Category Archives: Forest

Opening Eyes for the Elephants…

HORR VALLEY NOVEMBER 2nd to the 9th 2012 Milgis/MEAK Eye mission KINDLY SPONSORED by Andrew Prudnell Bruce, Ina Astrup and friends…

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This lovely Lady on the left was completely blind in both eyes, and was brought into Ngurnit in 2007.. He she is now leading another blind person in to the Mission at South Horr!

As I have mentioned many times!, the Elephants want to return to their old haunts, and Mt Nyiru is one of their favourite areas… But they are taking it very carefully as 40 years ago every single Elephant on this beautiful Mountain, and paradise for these animals, was killed by poachers.. One of The Milgis Trusts aims is to see them back safely.. This does not ‘just happen’, as there are many obstacles to tackle… One big one is the People in this area have forgotten how to live with these Gentle Giants, so NOW need to be gently reminded!..( Actually 40 years ago they probably weren’t so gentle as they were being annihilated, now they are cool!, and are ONLY looking for a safe place to live) No better way to get your message across, than to get into the communities personally and talk to them.. So why not give them a present while your at it! Give as many blind people in the area their sight back!

This a small collection of pictures taken during the week in South Horr, that says it all..

ARRIVING.. Any one with an eye problem is welcome..

DSC01294.JPG This woman is completely blind..

DSC01335.JPG The vehicles go out to the whole area and collect every one that has been screened by Daniel learaman, our warrior EYE man who can identify Cataracts and Trachoma

DSC01344.JPG After a long drive through the Chalbi desert this man takes a loooong drink.. hopefully the trip here will be worth it and he will go home with his sight..

DSC01171.JPG THIS IS STAKWELLS SPORT CENTRE IN SOUTH HORR, now turned into a eye centre!

Every one gets their Eyesight tested first ..

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Then to see the Doctor.. Dr George Odiambo Ohito, who came up with the LIONs team from Loresho Eye Hospital.. Carol, Grace, and Macharia, plus Jerry and Phylistas, DSC01186.JPG

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This poor girl below, had to have her eye removed.. But at least she will be much more comfortable..

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DSC01210.JPG The man on the left has a wonderful story… He is a Rendille man, a great character, who has been travelling for several years by foot down to wards Tanzania, buying and selling cattle.. He was on his way home finally, and was walking down the Milgis Lugga, on his way back to Korr, when he heard that there was an eye doctor coming.. He jumped on the car, and has not looked back..He had his cataract removed, and now will spread the conservation messages far and wide!!

DSC01208.JPG Lesoloyia, the Milgis Manager making up amusing soft banter at the gateway into the surgery room, so as to calm every one down!!

The scary room where it all happens,

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But they’re soon out, being carefully lead to a place to rest by our scouts..

DSC01358.JPG This woman has just had a cataract removed..

DSC01369.JPG Looking for her shoes!.. She had Bilateral TPR, as a result of Trachoma.. The Eye lashes turn into their eye and scratch until they lose the eye.. One of our main aims is to eradicate this problem.. see below..

Resting after the operation..

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DSC01366.JPG A child from the desert enjoying a a square meal.. Her Mother had a Bilateral cataracts..

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The Kitchen.. There was 6 girls and many volunteers who worked tirelessly cooking and looking after their every need around the clock, for the patients!

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Grubs up!!

DSC01280.JPG After a long Journey somebody went around and helped every one wash there hands.. Luxury!! At home they probably don’t have enough water for this…

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DSC01244.JPG these three Lady’s enjoying seeing their meal!

DSC01242.JPG At least my lovely woman had a nice meal while she was there!

Early morning cup of tea, before the Doctor comes to remove the bandages..

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DSC01314.JPG this little girl came in from kargi , she has cataracts and was referred to Nairobi.. Her grandmother accompanied her .. She had 2 cataracts done..

The wonderful happy stories after their patches are removed are special..

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Dr George did 214 operations in the week.. 182 Cataracts, and 28 Tprs and 4 others! 4 children were referred to Nairobi..

I love this picture below, its my old Rendille friend telling all the new comers from Kargi, thats all going to go well.. We had nobody in the building who could speak the language! So wasn’t it lucky he was there!

