Category Archives: KWS

Mara Triangle reports on running the Masai Mara

Earlier in December came some news reports of 26 elephant deaths that had happened in recent months in the Masai Mara area. This came a few months after a national uproar in Kenya over the deaths of 11 rhinos from a wildlife translocation program gone wrong,

The source of the stories on the elephant deaths was a report from the Mara Elephant Project (MEP), but the organization has since retracted the sensational claims.

That said, there’s a great ongoing series of reports on the management or the running of the Masai Mara game reserve by Mara Triangle. Written and archived monthly, the Mara Triangle reports give great insight into activities in the Mara, on topics like revenue collection, security updates (including poaching numbers), staff changes, rainfall, number of visitors, special arrivals, scientific research being done in the Mara, filming in the park and also on wildlife deaths.

Excerpts from different 2018 monthly reports

Revenue

  • March to May is the most difficult period as in those months, expenditure substantially exceeds revenue. March revenue was Kshs 30 million, and July was Kshs 98 million despite 44% of visitors not paying the Conservancy fee. In August they crossed the $1 million revenue mark for the first time ever, earning Kshs 109 million. Majority of visitors were from the Narok side which has better game viewing and management.
  • Discussions are ongoing between the Mara Conservancy and Narok County government, for the Mara Conservancy to manage all aspect of the park, through Seiya Ltd, except revenue collection, which is done by KAPS (Kenya Airports Parking Services). For that, they would retain 30% of the revenue.
  • Instances of non-residents, even Chinese tourists, posing as residents to enter the park, are common.
  • There is a high number of non-paying visitors and KAPS was asked to do a reconciliation. It found that, in April 56% of visitors to the Triangle did not pay the Conservancy.
  • They have applied to Safaricom for a Paybill number so people can use their M-Pesa to pay the conservancy fee. The Paybill number (863297) has since been activated and they hope to move to a cashless system of collections.
  • Governors Balloons started paying revenue for the first time in seventeen years.
Rains and Roads
  • In 2018, the Mara had its highest rainfall since 2006 causing flooding and heavy damage to roads. The rains in the areas were actually the highest recorded in sixty years.
  • Heavy rains damage roads and the management sometimes resorts to closing off some areas of the park. Vehicles crisscrossing off-road, in search of wildlife, only add to the problem. The County Government has directed that it does not want to see any saloon cars, in particular, the Toyota Probox, in the park.

Poaching and Wildlife Deaths

  • They document all wildlife deaths, the causes of these, and if there was a human involvement (versus death from natural causes), especially of elephants and rhinos and the recovery of the tusks and horns from the dead animals.
  • A District Warden from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) collects all recovered ivory after each piece has been recorded and signed for. 
  •  KWS now has a trained prosecutor in Kilgoris and there are discussions on how to fund a training course for non-commissioned officers on wildlife law, preparation of statements and court procedures.
  • Sniffer dogs are an important aspect of park security, tracking poachers and thieves. New dogs are imported from overseas, trained, and extensively traded by vets.
Human-Wildlife Conflict:
  • A study found that the main actors in this are spotted hyaenas (53% of instances), leopards (32%), and then lions (15%).
  • Most households lose an average of 3.5% of their livestock to predators.
  • A compensation system has been developed: a kill is reported, rangers visit the scene to verify, photos are taken, and if approved, payment is done at the end of the month. The Conservancy is then reimbursed by the Angama Foundation.

The World-famous Migration

  • This year, 2018, saw one of the worst migrations in recent years. While newspapers report that Tanzanian authorities started fires to create a barrier for the wildebeest, something that they do every year, this did not in fact delay the migration  – but this was a story put out by the tourist industry to explain why safaris they sold on the basis of the migration did not, in fact, feature the migration.

