveyors is due to start work on the whole boundary in September.

Research

Dr Asuka Takita has been working on a bee project in the Nyakweri forest funded by the Mitsui Foundation. This project is based on work done by Dr Lucy King in Tsavo, where she has been using bees as a bio-fence against elephant. The project is very worthwhile: it provides income to landowners, helps protect crops and encourages forest conservation. The first harvest was in September and around 250 kg of excellent quality honey was collected. The project plan to brand and certify the honey over the next few months. 100% of the profit from the sales will be donated back to the operation of the project to ensure sustainability. There are now 350 hives, with the potential to yield over 2,000 kg.

Wildlife

Drivers from Mara Engai found a dead elephant on the sixth near Kilo 2 in the Triangle – the tusks were recovered. Another dead elephant was found at Kisumu Ndogo on the 15th and the tusks recovered but were taken by KWS before they could be registered. There were reports on the same day that two poached elephant were found near Musiara, but they unfounded. This was probably the worst month for elephant mortality that we have had in recent years; not only in the Mara, but also in the Lemai.

The migration has been extremely slow at coming into the Mara – by mid-month there had been no crossings and only a few wildebeest were concentrated along the Tanzanian border. However, things changed dramatically in the last ten days of August and animals started pouring in after a couple of days of sustained rain; by the 24th there were well over 100,000 animals in the Triangle and this had increased to nearly half a million by month’s end. Suddenly lions, which had been very difficult to seen earlier in the month, were everywhere.

Tourism

This season has possibly been worse than last year – when we thought that things could not get worse. In good years the high season lasts for around four months, last year it was six weeks and this year it hardly lasted a month. It started peaking around the 20th July and by the 20th August it was already dropping off. Camps and lodges in the Triangle were projecting 54% occupancy for September – unheard of for years. The late onset of the migration will undoubtedly draw visitors, probably locals and not overseas visitors.

Mr Daniel Chu has been testing out a guided tour of the night sky at Mara Serena. The Serena airstrip appears to be the perfect spot to view the night sky with Mr Chu’s telescope. This added activity is very popular and may become a permanent feature.

Narok County closed one of the three roads down the escarpment and refused to allow the construction of a new gate at the bottom of the escarpment that had been proposed by the owners of Mara Engai and Sun Lodges.

Security

A total of 31 poachers were arrested in August and at least 1,182 snares recovered. At least 100 animals had been butchered, 22 were rescued and 23 were found dead in snares. These figures are the lowest since 2011, probably because of the late migration, rather than any significant decline in actual poaching.

We are beginning to recover large number of snares; 16 were recovered on the 2nd – four wildebeest had been killed. The next day a total of 18 snares were recovered by both teams – two wildebeest were released, two were dead in snares and one had been butchered.

The Ngiro-are team recovered 15 snares on the 4th near Daraja Mbili in the Lemai Wedge – they rescued four wildebeest and found one dead giraffe. The Iseiya team went to the same area the following day and recovered 34 snares and rescued one wildebeest; six had been butchered. There was a feeling that the poachers were camped somewhere in the vicinity and so on the 6th the rangers expanded their search and arrested four, of six, people who were camped at Limana Ndogo. The suspects reported that there was another camp and our rangers decided to set an ambush that evening. The poachers came in as early as 7.00 pm and five people were arrested, one escaped. In total, 43 snares were recovered and at least ten wildebeest had been killed.

On the 7th 126 snares were recovered in line with Ngira – at least 20 wildebeest had been butchered. A combined ranger team then crossed the river the next day and managed to arrest three people, two escaped. They had five wildebeest carcasses and 33 snares. That night am ambush was set near Sampura in the Lemai Wedge and two people were arrested with 15 snares.

Our rangers joined forces again on the 9th and patrolled Nyakita Pembe. They collected 60 snares and saw fresh signs of poachers, they also 15 – 20 poachers on the far side of the river, near Mlima Hotel. Three fresh poacher camps were seen near Nyakita Pembe when the rangers returned the following day. The Anne Kent-Taylor/Oloololo rangers found an elephant carcass about three kilometres into Tanzania – it had been shot and the tusks removed. Our Iseiya rangers checked the whole area and found a second carcass, again shot with a large calibre rifle. 112 wire snares were collected near Kasarani on the same day.

Forty-nine snares were collected on the 11th – one wildebeest was rescued, one was dead and two had been butchered. The rangers set an ambush and saw poachers in the distance but they escaped. On the 12th 27 snares were collected near Maji ya Bett – one wildebeest had been butchered. The patrols also found another poached elephant at Miungu, not that far from the other two. Again it had been shot with a large calibre rifle and the tusks taken. On the 13th 15 more snares were recovered and three wildebeest rescued.