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A Huge amount of THANKS to MEAK,

DSC01381.JPG and by the way… this woman had a broken arm and came to find help… Can you believe it MEAK had an orthopaedic mission going on at the same time in Nanyuki, so she was rushed off to Nanyuki in an aeroplane, two days later she was smiling with gratefulness!!

PARAMOUNT ‘THANKS’ to Andrew and Sophie Prudnell Bruce, and Ina Astrup and all other contributers for raising the funds for this amazing mission..

Thankyou Beverly Othwein for being there for us,

LIONS Loresho Eye Hospital,

Samburu Sports Centre, and Stakwell.. who was unbelievably kind to the hundreds of people that came, and was helpful every where..

The many volunteers who worked tirelessly..

Marwell Wildlife, for lending an extra vehicle to collect the patients..
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Tropicair, for bringing the Doctors and Nurses up to South Horr for costs only..

Also so many thanks to Isabel Wilcox for all the support you give to the Latakwen Dispensary, and Rita Lekisaat pictured above with Supukan Lesoloyia, the Milgis Trust Manager..

Well done learaman..Learaman the milgis Eye Warrior.JPG

Daniel learaman, who is kindly sponsored by Jane Furse has spent the last year walking the entire area that the Milgis trust operates in and further , tying to explain to people that they need to wash there faces, in order to stop the flies laying eggs on their eye lids… The awful suffering,Trachoma that follows is not kind to any one..

Thanks to all!!

No ordinary Parents day!

The theme of this absolutely wonderfull Milgis Primary School parents day!! LONG LIVE OUR CULTURE ‘OUR’ WILDLIFE AND THEIR /’OUR’ HABITAT!!… This is our future…
DSC02634-1.JPG The Milgis Cultural Club, with their Teacher Mike Lesiantaam leading the beautiful dance, called ‘Kichome’.. The words of this song, remind people of the seriousness of getting married.. and what follows.. Urging the communities to respect marriage ceremonies, conduct marriage in an acceptable manner, and keep it sacred.. Through this process, communities are formed, through a nuclear family..

When we were invited to this special day, I had no inkling that it was going to be so special and so close to my heart and what I believe in… I told them that it was the best parents day that I had even attended in my life!! How special it was..

DSC02632.JPG The next song, touched on discipline.. respect to the elder generation.. Women and Men.. Discipline helps to cultivate peace and promote harmony among the community members.. The next song was about Wildlife, how important it is to protect and preserve.. Wildlife is sacred to to the Samburu communities, and should be protect at all costs.. So where did we go wrong?.. Who taught us to kill it? we didn’t used to…

DSC02640.JPG Thumbs up to that!! We need our wildlife!

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DSC02662.JPG The mothers!.. They sang a wonderful song of THANKS to all that had helped them get to where they are.. They have a beautiful school, with 6 classrooms, water, teachers and books.. They have Dams, Communications, health services, etc etc and they gave Pete and I two special carved and beaded sticks, as a present.. DSC02691.JPG

DSC02694-1.JPG The mothers having a break, in the shade of one of the classrooms, note the picture of Leopards, above their heads.. Every where you look in the Milgis School, one is reminded that looking after your environment is the key to a good life!

DSC02688.JPG Next was our scouts with their wonderful teacher Titus Lekirere, on a serious mission to explain the value of trees!! Trees give us every thing we need.. From Shade to wood, to fruit to browse for our Animals, from wood for fires to wood for our sticks.. From bringing the rain, and stopping desertification, to EVERY THING.. We must respect them!!.. DSC02681.JPG This last year throughout the drought, James Lentamalei, planted and managed to keep at least 30 trees alive, by bring water from 5 kms away by donkey.. He was given lots of praise by these youngsters.. Lentamaleis trees are now about 6 feet tall..

DSC02677-1.JPG it was a great gathering of the community!

Last but not least… the results!!… 3 top students of each glass..