  •  The heavy rain in the Serengeti in Tanzania meant the wildebeest had enough water and grass and did not need to migrate until later. Wildebeest only move from Serengeti to the Mara if they have exhausted water and foliage.  The Mara used to have its own Loita migration, but that doesn’t exist any more as the Loita wildebeest population has crashed.
Bad Manner and Tourism:
  • There are daily complaints about indiscipline and more up-market operators are avoiding the Mara during the high season. A Dutch diplomat refused to pay fine for driving off-road and then blocked a bridge.
  • There is chaos at many crossings, with as many as 300 vehicles present some with people running between them (and some of these images were shared on social media).

  •  It is very difficult to gauge how much the wildebeest are affected by too many vehicles.  The vehicles disrupt the crossing and drive the animals to quieter spots. 
  • Drivers do not obey rules, especially when they think they are not being monitored. On the 23rd (of September) we had nearly 20 vehicles around a leopard sighting .. It is most unfortunate that we can not rely on our resident drivers, (who are well-trained and from top camps) to police themselves. 
  • Campsites are sometimes left in a mess, including two cases by professional safari guides.
Other Masai Mara findings:
  • Visitors in the year included Narok Governor Tunai, Cabinet Secretaries for Tourism (Balala)  and also for Internal Security (Matiangi). Leslie Roach who had donated $200,000 when the Conservancy was started, also visited the Triangle with her family. Also, John Ward visited Serena, a day before the 30th anniversary of his daughter Julie’s death (Apparently Serena was the last place that Julie was confirmed being seen alive). Some MCA’s visited, requesting assistance and David Attenborough also visited the Mara. He is making a film about the loss of biodiversity in his lifetime and his crew also did some filming for a Netflix series on ecological habits that will be shown in August 2019.  
  • The audit for the year to June 2018 was done by  Deloitte who reported that the Triangle had income of Kshs 263 million and a profit of Kshs 10.5 million after expenses of Kshs 252 million.  
  • KAPS removed three members of staff for possible fraud.
  • Some large Flircameras donated by WWF need repair but that organization no longer has funding for the camera project.

Mid-Week Business

Retrenchment

There are retrenchments on going on at several state corporations this month as the packages have finally being approved by the Office of the President and the cost-cutting which is going to affect several thousand employees gets underway. The Minister of Finance is soon expected to grant tax waivers to cushion the blow to employees, but the packages are nowhere near as lucrative as those golden handshakes of the 1990’s since, these days, retrenched employees are no longer paid their employers’ contribution until they are 55 years old.

Debt waiver

The Nairobi City Council has announced another six-month interest waiver for defaulters to pay the principal amount outstanding in six instalments from August to January 31 2007. Failure to pay could lead to either denial of business permits, NCC auctioning a property, or even compelling tenants (not landlords) to pay the rates.

Business news sources

Since the Nation and Standard have both made most of their business sections and archives subscriber only, the only local newspaper to have free business news online remains the Kenya Times which has a comprehensive daily business section.

Heat + Inside Man = Nairobery

A crime wave has hit Nairobi in the last month that targets banks, forex bureaus, petrol stations and business people that are executed with a lot of forward planning, inside information, and stakeouts – all resulting in millions of shillings being snatched at a go without a shot fired. Much of the blame has been directed at recently released prisoners who have resumed violent criminal lives while the police have also pointed a finger at under-paid and frustrated bank employees.

Regional Aviation

  • Uganda will get a new national airline (25% owned by the Government) called Victoria International Airways, which will begin flights from Entebbe to regional destinations such as South Africa from October 1. from Air Finance Journal
  • Precision Air of Tanzania (49% owned by Kenya Airways) will receive three ATR 42-500 aircraft and three ATR 72-500 aircraft between 2008 and 2010. from Air Finance Journal
  • African Express Airways became the first international airline to fly and actually land at the Mogadishu International airport which has been closed for 14 years.

No more yellow maize
Africa is unlikely to receive imports of US corn as food relief in the future given that the excess US farm outputs can now be diverted towards the production of Ethanol. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year.

Sports Kenya
Kenya hosts Bangladesh in a cricket match this weekend, the first major local cricket event since the 2003 Cricket World Cup match where Kenya defeated Sri Lanka.

