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Help Benga

May 4, 2016

With all the insanity that has occurred in the last 25 minutes, none of us has noticed that the rain has stopped and now a full moon illuminates the entire camp. From my vantage point, standing in the open side door, I can clearly see our fallen and unconscious adversary only yards away from our RV. I step out of the camper and into at least an inch of standing rain water. Benjamin is next. Then Jacob. I reach up and help Makali as he steps down the ladder into a bloody puddle next to the giant fallen simba. He moves next to Jacob and we all look up at Myles. (lion roar..)

“I’ll help Benga get to the door. You Mates help him out of here.”

“You got it,” Benjamin answers. “Gently.”

Myles turns and walks back to Benga. “Kuweka mikono yako karibu na shingo yangu. (put your hands around my neck). Mimi nimepata wewe. (I’ve got you).”

With a grimace and a soft moan Benga reaches up and folds his hands around Myles’ neck. Being extremely careful with his injured leg, Myles lifts him carefully and carries him “craddle-style” to the door, being extra cautious around the uninvited intrusive acacia limb. As he approaches the door, Makali makes a move to reach up for his friend. I gently hold him back. Placing my hand on his shoulder,

“I’ve got him, Amigo. You sit this one out.” I take two steps up the camper steps and take Benga in my arms. “Benga, you are going to be alright. I’ve got you.” Benjamin helps me carry him to Myles’ Land Cruiser. Makali is supporting Bengas’ leg as we carefully walk in the golden-yellow moonlight.

“Benjamin, let’s put him in the back area of the Cruiser until we make a bed for him in the back seat. He has to be able to extend and elevate his leg. It’s going to be a long and uncomfortable ride to town. I’ll go grab some blankets and pillows. You can help by supporting his head and helping him keep his leg still, I’ll be right back.” I squeeze Bengas’ right hand. “Stay brave, soldier.” Benga squeezes my hand in return and smiles up at me.

“I’ve got him Charles,” Benjamin replies.

“Me stay, Bwana”, Makali adds.

“Yes, thought you would.”

Turning to walk back to the camper, I become aware of our now visible surroundings. In the welcomed bright moonlight  I can see the exploded and charred light pole, the devastation to the camper from the fallen acacia tree, and the damage to the door and side from the maddened male lion. I turn and look back at Benjamin.

“Oh man! Benjamin, have you ever seen anything like this?”

“No, Charles. In the daylight I’ll take some photos. No one will ever believe this.” (lioness roar)

To my left, I see that Myles and Jacob have sloshed their way over to the one-eyed female and are admiring the 2nd darted trophy.

“Chuck, ok if we drag Ms. Pop-eye over to the cage?” Jacob yells.

“Yeah, just a second. I’ll be right there. I can help.”

As I walk toward the camper, I make a quick detour and walk over to check on our caged captive. As I approach, the rain-soaked lioness crouches, growls, and leaps at me slamming into the side of the cage. She rebounds off the cage and splashes muddy water toward me as she falls backwards. I step back. The lioness stands and doesn’t retreat. I take a step closer. In a low voice, “Well, it’s almost over, Missy. Oh and, by the way, your boyfriend didn’t make it!” As I turn to walk back toward the camper, the lioness rumbles a low refrain. I’m pretty sure I just got cussed-out by a homicidal, mud caked carnivore. I mumble back, “Yeah, well up yours too!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There has been a lion attack, night before last, just south of here, near Uregi.”

December 5, 2015

“Gentlemen, another thing,” I said solemnly. “Before breakfast I was on the radio with the Game Department. There has been a lion attack, night before last, just south of here, near Uregi. That’s not very far. It seems a pride of three rouge lions, one large male, and two female, entered a Masai village and dragged one sleeping man out of his hut and into the bush. The family of the man, and the people of the village could do nothing but watch in horror as the lions pulled their victim into the darkness. The Game Warden said the report says the man was not dead as the lions carried him away. He was screaming and fighting, but powerless. The big male lion had the man by his neck. His remains were found yesterday morning. What a horrible death.”

