Help Benga

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!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About an hour before dawn…

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”

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.

At first it seems like I am surrounded by nothing but silence …

It’s about 7:20 am and the balcony is still damp from the rain last night. The clear sky is providing the backdrop for a magnificent sunrise. There is dampness in the air, but the smell of lavender seems unusually strong. At first it seems like I am surrounded by nothing but silence, but then as my senses awaken, I become more and more aware of the “morning” sounds. I can hear warblers and canaries as they great the sunrise. From my left, in the distance, I hear the distinct cry of a forest hornbill. In the large tree just on the left of the balcony, several colobus monkeys were noisily chasing each other. There is a series of splashes and “grunting” noises from the area below. I now get to do one of my most favorite things in the world. Smiling, I walk over to the balcony edge and look down on my waterhole. My family of hippos are enjoying themselves in the morning sunshine. They are probably extra joyful this morning because the edges of the waterhole are muddy from the rains. They like to roll in the mud. As I look down, a “sounder” of warthogs snort and head into the bush. Later, after the mud has dried, I will go down there and check for tracks. I think I’ve got a leopard visiting my waterhole. After about 5 minutes of staring, I finish my coffee and head inside. I’ve got to get busy. The boys will be here.

“Six eyes watching from the darkness.”

After dinner, Dr. Apopo tries to use his satellite connect with his laptop, but can’t get a strong enough signal. His report will have to wait until tomorrow. For safety, the decision is made to build the fire much larger before they retire to the truck. In the darkness, without a flashlight, they walk together toward the acacia tree. There is no moon tonight, but the light from the fire provides enough light to see their way through the grass.

Six eyes watching from the darkness. Lured by the odor of cooking meat, waiting in the tall grass. Six hungry eyes, hunting as a team. One massive, full maned, male, and two female. Driven north out of Tanzania by poachers and civilization, they have learned that man is an easy meal. This will be their fourth ‘man kill’.

The pride silently moves through the grass. Stalking Dr. Apopo, the male and one female move slowly toward the fallen acacia tree. The male simba crawls about 5 yards past the tree to have a side angle at its’ prey. The third lion has moved around behind Ogwambi. The men approach the tree. Dr Apopo is three steps ahead and the first to reach for some firewood.

It is said, that a lion can move in total silence, but as it makes a close range charge, you can hear the chilling grunting sound as it leaps for its victim. Dr. Apopo had this 2 second warning as the female came from his front leaping toward his chest, knocking him down, locking her jaws on this midsection and thrusting downward with her hind claws. The male immediately was on him from his right grabbing him by the throat and breaking his neck.

Knocking him down, she threw him to one side by his shoulder. Trying to get up, the female was on his back. Ogwambi’s last vision was the massive male coming for his face. The huge simba tossed Ogwambi’s detached head into the bushes. It was quick. It was easy.

“Man, I wonder how many she has killed?”

Benjamin is the first to reach the base camp, and parks the simba loaded pickup just behind the back of the camper. It is now about 7:00 and dark. What appears to be an almost full moon is rising behind the trees. I pull in and park to his right, Myles parks to his left. Getting out of my Rover, and using my flashlight, I join the others looking down at our captive lion secured in the back of the pickup. She is still out cold. I shine the light on its face.

“Man, I wonder how many she has killed? Look at those teeth. There is dried blood still around its mouth. Guys, let’s set up the holding cage, maybe off to this side,” pointing to the right side of the camp site. “It will be closer to the road, which will make it easier to load into Dr. Longo’s truck. We left it folded up and leaning next to the camper.”

“Copy that, Bwana. Benga, Makali, help me grab that cage,” Miles says as he turns to walk toward the motor home.

“Charles, Robert Thomas told me that there is an electricity connection in our campsite. It may be on that pole over there,” Benjamin says, pointing toward the other side of the camper. “He said we’d have outside lighting, and you can hook up your generator. I’ll go check it out.”

“That would be excellent,” I answer. “Here take my flashlight.”

From five yards away, Benga screams, “SIMBA! SIMBA!”

We are startled by a brilliant flash of lightning. A rumble of thunder rolls around us, as the wind begins to whip and swirl through the trees. Big cold raindrops, begin to fall. The lioness lets out another deafening roar, as the sprinkle instantly turns to a downpour. A clap of thunder booms from almost overhead. We turn to run for the camper. The light on the pole above us explodes from a lightning strike, momentarily blinding us and showering us with bits of glass and splintered wood. Now no light, total darkness. Makali trips and falls over someone. Another clap of thunder, followed by an instant flash of light. Jacob grabs Makali with one hand and carries him toward the motor home. Marble size hail stones are pelting us and sound like rocks slamming the camper. All but one of us reach the motor home.

From five yards away, Benga screams, “SIMBA! SIMBA!”

“Kukimbia (run), Benga!” Makali yells, turning to run back.

We all freeze in our tracks and look in the direction Benga is pointing.

“In the light flash, me see simba. Big male, Bwana!”

As Makali reaches Benga, I find that I have instinctively run back to help. His face is bleeding from several cuts and a large piece of glass is lodged in his left shoulder. The front of his shirt is turning red from the blood and spreading due to the drenching rain. As we both grab an arm and pull him toward safety, there is another lightning flash.

 

“There Bwana!” pointing toward the cage.

 

In the flash we catch a quick glimpse of the male man-eater about 30 yards away. Thunder…  then darkness.