DSC02696.JPG Class I DSC02698.JPG Class 2

DSC02699.JPG Class 3

DSC02700.JPG Class 4

DSC02703.JPG Class 5

I hated my schools that I went to, so when I was asked by the community to build a school for their children, it was a daunting prospect, and there was one condition… The school would have to be influenced by the Milgis Trusts concept.. PRESERVING THE WILDLIFE, THEIR HABITAT, AND THE PEOPLES WAY OF LIFE.. Maybe I worded the last bit wrong, but its the Culture of the Samburu, to me that is so valuable.. I’ve lived amoungst many different peoples, but none of them have the respect for each other, better than the Samburu.. They don’t need police, and jails they need elders!! Wise old people with plenty of experience!

I am so proud of our school as it follows our principals…The three .. Wildlife, Environment and Culture Clubs they have formed are so important, and are flourishing! The Head master of the School, Johnathan Loltianya handed this note to me, after I had told him how delighted I was with the way the school was going.. It described what each dance or song was about, and finished with these words!

Core values of Culture.. Culture in a community helps unite members, guides them positively, and binds them in love and harmony. Culture protects the youth from abuse, the elderly from abandonment, and it promotes respect amoungst different genders.. Without Culture , the society behaves like blind people, lost in a field of terraces, gullies and deep cliffs… CULTURE IS PEOPLE AND PEOPLE ARE CULTURE.. THEY SHOULD NEVER SEPARATE!!

The milgis Primary School…November 2011

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and below in August 2011!

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All is good!!

Million thanks to all, & good news!

First and foremost, all of us in the Milgis, and that includes the ‘wildlife’ say THANKYOU very very much for keeping up with whats going on and helping us out generously to achieve our mandate…Which is ‘ The Milgis Trust aims to conserve the Wildlife, their Habitat and the Peoples way of life, in the Milgis Ecosystem! ‘ I used to not sleep very well, with the worry of where the next cent was coming from, but its now trickling in thanks, to all you caring, good people, and to ‘Catman’, NWHS who is really helping.. We are very very grateful…

Just to remind you…

MILGIS TRUST AIMS… TO CONSERVE THE WILDLIFE

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We call this elephant.. mammoth Hes seriously cool..PA052771.JPG

The desert Warthog…

PA022652.JPG This Lesser kudu has to be a record..

THEIR HABITAT,

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Above.. the Beautiful Matthews Forest

DSC07373.JPG East Matthews

DSC07396.JPG The South/East Ndoto’s

AND THE PEOPLES WAY OF LIFE!….

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Typical scenes around a well..

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Some for me …………… And some for you!!

IN HARMONY!!!!!!!

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Milgis Trust Vehicle… You’ll all be very happy to know that we are making fantastic progress on it.. We decided to go ahead, be positive, order it, (on hire purchase, thanks to Esso Motors Nanyuki, who kindly waived the fees).. So we are delighted to tell you that the funding is coming in slowly, and surely.. !! Thanks to all friends of the Milgis.. We are very excited to have a decent vehicle now, it will REALLY HELP!.. Thanks every one !!

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And lastly, You may be wondering how lovely slinky ‘Aarge’ is doing… Shes doing very well indeed growing up fast, and still best friends with the dog!

THANK YOU EVERY ONE FOR HELPING US ‘MAKE A DIFFERENCE’!..

By the way I hope you all saw the BBC Human Planet .. ‘Rivers’ Its amazing!! Our part is all about how the nomadic people follow the Elephants to find water … Its filmed in the Milgis Lugga!.. 1.jpg

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thirsty camels!!7.jpg

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9.jpg Theres water!.. thanks to the elephants!

Ndoto Mountains and the people of isolated Suruan have a smart Nursary school now!..

Thanks to the TOTO trust UK, for raising the money..

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A colourful ceremony was held in may, to open the Nursary school..
People came from far and wide… The Women from Ora, climbed the mountain in all their finery for the occasion!

When this very isolated group of Samburu people on Suruan came to us to request help for the 60 children up here, that had no chance to learn to read or write , at the top of the northern end of the Ndoto Mountains, … I thought oooooo this is going to be interesting… This is such a beautiful place and it was our job NOT to ruin it… Not to ruin this amazing unreachable, by modern ‘means’ part of the world..The only way up is on one own two legs! ., nor to ruin these beautiful people who have lived independently, with out help…

Together we have tried!…

This is a beautiful little eco-friendly Nursery school, where ever possible the important message to ‘look after your environment’ will be conveyed!

