Before I start!… News on the cheetah cub is good, getting better… very playful…no more fits!!
This is written by the manager of the Milgis Trust… I like his traditional way of thinking… it may be quite long… but its interesting!!
Lately there has been a real increase in elephant’s movement to the north. For the first time in almost 30 years elephants visited Mpatpat area in the northern side of the Ndoto mountains, also keleswa to the west of the ndotos and are now permanently in Seren, Kasipo and Ura areas of the ndotos. A single elephant track was seen in the aparen area in the desert. He, the elders in the area said followed an old elephant route. This elephant could be a surveyor and could soon be leading others to this area. The north is now a strategically important region for the elephants as with the human population pressure and many fences being erected throughout Laikipia, the Elephants are beginning to feel safe in the north and are starting to “spread their wings”
It is because of this situation that our focus is on the north and a team of 9 scouts and the manager went for a 5 days awareness creation in the Ldonyo Mara area. The awareness involved community meetings, video shows and slides shows. The team conducted awareness in Tunguu, Arge, Kurungu, and Gorle and many informal stop overs in Keleswa, South Horr, Ngilai and Barsaloi.
All meetings started with a short traditional blessing, recited by one of the elders. The manager then introduced the Milgis team and the purpose of the meetings and started by telling the communities about the work Milgis Trust does, explaining why the conservation work is so important, and the communities that are trying will benefit from education, medical and water projects… The manager stressed that all these benefits are coming to the community because of wild animals. He then invited each of the scouts to talk about the animal he is named after. The approach is to talk about the animal, what it is like, and its importance in the Samburu community and its role in natural environment.
Elephants. Samburu.. Ltome . scouts name…Lentukunye.
He mentioned that elephants are the biggest land mammal. They can be friendly and will co-exist with human beings if not disturbed. He said they used to be almost everywhere within Samburu but were killed for ivory by the shiftas and the Lkishili generation of the Samburu, elders concurred on this and even pointed at places where some elephants were killed just near some of the meeting venues. He pointed out how important it is now to “welcome” them back in these areas.. They are under pressure in the south and they are starting to look for places where they can be safe, probing old routes and our predictions are that very soon they will be here in ldonyo mara, and Mt Nyiru.. We are here to announce their return so that you are prepared for them. He cautioned them that when the elephants return, please do not shout or shoot at them this makes them wild.. We have had reports from Ura that elephants are destroying trees. Of course they are a big animal and need food so they will break trees… thats their food…, but if they are not scared they do less damage…
Importance to the community; the manger asked the community what they know as the importance of elephants to their culture and the following were mentioned.
- When a Samburu marries the first fire is lite using elephant dung.
- Some families can not conduct circumcision ceremonies without a piece of ivory
- Elephants are useful in opening up routes in bushy areas
- Creation of water pans
- Seeds dispersal….
The lion is the king!! Please respect him!!…. Although we know the lion kills our livestock we need to take care of them, we must conserve wild animals so that the lion can find food in the bush. If you take your livestock into the bush, and you see predator tracks, or the birds warn you, then you are the one that needs to take precaution.. We need to avoid giving our livestock to very young children to look after, and at night we need to make proper fences around our homes to prevent them from getting in.
There used to be many lions in the old days but now there is serious reduction due to introduction of poisons, said an elder; though we use to kill lions with spears the impact was not as serious as the use of poison. We should stop using poison and report any person who uses it.
Importance to the community; one elder said though the lion is a killer to our livestock it is very important in our culture as follows
- No ritual can be conducted without a lion’s skin, be it marriage, or circumcision.
- If lions were not there wild animals would be too many and we would not get enough grass for our livestock.
Wild pig ,Lguiya…..Letura
The wild pig is similar to the warthog but according to the Samburu it is blessed, because of its colouring. This animal did not exist in many places but has been on the increase in the recent years and is now found in many places. There is no serious threat to him as the Samburu do not eat its meat. However destroying its habitat is a problem for any wild animal..
Importance to the community;
- The wild pig skin is used to make colours for cow’s bells.
- Its teeth are used as totems for certain families.
Grevys Zebra…Loibor kurum..Lenegwesi
This is one of the most endangered animals. Though the Samburu do not eat it’s meat loss or competition for essential resource is causing the deaths. This wild ass is endemic to the northern part of the country and the Samburu should be happy and feel lucky to have them within their area. The elders pointed out that they still have a lot of the grevys in the desert but they said the problem is water shortage.