“Oh my God,” Bryce said.

“Jabari kumasaidia ( God help them),” Makali whispered.

“Anything we can do?” Myles asked.

“I wish.  We can’t put our guests in that kind of danger, but we better watch and be extra careful,” I added.

“Lion don’t normally roam too far from their home. I’d think we’re far enough away,” Bryce said.

“Yes, hopefully, but these are confirmed man-eaters now. They will be unpredictable. All we can do is be prepared and alert,” I said.

“Charles, as you know, lion attacks are much more frequent in Tanzania than in Kenya. I can’t even remember the last time I heard of a human being mauled by lion in Kenya,” Myles said.

“Well, you are right. You know what, though, we are close to the Tanzania border. The town of Uregi is only about 20 km from the border. These three lions could easily have crossed to the Kenya side,” I said.

“We’re only about an hour drive from Uregi,” Bryce added.

“Yep, I know. A little too close for comfort. Extra careful this morning, boys,” I said, turning away.

“Let’s go get our stuff and meet everyone back here in about 10 minutes,” I said.

“Charles, do you think we should alert our three guests about the lions?’ asked Myles.

“Well, I’ve been trying to decide how to handle that. Bryce, your thoughts?”

“You know guys, I’m thinking it might be better to not worry them about it. We are going to be extremely careful and watchful. Our three guests might not sleep and be scared to even be outside. What do you think, Charles?”

“I agree, let’s just keep it quiet. I do want us to take turns keeping watch at night. If they ask, we can say it is mostly due to the hyena attack. I’ll take the first watch tonight. Bryce, will you spell me at about 2:00am?” I asked.

“You bet Bwana K. See ya’ in 10:00,” Bryce answered as he turned to head to his tent.

“Bright eyes,” I said.

“Yes, Bwana K,” answered Makali.

“You carry gun today, ok?”

“Yes, Bwana. You carry cigarettes.”

“Yes, wind in our face,” I said.

About an hour before dawn…

July 9, 2015

It is about one hour before dawn. I was startled awake by the sound of animal cries, people screaming, and a rifle blast. I jumped from my bed, threw on my trousers and boots, grabbed my open sight .375, and ran outside not knowing what I was about to encounter. Lion, leopard..? I could tell the shot came from the area behind the dining tent. Bryce was running across the campsite toward me.

“What is it?” he yelled.

“I don’t know yet,” yelling back.

Then through the darkness we saw Makali waving his arms and running our way.

“It ok now, ok now,” he said. “Clan of hyena get in chickens Modjaji brought on hunt. They kill three, but I shoot one hyena, rest run away,” he added.

“Jaji alright?”

“Yes, Bwana. When I hear noise, I make her stay inside. She scared. She screamed. Thought simba, Bwana.” Makali said.

“Yeah, so did I,” I said.

“I’ll go check on her,” Bryce said.

“Wait, I see Myles down at her tent,” I said.

“We’re ok, Boss. Everyone’s alright,” Myles yelled to us.

“I’m going to stand guard down by the dining tent for a few minutes. Bryce, would you please go let our guests know that everything is ok?” I asked.

“Makali, go check on Jaji and Myles.” I added.

“Yes, Bwana Kifaru, ” said Makali smiling.

“Man-eaters of Masai Mara”

July 2, 2015

Walking back over to his table near the window, he opens his laptop and lets it “awaken” itself. While all of his thoughts are still fresh on his mind, he wants to outline a few details and ideas.

“Think I’ll set-up a new folder in my documents named ‘ Man-eaters’,” to himself, as he types. “Just some notes, so I don’t forget.”

Man-eaters of Masai Mara

*Dr. William Opopo.. visit location .. find a track for comparing

*Location of most recent kill .. find track

*Visit village of 1st reported attack. Ask if anyone remembers any distinguishing features or appearance of simba

*Need: Myles, Makali, Benga.. think no Modjaji. Do own cooking. Benga is a decent cook.

*2 vehicles. My Land Rover, Myles..Land Cruiser. No big truck… be able to move quickly. If need a ‘capture’ cage, might be a problem

*Might consider 2 teams.. Myles & Benga, Me & Makali. Divide and cover more area.