Suruan School.jpg The whole building is built out of fallen or dead Ceders… The roof out of bark.. All built by local people, with the support of Toto Trust… What they needed was support… A teacher, food for the children, a black board…

Suruan school inside.jpg Every thing has been carved by hand… Even the little benches…

The Ndoto Mountains are basically in three parts… You have the Grassy glades of the Northern end, the dramatically vivid, peaks in the centre, and the deep forests of Manmanet…

A few years ago, I took a woman who had just climbed Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, up the Ndoto mountains… Half way up and several times again, especially after a rather unpleasant night on the edge of a cliff, night befell us before we could find a flat spot!, she told me that it was much more difficult to get to the top of the Ndotos, than it was to Climb Kili!! The Ndotos are just so dramatically scenic, and incredibly steep mountains… Every direction you look there is a view to die for!.. We have just finished what I can probably say is one my best trips, 4 days warming up with the Camels from the Base at Elkanto to the foot hills at the north End, then we took 20 porters, right over the top from North to south, then we met up with the camels again at the end.. …

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The peaks… Alimission and Upe.. From below and ‘a par’

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Upe ‘fired’ up by the last of this days sun… Ndoto Peaks Catching the morning sun

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Watching Elephants… 20 of them down in the valley… Or some of us!

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The porters getting organised to leave, and crossing the extraordinary Ndiikirr Gaina.. Where I swear the Elephants have to pull their stomachs in to get across… If not its a fall of 3000 feet to the bottom on both sides!

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The Butterflies were unbelievable, just every where!

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the forest with its carpet of Impatiens flowers and moss covered trees,the birds amazing…

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And last but not least!! Goose on safari… Standing on a VERY old Cycad trunk… He walked a least a third of the way! If he wasn’t walking he was sitting in his basket, watching where we are going!

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BUT The Milgis still has alot to do… These trees died after a terrible fire raged through in March 2009..

burn't trees.jpg While we had the opportunity we pointed out to all our 20 porters, and talked alot about it… Even the Women who greeted us all, with beautiful singing at the school, said that they will spread the word… Our guests who climbed the mountain with us, promised to give us the money to employ two scouts!!… We thought that we would take on 1 hunter gatherer from the slopes of the mountain, who knows the mountain back wards, and then 3 women, would be sponsored to be ambassadors for the Milgis!!

IS THERE ANY ONE ELSE THAT WILL HELP US CONSERVE THESE SPECIAL MOUNTAINS, or to help the elephants safely return to their old stomping grounds… THE BEST THING ANY ONE COULD DO IS HELP US EMPLOY SCOUTS.. PLEASE!!..

Elephants dare to climb Mt Nyiru…

DSC00654-1.jpg Mt Nyiru from the south…

Around 40 years ago a terrible slaughter of Elephants, and other wildlife took place on Mt Nyiru, the massive mountain to the South East of Lake Turkana,, where the Samburu say god ( Ngai ) lives… The Elephants were poached until there were none left… Some escaped, but many, many were killed, their ivory smuggled out… 2 generations of people living up on this mountain have not seen Elephants… Today ‘The Milgis Trust’ has some very good news!… Nyiru, has been graced with the Elephants return, 3 of them in March this year… They did not stay long, but they found out something they have been wanting to know for so long!… MT NYIRU IS SAFE FOR ELEPHANTS AGAIN!! For the last 3 years our scouts have been reporting that the odd Elephant had been seen heading north of the Ndoto mountains, but always turned round… Our scouts think that apart from not knowing what will happen when they get to Nyiru, lack of water en route is a big problem, which Milgis Trust with the help of the International Elephant Foundation is addressing at present.. The local people think, even hope, that these 3 Elephants have gone back to collect the rest of the herd, as they found things to be very peaceful in the forest, at Gosi Gosi.!.. 2 went back past Kurungu, and to the East of the Ol Donyo Mara range, and 1 ‘Sangalai ‘ ( lone bull ) returned via a route to the south.. This bull has been has now been seen in the North end of the Ndotos…

Mt Nyiru May 2010.JPG Mt Nyiru… Very steep to Climb!!..