The Iseiya team went out for a late patrol on the 14th and watched a person set his snares in the distance near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge. The managed to stalk and arrest him as it was getting dark. They remained in the area and arrested one more person at 8.00 pm with 15 snares. They also watched as a large gang, estimated at around 60 passed by in the distance. The next morning the Anne Kent-Taylor/Oloololo team found a dead elephant along the river near Kisumu Ndogo. Kenya Wildlife Service rangers collected the tusks before they could be registered. The other patrols recovered seven snares near Nyakita Pembe and rescued one wildebeest.

On the 16th our Iseiya team found a dead lion along the Bologonja River in Tanzania – one front leg had been broken. The Ngiro-are team collected 10 snares near Nyakita Pembe. On the 17th both patrol teams went out in the evening and the Ngiro-are rangers managed to arrest four people from a gang of ten near Lempise . The poachers were on their way to set snares and the rangers recovered 15. On the 18th and 19th 66 snares were recovered in the western part of the Lemai Wedge. Eight wildebeest had been butchered, four were found dead in snares and two were rescued. The Iseiya team set am ambush near some snares on the night of the 19th and managed to arrest one person at 10.00 pm with an additional six snares.

Our patrols continued to see fresh signs of poaching on a daily basis and on the 20th managed to arrest three more people who had been observed setting snares near Nyakita Pembe in the Lemai Wedge; 17 snares were recovered. Over the next two days a further 186 snares were collected in the same Miungu, Maji ya Bett and Nyakita Pembe areas. Three wildebeest were dead, two had been butchered and six were rescued.

On the 24th three more people were arrested by joint Conservancy/TANAPA patrols in an area known as Nymburi, across the Mara River. Seven wildebeest had been caught and butchered and 68 snares collected. The Anne Kent-Taylor/Oloololo scouts also went on patrol and recovered a further 92 snares and reported many animals had been butchered; two were rescued.

Four people were arrested at 8.00 pm near Kasarani by the Ngiro-are rangers on the 25th. We recovered 37 snares from the poachers, adding to a further 23 snares collected during a daylight patrol. Two days later our patrols collected a further 77 snares around Maji ya Bett and Kasarani.

Our rangers patrolled along the Bologonja River, in the Northern Serengeti on the 31st and came across at least 40 wildebeest carcasses that had been butchered.

Revenue and Accounts

July revenue – when converted into Kenya Shillings – was down by 10% on July last year – not quite as bad as anticipated, but still it represented a significant drop in revenue and reduces our chances of building up any reserves for the remainder of the year. The situation would have been much worse were it not for the 15% devaluation in the Kenya Shilling over the past year

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) conducted a compliance check on the Mara Conservancy and determined that we owed Ksh 10,214,062 (US$ 100,000) in Value Added Tax (VAT) for our management of the Mara Triangle. We have taken advice on the matter and will respond to their demand notice.

We discovered fraud involving the ticket clerks at Oloololo Gate. They were issuing what appeared to be fake tickets and pocketing the money. The perpetrators then tried to bribe a staff member who had unearthed the fraud. Two people were arrested and interrogated by the police. We also notified KAPS of another possible scam at Purungat, where people were redeeming vouchers issued by camps in the Conservancies and then not being correctly ticketed. We believe that both these incidents involved most of the revenue collecting team, maybe going as high as the IT and supervisory personnel in KAPS.

Development

Our newest Land Rover continues to give constant problems – we spent around Ksh 680,000 on new injectors and high pressure fuel pump and the vehicle worked well for a couple of days before developing another problem with the turbo charger . We hope that it has finally been repaired.

We had a series of vehicle and tractor problems but finally have all our vehicles and machinery in working order.

The road team spent two weeks working on the road to Ngiro-are. They managed to complete patching and resurfacing two thirds of the road but we still have one important section to complete.

We graded a section of the main road to Purungat.

Report on focus for August

Hold a Board meeting on the 6th August Done
Test equipment that may assist in anti-poaching Done
Burn one block Not done
Work on Management Agreement Approved by County Assembly
Work on new legislation and Management Plan Not done
Repair land Rovers Done
Continue with minor road works Done
Purchase new tyres for back-hoe loader and possibly grader Done
Survey Reserve boundary Initial survey stopped and an expanded team to start

Focus for September 2015

  • Work on new Management Agreement;
  • Work on legislation and Mara Management Plan;
  • Open culverts and drains in anticipation of rains;
  • Possibly burn one area;
  • Resurface sections of road to Ngiro-are; and
  • Survey Reserve boundary.
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