*Ask Myles: capturing techniques

supplies needed:

*My ‘375 and Judge

*Research shipping and transport options and costs to San Diego

“Your coffee, Bwana K,” Mohammad said, placing the cup and saucer on the table. “I made a fresh pot.”

“Thank you. Don’t think I’ll be much longer.”

“No worries, Sir. We are here late,” Mohammad said.

“Oh, I know. I’ve got to drive to the city, and I need my beauty sleep ya’ know,” Charles said with a smile.

“Yes, Bwana. I’ll check on you in a few minutes,” he replied, turning to walk back to the bar.

“Thanks again, Mohammad.”

Taking a sip, he stirs in some extra cream. To himself, “close Mohammad, close to perfect.”

Setting down the cup, he types again:

*Coffee and tea bags

*No alcohol. Not this trip.

*Video equipment

*USE MINISTER NOAH MWANGI FOR BAIT!! no, guess can’t do that..

“That’s a good start,” he says to himself.

He hits ‘save document’, finishes his last sip of coffee, and closes his laptop. He reaches for his cell phone and takes it from his belt holster. He starts dialing Miles’ number as he walks again through the doorway to the outside balcony.

“Good, a strong signal,” to himself.

“Jambo, B. K.” on the third ring.

“Wow, the magic of ‘caller ID’,” Charles replied. “Glad I caught you. You at home, or out on the town?”

“A little of both, Mate. At home now, but just leaving to meet Sheila at the Hilton,” Miles answered.

“Sheila? Do I know Sheila?” Charles asked.

“Well, you’ve met. She’s the feisty red-head I took to that banquet you talked me into last month here in Nairobi. Remember?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah. The one with the so-called gorgeous sister that never seemed to make an appearance that night, or any other night, I might add,” Charles said.

“Bwana K, always with that attention to detail, and the memory of an elephant,” Myles responded with a chuckle.

“Yeah, I guess a memory for the important details. Anyway, I know you’ve got to go, but got a quick one to run by ya’, Myles. I think it will ‘tickle your

fancy’,” Charles said.

“Well, tickle me,” he responded eagerly. “By the way, where are you?” he added.

“Mount Kenya Safari Club. I was meeting with a new client of ours,” Charles answered.

“Sweet, Chuck. It’s getting late. You staying the night?” he asked.

“Well, I actually just changed my plans. Was headin’ back to Nairobi, now I’m headed to the ‘Lodge’,” Charles said.

“Ok, I’ll bite. What’s up, Bwana?” Myles asked.

“During dinner, about 2 hours ago, Meredith called me from San Diego. I was just finishing my meeting, so I asked to call her back when I was through, about 30 minutes later. Anyway, she had a call today from a dear friend of ours, Noah Mwangi,” Charles said.

“The Minister of Wildlife?” Miles interrupted. “That son-of-a-bitch. Of course, I think I only dislike him because you do. What’s up, Mate?”

“He called her regarding the man-eaters we’ve been hearing about,” Charles answered.

“Why did he call her?” he asked.

“Kenya wants her and the San Diego Zoo to do a behavior study on the lion pride, and hopefully learn how to avoid future lion attacks,” Charles replied.

“Oh baby! I should have seen this one comin’ a mile away. I smell a lion capture. Am I right, Boss? And three? Three man-eaters? Damn, Chuck!”

Myles exclaimed.

“I know, Myles. I obligated myself. I couldn’t speak for you. It does have a hint of danger to it, doesn’t it?” Charles added.

“A hint, we’re talkin’ major ‘hatari’ (danger) here, Bwana. This is the pride that killed William Opopo. What, two male and one female?” he asked.

“The report now is one male and two lioness. There has been at least one more confirmed attack,” Charles answered. “I sure do need your expertise, Myles.”

“Oh, you bet. Put me in, Coach. It’s been at least a week since I’ve had some good danger, Bwana,” Myles answered.