The amazing thing is the route they used to climb the mountain, from the Horr valley is the one that has not been used by any one for years!!.. Some Samburu maidens went out to collect firewood, but found some very strange ‘car tracks’, on the path, so came running home to tell the men… Who were amazed to see Elephant tracks!… The Elephants followed the track that they used to use, before they were savagely decimated way back in the 1960s-80s… The Samburu people, who are very excited about this new development were amazed that they remembered the way!…

may 10 206.jpg ‘PARADISE FOR ELEPHANTS’ The Forest…

With fences going up all over the place further south, and with the recent Elephant fence being erected, across Laikipia, to ease human/Elephant conflict, it is nice to know that the Samburu people on Nyiru are happy to see their friends back… It is also mind blowing that the Elephants remember these special mountains in Northern Kenya, The Matthews, Ndotos, Mt Nyiru, and Kulal.. Its great that they are able to escape the human encroachment further south! Mt Nyiru, which is the 3rd one in these magnificent ‘Islands in the desert’, has suffered from terrible fires, lit by people who misunderstand the repercussions, either burning to clear the thick bush, and hoping to increase the grazing for their cattle, or to open up the forest so the cattle can move.. The Milgis Trust scouts keep explaining, actually this can be done by the Elephants, and very well, as they have discovered in the Ndotos!!

ONE OF MILGIS TRUSTS AIMS IS TO HELP THE SAMBURU CONSERVE THIS UNIQUE LINE OF MOUNTAINS, AND TO GIVE THE ELEPHANTS SAFE PASSAGE ‘HOME’ TO REAL ELEPHANT COUNTRY.. Mt Kulal we hope, will be their next destination!!…

There Aren’t Many Paradises Left, Lets Not Loose This One!

Let me take you back into the Matthews Range in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya… We are on a ‘safari’, that means we are on a journey, walking with camels carrying our camping equipment, and food…. We are crossing the Matthews, and on the way the plan was to conquer Matthews peak, the impressive cone shaped summit jutting out on the east side of this extraordinary mountain Range, but it wasn’t to be…I’m afraid

It started raining!! Rain!!.jpg Camels just have to smell mud, or wet grass and they are already slipping and sliding..Their feet made for the flat desert can not cope.. It became a disaster.. They couldn’t go forwards or backwards, their long lanky legs doing the splits in all directions… They are truly the ‘ships of the Sandy desert’!! We had to stop, find a place to camp … Camp.jpg Make a big fire, and have a cup of tea!, and hope tomorrow is going to be better… And by the way it was!, and we managed to get all 29 camels off the very steep mountain safely… Coaxing camels off the mountain.jpg

Its a nightmare I’ve had in my sleep before, but never lived it!!…

In the mean time just a few pictures of the beautiful things in the mountains.. This little ‘ perfect ‘ Aloe is only about 6 inches in width.. A little Aloe.jpg Growing out of this rock..

butterflies every where.jpg The Matthews are famous for their Butterflies, they were every where.. This was the only one that would sit still!… Look at the blue wash around the white patches… can anyone identify this one??

Cycads and Aloes everywhere.jpg This Cycad, endemic to the Matthews, and Ndoto ranges… Not only do they live for a long time now, but they also lived at the same time as the Dinosaurs.. Beautiful plants, and this little scene, with the Aloes, the cedars, and the rocks beats any home made garden!

Inside the forest.jpg Inside the forest..

leopard tortoise.jpg Is this a Speke’s Hinged Tortoise?? He was up high in the mountains! We did not see alot of game, but saw plenty of signs, and heard Elephant, below is a place they come to dig for salt, you can see their tusk marks in the holes, and wallow in the mud.. plenty of Buffalo, bushbuck, many tracks of small cats, mongooses and Hyenas.. place where the Elephants dig for salt.jpg

The Milgis Trust is working hard to keep the area that we cover, nearly 6000 square kms, from The Matthews Range, Ndotos and up to Mt Nyiru and all the areas surrounding these mountains, safe from destruction, and to keep the wildlife safe, and we employ 25 local scouts from the the Samburu tribe, they all have radios and GPS and record and report to base, any people destroying, or burning the forests, or trees or poaching of wildlife… We do not arrest and march the people off we call meetings, and we talk, we call it gentle conservation… We have gained great respect, through out this vast area, and I can see myself that we are winning as we have been doing Camel/walking safaris for 25 years, through this entire area, and I see a very big difference…

