Monthly Report July 2015

General

Most of July was very sunny and hot – drying out the Triangle exceptionally fast. However, despite the grass and waterlogged areas drying out so quickly there was obviously sufficient surface water and grass in the Serengeti to delay the migration and so far only a fraction of the animals have crossed into Kenya. The western arm of the migration has not appeared at all.

The Kenya Forestry Service held their Annual General meeting on the 1st and 2nd July.

President Obama visited Kenya between the 24th and 26th to open the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and meet Kenyan leadership. The visit was deemed a success and great boost for Kenya.

The County Government has been working on developing a new legal framework under which the Mara will be governed. The Chief Executive has been co-opted into the Technical Team that is working on issues to be included in the new legislation, and on updating the Management Plan for the Mara. The Legal team is working on drafting the legislation. Hopefully this initiative will set the groundwork for the long-term and sustainable protection of the Mara.

Research

Mr Chris Dutton repaired the weather station at the Serena airstrip – the battery had died.

The Hyena project produced their latest quarterly report. In it they reported that:

  • Their Talek camp was flooded in June, the second time in 27 years, the last being in 1998;
  • They reported several cases of hyena infanticide and that many of the cubs being born are males – an indication that the clans are reaching carrying capacity?
  • Satellite images of the Talek region near N’Tipiliguani showed severe degradation from cattle tracks into the Reserve;
  • The hyena clan in the disturbed area near Talek is the largest ever recorded in Africa;
  • A significant decline in lion sightings near Talek between 2004-2008 and 2009-2013; and
  • Enormous differences in vegetative cover between the Mara Triangle and the Talek region.

In all; an interesting and informative report.

One may say that reduced vegetative cover benefits short-grass grazers; this may be true but one only had to be in the Triangle in the rains to see the abundance of birds that rely on good grass cover – species that are seldom seen in areas with poor cover. The larks, pipits, long-claws, cisticolas, quail, guinea fowl, francolin, bustards, crakes, marsh owls and the huge number of widow birds (at least four species), whydahs and red-headed quelea have few other places to breed. Not to mention all the harriers, swallows and martins that patrolled the grasslands for insects. They are a real indicator of a healthy ecosystem and the few bird lovers who came to the Mara had a real treat.

Staff

Narok County are now paying for all County staff seconded to the Triangle – a real help in these difficult financial times.

Most of our staff have taken their second round of unpaid leave and we hope that this will suffice, at least in the short-term.

Warden David Bett lost his wife after a long illness – our sympathies to him at this time.

Dogs

Morani returned to the Triangle after his eye operations – they seem much better.

Wildlife

The first wildebeest started appearing across from Purungat on the 12th but most of the herds remained near Mara Bridge and on the plains along the Tanzanian border around Myles Turner’s Hill. So far a disappointing, albeit expected, start to the migration. For the first time in years the zebra from the Loita migration have not come in before the main migration – no doubt because of the excellent pasture in Mara North and between Talek and Musiara.

Predator sightings have been difficult. The grass has been so long – and matches lion colouring so exactly – and prey species few and far between. We have been fortunate to have had seven cheetah in the Triangle for most of the month. One additional male was seen for a few days before disappearing again.

Tourism

July started extremely slowly – the worst in years. This followed on a poor June; 23% down on June last year. There appears to be no respite to the exceptionally hard year and although President Obama’s visit may have an impact, it is felt that there will be no significant improvement for one or two years.

Twenty-four people tried to enter the Triangle with “borrowed” identification documents – purporting to be citizens instead of non-residents. Our staff at Oloololo Gate discovered them.

Angama Camp has started operating – there have been one or two teething problems in ticketing but believe that they have now all been resolved. We look forward to a long and successful association with Angama.

Security

A total of 26 people were arrested in July and 47 wire snares recovered. The number of snares recovered was exceptionally low for this time of year – a reflection on the fact that the wildebeest had not begun to enter from the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. We can expect to see a significant increase in poaching activity as soon as the wildebeest approach within a relatively easy walk of the homesteads adjacent to the western portion of the Lemai Wedge.