Jobs

From the daily papers this week

Regional manager at Africa now. Apply to kisumu@africanow.org. by August 18.

Various engineers at East Africa Cables. D/L is August 18.

Fund manager, accountant and various officer vacancies at Farm Africa. Details at www.farm-africa.org and D/L is 14 August.

Institute of Security Services

  • Senior researcher Nairobi
  • Officer director and project head Nairobi

Details at www.issafrica.org and D/L is 18 August.

Kenya Wildlife Services

  • head of business development
  • manager business development

D/L is August 23.

Procurement analyst at the National Oil Corporation of Kenya. Apply to mdnock@nockenya.co.ke by 18 August.

Kenya Gazette

The Kenya Gazette is an interesting read, if only it was placed online. Here are some bits this week:

People
The Director of the Kenya Wildlife Services has revoked the appointment of Honorary Warden, Tom Cholmondeley.

Kenya has awarded the Elder of the Golden Heart (EGH) Second Class to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – who last month bought several hotel properties in Kenya.

Aviation
Several previous applicants have now been granted air licences in Kenya. Regional Air will move on after their partnership with British Airways ended and have had their license renewed for 3 years for flights to Malindi, Kisumu and Mombasa, and internationally from JKIA. Other licences issued were to 3 airlines for Eldoret – Dubai cargo flights, 2 to operate hot air balloons in Kedong (Naivasha) area, 7 airlines for Tanzania-Kenya routes, and 3 for Europe–Kenya charter flights (from Gatwick, Brussels & Madrid).

Communications
Several companies have applied for communication licences. Musimba Investments and Market Edge have applied to be premium rate service providers, Internet Africa have applied for an internet backbone and gateway licence, 3 companies have applied for ISP licences, and Africall Voice & Data has applied to set up a call centre – this will be the third call centre operation in Kenya.

Mining
2 companies have been issued mining licences to search for “base metals” in Kenya. Bwayokar Enterprises will search an 8 sq. km area in Nandi while Sundown Amalgamated will search 800 sq. km in Turkana.

Your tax shillings at work

Meru Park upgrade: Meru National Park will get a facelift that will cost 1 billion shillings. It will involve the construction of roads, buildings, fencing, and the movement of wildlife. It will be funded by the Government of Kenya, with the support of the French Development Agency

Ouko no cash: The Ouko Commission in London is caught in a cash crunch, as the Clerk of the National Assembly, has ordered them to wind up work and return to Kenya, as their stay is proving to be too expensive. Nation TV estimates that airfare cost 1 million shillings, living expenses have cost 2.7 million, and contingency costs have amounted to 1.7 million during the one, and only planned for, week that the Commission has been in London. They have been holding sessions at the Kenya High Commission, interfering with their work, and have requested a second week there. Surely the video link would have been cheaper

Men: beware of short calls: The Nairobi City Council is now arresting people seen urinating in bushes/road sides. They say they are enforcing a by-law, but is truly a money-making grab by a city that provides almost no services, yet collects taxes in so many novel ways – people caught are thrown into a council truck and taken to court where they are fined 1,000 or 2 weeks in jail if they can’t afford. However, the cost of enforcement, prosecution and punishment is likely to exceed any gains.

Get off the CEO seat gently

Life at the top is a luxurious affair, which is why when you are let go, you have to be dragged away screaming.

Prof Mwangi Kimenyi, the former Kenya Institute of Public Policy, Research and Analysis (Kippra) executive director and Dr Shem Ochuodho, former Kenya Pipeline MD, are both suing the Government for wrongful dismissal.

Parastatal reform must start at the top, and Kenya needs to have clear guidelines as to what a CEO is entitled to as Amb. Mutahura spelt out this week. Whether you hire someone from the golf course, a multi-national, the UN, or the US, there must be clear terms and conditions, otherwise, people will pull a Gachara and dictate their salaries. The Government can expect a third suit from Dr Evans Mukolwe, who was just replaced at the KWS.