Please everyone can we ask you to support our ‘gentle conservation’ in the Northern Frontier of Kenya, to keep this VERY SPECIAL part of the world from being destroyed…

This is one of the Scouts meticulously [ he never went to school ] writing out his findings after a days walking through these special mountains one of the scouts writing his log.jpg His name is Lesongo, [Buffalo.. his identification] he worked for KWS for many years, and joined us when he was retired.. The community chose him as their scout for the area, he is highly respected, by every one, and is very serious about his work…

A safari through magical Matthews Range, then came the rain!!

The Matthews Range… Or as the Samburu call it ‘ Ol Donyo Lenkiyio ‘ … ‘ the dewlap of a cow’, another of the Samburus Sacred mountain ranges, in fact they say if they lose them, then its the end of the Samburu tribe, is another of those beautiful Islands in the Desert in the Northern Frontier district… Each Island is so different from the other… They are not as steep and sheer as the Ndotos, but they go up in layers, layer of ridges.jpgeach ridge, abit higher than the last, until you reach the top, averaging around 7500/8000 feet… The Forest is largely unspoilt, and vast, clinging onto the slopes, massive gnarled old trees, 100’s of years old, who could tell a story or two about the old days, and even now… Very very few people know these mountains well, in fact just a few hunter gatherers,who have lived off the forest all their lives, but they keep things secret… Wildlife is thriving up there, Elephants, Buffalo, leopard, and De-Brazza Monkeys, and a multitude of other forest animals and birds that quietly get on with their lives, tucked away from the world… Birds have no fear of humans as they hardly know what they are!, they come close up to check you out!!… When you are up in the Forest, its difficult to believe that there is another world out there… Where you all are!…Its a special place…

Samburu warriors feeling greeen grass!.jpg

Our good Friends from Austria, who have done several camel safaris with us, and avid Milgis Trust supporters, wanted this time to discover the Matthews abit more!…they wanted to stand on ‘Kimanic’, Matthews Peak!!… But I mentioned, November may not be the right time but lets try!!!

Uh Oh!!… This was the day before we left.. Rainbow, clutching on to Nantodo.jpg interesting sign, but actually the Samburu say that a rainbow holds the rain back!!… Behind the rainbow is the ‘dewlap of the cow’ The northern end of the Range..

Eerie Milgis.jpg Eerie Milgis, the morning we were setting off,,, Most extraordinary for the hot windy Milgis Lugga… Was it telling us something!!

But Up, Up, Up we went, past all the layers, to the ridge, above the Famous Ilgwe pass, where the Samburu won a big battle against the Laikipiak… Ilgwe pass.jpg The Samburu, apparently!, chipped away at the sides of these rocks with their spears, so that they could steal cattle and run, across the pass… which was impossible before! And they did, and now in memory of this very ‘famous’ or important piece of history of the Samburu when you pass, you pick a branch and put it on the pile, on either side of the pass…

Forest above Ilgwe.jpg Ilgwe pass is below..

Northern Matthews.. in the distance is Ngurnit, east side of the Ndotos

North Matthews Forest.jpg Matthews peak.. Matthews peak.jpg we didn’t make it there!!.. I started raining ,pouring… The Samburu sang with joy even if they were getting soaked…

To be continued!…

Milgis Trust scouts meeting.. big issues Sandalwood and poaching of Elephants…..

Anna, Thank you, Thankyou for your kind donation… So appreciated.. And sorry to have disappeared.. I temporarily lost my head, and left my computer, after I was given the news that our little kudu had died… His mother had been killed by hunting dogs, and he arrived very dehydrated, and had a sore stomach, which we just could not get right, and he died after a week.. We are not having much luck at the moment, Here is a picture of the beautiful animal, at the scouts meeting..