Importance to the community;
- Early warning system. When the nomads do not see grevys where they are usually found they know something is not normal, either enemies or predators are there.
- Zebra hide is used as medicine for a certain cow disease caused by rats.
Gerenuk, Riko …..Lemagas
This is also a rare species. He asked how many people have never seen a gerenuk, the response was that all have seen but immediately said nowadays not so often. They said after the recruitment of a scout in the area there has been an increase and two months ago they came to feed on acacia pods near the villages. He said when he was young the elders use to say a prayer to NGAI that the herders, and travellers would stumble over an animal that has been killed by a predators. He says these days this is rare, and we must reverse this… He told them that should the gerenuk be extinct predators will be coming after the livestock.
- It is believed that if you keep a gerenuk with your goats you will become very wealthy.
The manager talked on general conservation in the area and asked the community to be serious on conservation as they are very lucky, they still have what the rest of the world does not have. They need to take conservation very seriously because the human population is increasing and very soon there will be no enough space to keep livestock in large numbers. He asked them to revert to their culture which was very rich in conservation education. Traditionally the Samburu have systems that ensure ecosystem balance. The Samburu have put in place taboos that prohibit the killing or eating of meat from certain wild animals and even cutting of certain trees. The elders in the meeting gave the following feed back on these taboos
Traditional conservation mechanisms of the Samburu
The Samburu community prohibits the killing and eating of meat from the following animals;
- All grey looking animals, donkeys, lesser kudu, wild pigs, elephants, rhinos, dikdik, hare, klipspringer, female ostrich
- All black animals and birds, male ostrich, wild dogs, crows,
- All gazelles with black patches on the sides, Thomson gazelles,
- It is a taboo for grown ups to kill a young animal that is still dependant on the parents or to kill a lactating animal. Usually young boys are allowed to kill them because it is known that they rarely succeed.
The manager cautioned that this culture is slowly eroding and is part of the cause for the disappearance of wild animals in the area.
He then browsed through the following areas which he said will be part of the video and slides shows.
Erosion…… Pastoralists are entirely dependant on the environment for survival. The livestock that they depend on for food entirely depend on the environment. Conserving the environment for the pastoralists is conserving their life. Destroying the vegetation is the major cause of soil erosion. Vegetation is destroyed in the following ways
- Over grazing…keeping too many livestock
- Careless cutting of trees— for fencing, for fodder
- Forest fires
- Human settlement-clearing land for farming.
Traditionally it is a taboo to completely cut or fell a tree, “in the old days if by mistake one cuts all branches of a tree a goat is slaughtered and fat is poured round that tree trunk”, said an elder. This culture is disappearing as sights of huge trees cut down are all over. It is important that we encourage these positive cultural practises. The main reason given for the destruction of the environment is livestock survival, the manager urged the community to start thinking of keep fewer livestock that have better value in terms of milk production and meat so that they can fetch better returns. He showed the community clips showing the effects of soil erosion in many parts of the district and warned that if they don’t take care their area will soon be affected too.
Fires…. The manager also talked about forest burning and the dangers that it causes to human survival. He gave examples of many places that used to have flowing rivers and now among the driest areas in the district. The elders gave further places and one elder of the Nkimaniki age group said when they were youths, about 1950s there was plenty of water everywhere unlike this days. The manager stressed that the main cause of water shortage is destruction of the catchments areas in the mountains especially by fires. He showed clips of fires destruction in the milgis lugga.
Human wildlife conflict……. In many incidents conflicts with predators is caused by human negligence or carelessness. Some of the circumstances that can lead to conflict are as follows;
- Poor/improper fencing
- Not taking precautions with livestock in dangerous places
- Using young children to look after livestock
- Leaving livestock to stray.
We desire to see a community that grazes their livestock with the wildlife together. In this way the community will start to benefit from both the livestock and the wildlife. The moment we start benefiting from wildlife then we will start to love them.
Conclusion…. The general feeling of the community was very positive and awareness on conservation is low but with very high expectations on immediate benefits of conservation. The leaders in the area were positive and already involved in the conservation effort through Lonjorin conservation group, which is in the early stages of forming a conservancy.
Our patrol trip to the sitan area of the desert was very good and there were many tracks of gazelles and grevy zebra in the lower muran area. This area needs another trip in the future especially Lonjorin area.