“Kenya is footing the tab, and Noah wants me to put together an estimate of expenses and a basic game plan. I told Meredith I’d get it to her in a couple of days. Any chance you could meet me at the Lodge tomorrow? These lions may be killing daily,” Charles asked.

“We’ve got hunt scheduled for next week, don’t we? he asked.

“I’ve already canceled, and they are willing to let us reschedule the dates. What do ya’ think, can you come to the Lodge? I could use your help with the planning?”

“Yes. Alright, I’ll head your way in the morning. I should be there by noon,” Myles answered.

“Good. Great news. I will contact Makali. I want his input on some of this,” Charles added.

“Hey, why don’t I pick him up on the way tomorrow. I’ll go right by his village,” Myles asked.

“That will be great. Good thinking. I’ll ask him to be ready about 11:00,” he said.

“I think I’d also like Benga along, Charles,” Myles said,

“Yep. Planning on that,” he said.

“Help track and also carry some of the capture gear. He has been with me on two other ‘big cat’ captures,” Myles said.

“Again, planning on it, but I don’t think we need him in on the planning, do we?” Charles asked.

“No, I don’t think so. I tell ya’, he is fearless, and he follows directions,” Myles said.

“Yes, he sure does. You and I really need to protect him. He rarely carries a weapon.” Charles added.

“Yeah, I agree. With three lion, three killers, we’ll have to be on our game, Chuck,” Myles stated in a serious, quiet tone.

“Myles, am I crazy? Did I put us in over our heads? Can we find and capture three man-eaters?” Charles asked, solemnly.

“Bwana K, we got this! You drive safely tonight. I’ll see you by noon tomorrow,” Myles answered assuringly.

“Thanks. Ok, see ya’ tomorrow,” hanging up the phone.

Putting his phone back in his belt case, Charles takes a long final gaze at Mount Kenya bathed in moonlight, then turns to head back inside. Mohammad is clearing the empty glasses and the coffee cup from his table.

“Headed for the city, Bwana Charles?” Mohammad asks.

“No, Mohammad, there’s been a change in plans. Headin’ for my lodge north of Thomson’s Falls. Big cat problems near Masai Mara. Duty calls,” he answered.

“Oh, I heard some rumor of a lion problem,” Mohammad said.

“Well, ‘Mo’, the rumor just got personal. I’m about to put an end to it,” Bwana K answered. “Check, please!”

“Yes, Bwana. I’ll bring you a coffee to go for your drive,” he replied. “Be right back, Charles.”

“Thanks, Mo.”

“One more call,” to himself, still standing. “I’ll wait ’til I’m in the ‘Rover’.”

“Here you go Bwana Charles. The dinner is on that ticket, too,” Mohammad said.

“Fine, no worries,” handing him his credit card.

“Thank you. Be right back.”

I take a sip from the water glass still on his table, Mohammad returns.

“Your copy, Bwana K, and your coffee.”

“Thank you Mohammad. Thanks for the coffee, thanks for everything. All great as usual. Asante sana rafiki (thank you friend).”

“Karibu (you’re welcome), Bwana Kifaru. Salaam safari (safe hunt).”

“Thank you, friend,” zipping his computer bag. “See you soon,” turning and walking away.

Carrying my planner and computer bag, I leave the Tusk lounge, walk past ‘Duma’s Corner’, through the lobby and into the front parking area. I had not valet parked, this time. With firearms in the Rover, it is never a good idea to let someone unknown have access to the vehicle. Too dangerous and too valuable.

I walk to the far left side of the parking area. Today I am in my 2009 Land Rover Sport. It is gun barrel silver (how appropriate), and way too nice for where I’m about to go. I usually drive my older ‘Discovery’ into the bush, but it is parked at my office in Nairobi. Using the remote key, I unlock the doors, place my computer bag on the floor behind the driver seat, and close the door. Starting the car, the ‘Eagles’ cd I was playing when I shut off the engine almost three hours ago, starts again.

Kill number six !!!