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Every two months we bring all the scouts back to base, to catch up with all that is going on in their various areas.. This means collectively they cover about 2000 kms by foot to get to the base, and back… If you are interested you can check on our main website on the map… We have 4 scouts on the west side of the Matthews range, 6 in Nairimirimo/Suiyan areas to the west of the Laana Nikan [Seiya] Lugga, between the Matthews and Kirisia hills… 3 between the Matthews and Ndoto Mountains, on the Milgis Lugga, 3 along the east side of the Ndotos, 4 west of the Ndoto mountains, and one on the south end of the Ol Donyo Maras…The base is on the Junction of the Laana Nikan/Parsaloi Luggas where it becomes the Milgis… As you can imagine they pick up quite alot of info on their way to get here, plus what has happened in their areas during the last two months and at the meetings there is generally an awful lot to catch up on… the meeting quite often goes on till the evening… The big news this month is this Sandalwood Scandal!!

For months I have been hearing of the threat!!… And finally on the 10 February the scout from Nairimirmo was tipped off !!. Lorries coming in to the east side of the Kirisia hills, to collect already cut Sandal wood, cut by community members. He went to the place with a home guard [ a police reservist]…He informed the base of the problem…Things became quite dangerous for them as they tried to stop the lorry leaving, they were offered bribes of quite considerable money, but he persevered, and kept in touch with the base station into the night, who in turn managed to raise the alarm by signalling with a torch, to Elkanto.. Finally they got to the KWS station, at Latakwen, who immediately headed off into the black of the night to help… on arrival they took over the lorry, and stayed with it for two days… The outcome is still a mystery to us??!!

Our two scouts in the Suiyan area reported a rush of Elephants back from the Kirisia hills down the Parsaloi Lugga having seen the tracks heading up a few days before… They went to investigate what was up and found a week old dead elephant… but with the tusks still in… Must be Samburu, as they had not cut the tusks out, see my last blog…..There was also signs of human tracks around.. They pulled to see if the tusks would come out, and 1 did.. They hid it well, and we called the KWS from Latakwen.. The next morning they went back to find that poachers had been following their tracks!, and had managed to pull the second tusk out.. Which they duly hid, and then went to try and find the first one… Luckily they did not find it, but our scouts found theirs! The two scouts were able to hand the tusks over to KWS… What we think is the Elephant must have been killed as the herd headed to the hills, but they must have come across more poachers further up, where we have reported poaching going on before, and come back down to relative safety.. These developments, elephant poaching, are VERY worrying and very serious…

We have also investigated what could have happened to the mother of the new born elephant calf that we took to the Sheldrick orphanage on the 15th feb.. Who sadly did not make it, with stomach problems and pneumonia.. There are a few thoughts to what happened to the mother and also why the little one died.. A few herds of Elephants that had come from the south east of the Matthews, were heading for the Ndoto mountains… Two reasons for this… One could have been poachers, and possibly the mother was killed, or too frightened to wait for such a small one..or the fact that the last bit of rain that we had at full moon was in the Ndoto mountains…If this is so why did the baby get left behind.. Our scouts can’t agree.. Some say that she got stuck in an erosion drain, but others say it was not deep enough, and the mother would have got her out…But at this stage her tracks were not around??.. others say that the mother was too young, she could have deserted the calf, before it got the all important colostrum milk… What ever happened sadly the little calf, so young, still pink behind the ears, was two days without its mother, we have found out that it was fed tea, and uji [maizemeal porridge], by the people who first found it… These people were new comers who had come in from the desert for greener pastures and had not got the message about not giving a young elephant any thing and they were only doing their best to feed the baby on what they had … Again every one is extremely sad for this loss… We live and learn and will do a new campaign throughout to explain about Elephants…

Traditional Samburu conservation methods is Milgis’ way forward…

Uh oh, Luca you are going to be busy!!…You cut these trees down in Samburuland, now you have to pay back the traditional way! Its one goat per tree and and a cleansing ceremony, in which … you need to slaughter the goat/sheep, mix the stomach contents, with the fat and pour the contents round each tree… Then you have be smeared in fat, and this can only be done by somebody who is ‘unclean’ … [Unclean meaning somebody who may have killed somebody, or has no home, a straggler lets say… In Kitchen Swahili we would call it a ‘tangatangera’…We have been delving further into the archives of the old traditional ways of conservation and its fascinating… WHERE AND WHY IS IT GOING WRONG?? … The Milgis Trust is going to try and ‘travel back down this old road’ and bring these strong rules back..