The Ngiro-are team arrested four people at 6.00 am on the 30th June as they entered the Lemai Wedge near Lempise. The four were part of a group of six people on their way into the Serengeti to hunt warthog and were arrested with machetes, hoes and spears.

The rangers found a dead elephant in the Kisumu Ndogo forest, along the Mara River, on the 7th. It appeared to have a spear wound in the kidney area. The tusks were recovered. The patrol found no other signs of poaching activity in the area.

A joint patrol between or teams and TANAPA angers managed to arrest four people near Lempise, in the Lemai Wedge, on the morning of the 8th. These poachers were on their way to hunt and had not killed anything. The next day our Iseiya rangers crossed the Mara River and patrolled the Namalumbwa hills and Bologonga stream – they came across four poachers and managed to arrest two of them – these people had killed four wildebeest and had 20 wire snares and four spears.

The Iseiya team arrested three people at Masanja – a large thicket quite close to Kokatende in the of the Lemai Wedge – on the 11th. This thicket used to be a notorious poacher base when the Conservancy first started operating, but w had not seen any poacher activity there for several years. Three people escaped but six wire snares were recovered. The following day we joined forces with TANAPA to comb the whole area, there were fresh signs of poaching but no people.

The Ngro-are rangers arrested one person at Kokamange on the 14th, two escaped. The rangers recovered five wire snares. On the 16th the Iseiya rangers crossed the Mara River and arrested two, of five people, near the Bologonja River, they recovered 11 snares.

The Ngiro-are rangers arrested five people in an area called Mama Kendo in the Northern Serengeti. They had killed eight wildebeest by immobilizing them using machetes, to hamstring the animals before butchering them.

An Oloololo/Anne Kent-Taylor patrol found an elephant skull at Ol Donyo Olpaek on the 18th. They estimated that the elephant, a large male, had been dead for about three weeks – the tusks had been taken and we presume that the elephant had been poached.

Four people were arrested in two separate operations on the 22nd near Lempise in the Lemai Wedge. Two wire snares were recovered. The Ngiro-are team arrested one more person on the 26th in the same area. They were all taken to Kinyangaga. 16 snares were recovered on the 30th near Daraja Mbili – four wildebeest were found dead in the snares.

Revenue and Accounts

The dismal first half of the year continued into July, with very poor bookings in the first half of the month. Our June collections were Ksh 16.77 million, a 23% decrease over June last year and we can probably expect a similar drop for July. This situation would probably have been far worse if it were not for the rapid decline in the value of the Kenya Shilling against the US Dollar. The Shilling is now trading at nearly Ksh 101 : 1 US$ – it was at 86 a few months ago.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) wants to undertake a compliance audit on the Mara Conservancy.

Development

We had to replace the cylinder head gasket set on the grader – the grader had overheated and warped some of the seals. The grader then completed a light grading on all the major roads in the Triangle. In time we will probably have to re-grade most of the roads and open up the drainage ditches.

The road team spent considerable time repairing the road to Ngiro-are before we could grade it. We put in a new culvert and had to resurface whole sections.

We cut all the grass tracks for the season and the tractor then returned to trailer work.

We continued to do minor repairs on buildings.

Our Land Rovers are beginning to cause problems and we currently have both patrol vehicles out of action, one with a cracked chassis and the other with faulty injector nozzles. These vehicles should be replaced but we have severe cash-flow constraints.

Report on focus for July

Work with County Government on new Constitution for Mara Ongoing
Continue working on new Management Agreement Ongoing
Complete cutting grass tracks Done
Complete estimates for rehabilitating structures in Narok Done
Complete grading roads Done
Survey Reserve boundary Not done

Focus for August 2015

  • Hold a Board meeting on the 6th August;
  • Test equipment that may assist in anti-poaching;
  • Burn one block;
  • Work on Management Agreement;
  • Work on new legislation and Management Plan;
  • Repair land Rovers;
  • Continue with minor road works;
  • Purchase new tyres for back-hoe loader and possibly grader; and
  • Survey Reserve boundary.
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