July 1, 2015

Walking to the car, the quiet night sky is filled with gnats that are attracted by the lights in the parking area. There must be hundreds on my Rover. Quickly opening my door, I jump in, close the door, and start the engine. Locking the doors, I turn on the inside reading light over the drivers’ seat. Reaching into my glove box I take my bottle of often needed hand sanitizer and squirt a worthy amount into my hands. I rub my hands together, then put the bottle away. Holding the paper under the light, I begin to read the story.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

James Majiwa

Staff Writer

Tourist killed by lions near Lolgorien

A savage lion attack took the life of tourist yesterday near the town of Lolgorien. The deceased has been identified as Michael Bridges from the United States. Mr. Bridges and his family were on a day trip visiting the Masai Mara Game Reserve, and had reportedly stopped on the side of the road due to car trouble. The attack took place at about dusk as Mr. Bridges was beginning to change his rear tire, while his wife and two young children watched waited in the car. The lions are believed to be the same pride of three that are being credited for the death of at least six others in the last ten days. All of the attacks have been in the same 10 – 15 mile area around Lolgorien and south to Uregi. The deceased was on holiday from Tuscon, Arizona, where he was a high school professor of mathematics.

Alan Burton, Game Warden in Masai Mara Game Reserve, reported, “It was a horrible and gruesome attack. The worst part is that Mrs. Bridges and the two children witnessed the whole terrifying attack. I was told that, Mr. Bridges, knelling next to his car with his back to the bush area behind him, was making jokes to his children through the open window, when a large male lion grabbed him from behind. As he was pulled to the ground, the other two man-eaters leaped from the tall grass. Apparently killed instantly, the victim was dragged into the grass and devoured, as his family watched in horror from the safety of their disabled car. Unable to go for help, they could only wait until the lions left and a good samaritan finally stopped to help.”

Signs and warnings have been posted in the area, and local residents and visitors are being warned of the serious danger.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Reaching up, I turn off the reading light, fold the newspaper, and place it on the passenger seat.

“Oh, my God. Kill number six. We’ve got to end this!” I exclaimed out loud.

“Stay alert, men,” I say, “Watch the grass!”

June 20, 2015

One minute, three minutes, five minutes. My “rhino” knee is aching, I have to adjust my position. I look at my watch. It has now been seven minutes. Seven anxious minutes, listening for sounds, watching for movements up ahead, and hoping for Makali’s whistle that all is safe. Nothing so far. In the distance I hear the song of robins and warblers. The wind seems to be swirling now. This could be very bad! Ten minutes. Nothing. Suddenly a sound of swift movement in the grass behind us. I turn, raising my rifle.

“Easy Cowboy. Careful with that thing. It could go off and hurt someone, Mate.”

“Damn, Myles.” I’ve never been so happy to see anyone before. “You made good time.”

“Felt the need to hurry, Mate.”

“Glad you two are here. Lock and load.”

Myles and Benga fall-in besides us, loaded and ready. In a low whisper I quickly update both as to the situation. The four of us re-assume our kneeled positions. Twelve minutes!

A whistle. Finally. I painfully stand and see Makali walking towards us at about 20 yards.

“Bwana! Bwana!” almost in a scream. “You no believe. No simba now. Yes, they here. Bwana you no believe!”

The four of us start walking swiftly toward Makali. “Stay alert, men,” I say, “Watch the grass!”

Makali continues to walk toward us. He is covered in mud from the crawling and I see blood dripping from a long scratch on his right arm.

“You ok?” asked Myles, reaching for his arm.

” Jambo Bwana Myles. Yes, many thorns.” His face turned cold again. “Bwana, no believe! Come see!”

Makali turns and leads the four of us toward the shadows under the trees. As we approach, from about 10 yards I see what looks like white branches or sticks laying all around the largest of the trees. At five yards I become aware of scattered pieces of clothing, a lone sandal, a badly ripped cap, and a human skull.

“Bones, Bwana. Man bones, Bwana!”

“Oh my God,” I exclaim.

“Holy shit,” utters Myles.

“Man-eaters,” says Benjamin.

Benga says nothing. He falls to his knees and begins praying.