1… As I said above if you cut the branches off a tree, or cut it down you have to be cleansed, Moses Lesoloyia, our manager saw it in Baragoi area when he was a child… Woe betide you if you cut a tree that has been used for a big meeting, or special ceremony… Its just not done!

2… You can not kill an animal unless you intend to eat it… This is why the Zebras have survived in Samburu areas, as they will not eat any horse like animal..

3… If you hack the tusks out of a dead elephant, you will NEVER be able to go to a traditional Samburu ceremony again… You have to wait for the Elephant to rot, and you pull them out.. When the two Elephants died near the Milgis base in may, when the KWS [ kenya wildlife service ] arrived to check on the situation, and to take the tusks, they had to go back to base to find somebody of a different tribe to cut the tusks out, as the three men who came happened to be Samburu!! They could not risk leaving them on the elephant just in case a poacher or person looking for tusks to sell on, took them..

4.. If you kill a black animal you are unclean… IE if you kill a wild dog, then your children can not wear the traditional black skin during the circumcision time.. Also If somebody in your family kills an ostrich, then forever the children can not wear ostrich feathers in their head band after being circumcised..

Newly circumsised boys wearing the black skin, and the ostrich feathers.jpg The traditional black skin worn after the circumcision ceremony, and the ostrich feathers, LABARTAC, in the head band… possibly the guy on the left, comes from a family that killed an ostrich!! The Lesoloyia family can not wear these feathers because someone way back they don’t even know who, killed an ostrich…

This is a strange one!… If a grey animal comes into your boma/enclosure round your house.. This is a bad omen!… this includes dikdik, hare,warthog,elephant,rhino.. and any others.. They have to slaughter a goat… mix the blood, stomach contents, and fat together, and pour this mixture around the perimeter, and the elders will bless the boma… If you are knocked down by any of these grey animals you will be smeared with this same mixture, and again this has to be done by an unclean/hopeless person!! [literally translated] ie he is not going to lose any more by touching this concoction!!

We have a scout meeting at the end of tis month and will be talking about these traditions, and how we can bring them back… If you haven’t read the blog 21/12/08 it has lots more!!

While our manager travels up to the Ngeng valley its time to say thank you…also progress on another front…

I am back in the Milgis… and firstly would like to thank you all of you…Especially to Karen P, Laurens H, and Anna M… So much thanks for the donations…greatly appreciated… We appreciate every penny, and also every one that gives us encouragement in words is invaluable… …

In the mean time Moses Lesoloyia has travelled back up to the Ngeng valley to try and meet up with ‘the now famous Luca’!! as we have heard that he is in the country… Moses will give us a report on his trip, but what I gather in a short conversation, that Luca was extremely apologetic on many issues, was very pleased to see our contingency of scouts, and has assured us that no more trees will be cut down.. This was our stance from the beginning…as “What has been done can not be undone.”.. In our opinion now that the trees are down/dead,/gone he may as well get on with his research…And hopefully give something BIG back to this area??…We will also be following up on various things like the plastic streamers, tags, in the forest… whether the research money will go to saving the Matthews forest or will disappear into the system, and any other issues that have come up through this saga…

Other sweet news to the Milgis Trust is a young cheetah was found lost and hungry at Rairariti, and what would have happened before … it would have been killed , but not this time… the old man has killed one of his goats to feed it, and he has asked us to come and collect it… Moses Lesoloyia, will leave early tomorrow morning to collect it.. Tomorrow we are going to take the radio, up to the new hill, and will slaughter a goat up there as there has been such politics about our radio moving there… Only because the new councillor thought there was big money for his pockets!! All is sorted out now, and our new found friend, the baby cheetah will start his new life on the radio hill!… Then we will have to think how best we can bring it up, so as not to let it get used to eating goats!!

Also in an other area a baby gerenuk was found, and it is doing well with two goat foster mothers… We are keeping a close eye on it but hopefully it can go back to his herd!, or it will think its a goat..