“I’ve never seen, I’ve never even heard of anything like this,” Benjamin says.

“I count 3 skulls, so I guess were looking at the remains of as many victims,” Myles responds.

“This is their liar, their ‘trophy’ room,” I added. “I’ll use the camera in my phone, we must make a record this.” taking it out of my pocket. “Makali, what can you tell us from the tracks?”

“I am hoping you will help us employ the aid of your ex-husband, Charles,….”

April 24, 2015

“Well, what can I do to help, Noah?” Meredith asked.

“Dr. Henley, your expertise in predator behavior and genetics disorder is well documented and highly respected. Quite honestly, you are regarded as the expert in the studies of lion and leopard and what turns them into a man-eater. We have consulted with you in the past. This time we’d like to ask you to be even more involved,” he said.

“How do you mean, Noah?” she asked

“Well, not only do we need to end the terror these man-eaters have started, but would like to learn more about what causes this behavior, so we can do our best to stop this from happening again. Meredith, you are the Chief Veterinarian and Director of one of the greatest zoos in the world. We’d like to capture these three lions, have them transported to California, and have you lead a study to understand the man-eaters behavior patterns,” Noah replied.

“Minister, I’m flattered, but I don’t have any experience in game capture.” Meredith answered.

“Oh yes, I know. This brings me to the second part of this phone call. I am hoping you will help us employ the aid of your ex-husband, Charles, to be in charge of the tracking and capture. He certainly has the expertise we need to make this happen. He and his staff are respected as the best in game capture. It is my understanding that he has more ‘big cat’ capture experience than anyone in East Africa,” Noah said.

“Oh my, Noah, I know you are aware that he and I don’t see each other too often. We have two children, and Charlie comes to see them usually twice a year. We talk by phone and email about once a month,” she answered.

“Well, Meredith, I’m sure you remember that Charles and I had some angry words with each other last time we saw each other. The three of us were at your fund-raiser at the San Diego Zoo three years ago,” Noah said.

“Yes, as I remember, you accused him of flirting with your date,” she said. “Same old Charlie,” she added.

“Well, I still say he was, even though he denied it. Well, anyway, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t welcome a call from me,” Noah replied.

“You’re probably right, Noah, but you know Charlie, he can always be tempted by adventure. Adventure and pretty women have always been his weakness,” she said.

“You are certainly right on that point. What do you think, Meredith? Will you help us with this?” the Minister asked.

“Oh, Noah. You know I have a weakness for adventure too. It could be a fascinating study,” Meredith replied.

“It would be good press for your zoo, and Charlie could become even more of a ‘folk hero’ in East Africa. The Kenyan government will fund of the project,” Noah added.

“Yes, it would be good for my zoo, but I agree the study could be of great benefit to many,” she answered.

“Is that a yes?” he asked.

“Yes, I will contact Charlie and see if I can intrigue him with the promise of adventure and fame. Noah, you know he is a business man, and will ask about fees and expenses. How do you recommend I handle that?” she asked.

“I guess, just let him tell us what his offer is, and call me with that information. I’m just so pleased you will help,” Noah said.

“Well, I’ll call him. I can’t promise how he’ll react. I would like to help you and the country of Kenya. It would be an honor,” Meredith said.

“The honor will be ours, Dr. Henley. Can you call me back in a day or two?” Noah asked.

“Yes,” Meredith answered. “I need to call him anyway about our daughter Claire. She is finishing her masters in zoology and wants to work with me here at the San Diego Zoo. Charlie may not be very supportive of this, he wants her to teach. I was planning to call him today or tomorrow anyway to discuss it with him,” she added.

“That’s exciting news. I know you and Charles are very proud of her. Call me in a few days, please,” Noah said.

“Yes, I will Noah. Thanks for calling. It is a pleasure hearing from you,” Meredith answered.

“Asante sana. Kwa heri, Dr. Henley,” Noah said.

“Kirabu (Your welcome), Minister Mwangi, Kwa heri,” Meredith answered.

“Oh, what did I just get myself into?” she said to herself, hanging up the phone.

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