Den Of Death

In our examination, we find twelve skulls, which is four more kills than we know about. There are many arm and leg bones. One arm, with the left hand still attached, has a wedding ring on the 4th finger. Helena really has trouble handling this find. To make it worse, I remove the ring and put it in my pocket. My bet is that it belongs to the American husband killed in Masai Mara. There are five intact rib cages. We find three men’s caps and two women’s scarves. The whole search can certainly be classified as gruesome, but in the far back right corner of the liar Noah spots a green clothing fragment. It is part of Dr. Opopo’s shirt and his name tag was still attached. Benjamin stops and points. In addition to the expected lion tracks, he identifies some Hyena and leopard pug marks.

As we finish the sweep of the Den, Noah announces that he wants to send a team of forensic specialists to the Den to conduct a thorough collection and analysis of the remains. “My hope is that some of the remains can be specifically identified. There is just too much here. This is overwhelming and way too important. Sorry, but we need professional help.”

Benjamin takes a few more photos, then we gather the three journalists and begin our somber hike back to the vehicles. With very few words spoken, we load up and head to Lolgorien.

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Surrounded (trapped in camper)

The lightning has knocked out our electricity, there is no light. Myles uses his flashlight and finds the switch to turn on the interior lights. We have light. Using battery power we probably have 3 – 4 hours before it is dead. To switch to generator power, I’d have to go outside and remove it from the storage hatch and fire it up. Not a very safe idea right now. Jacob helps Benga to a seat at the dining table. He is shivering and visibly shaken-up. The sound of hail hammering the camper is deafening.
“Watch your head, Jacob. This thing only has a 6 1/2 foot ceiling. It is too small for five people.”
“Well, thank goodness we could get inside as quickly as we did. Crowded or not, it’s all we have to protect us,” Jacob answers. He starts helping Benga.
In a whisper, “Awabariki, Makali (bless you). Shukrani, (thank you) Bwana Kifaru.”
I reach out and touch his hand, “Wewe ni kuwakaribisha rafiki yangu (you are welcome, my friend).”
Makali simply lays his hand on Bengas’ face and smiles into his eyes.
“Hold still, Benga. I’m afraid this is going to hurt.” Jacob, wrapping his hand in a towel, pulls the glass from his shoulder. It is deeper than it first appeared and is bleeding badly.
“Chuck, where is your first aid kit?”
“In my black duffel bag in the front seat. I’ll get it.” I glance out the side window and don’t see the simba. I hand the bag to Jacob.
“Miles, put pressure on this while I get some bandages ready.”
Jacob rips open a package of gauze and finds the surgical tape. A mighty thunder blast rattles the camper. The cabinet over the refrigerator opens from the shaking and a cup shatters on the floor. We all jump from the noise.
“Sorry, I need to tear your shirt.”
“Ok, Bwana. Asante.”
“You’re welcome. Looks like the bleeding is stopping. Let me clean it first with this antiseptic. You may need some stitches, it’s pretty deep. Benga, I’m making a large gauze patch – now taping it down. Here, use this towel to clean your face. There ya’ go. Good job being prepared Chuck.”
“We always carry a first aid kit. It’s come in handy more than once.”
The continuous illuminating by lightning strikes is like constant flashbulbs going off all around us. This 25′ Iveco Discoverer 4 camper is only 7 ft wide and has windows on all four sides. The windows are 5 feet off the ground. The largest is a double window over the table and chairs where Jacob is tending to Benga. It is facing the wind and is taking some direct hits from the hail stones that are now noticeably larger. The light flashes are almost blinding and the power of the wind is rocking the camper.
“Watch out for the big window, it may explode! Myles and Makali, pick a smaller window and look for the killers.”
“I’ve got this back window, Makali.”
“Me take this one.”
“I’ll take the front windshield,” as I slide into the passenger seat in the cab.
The lightning flashes have slowed to one about every 6 seconds. The rain continues to fall in sheets. Between the flashes, I see nothing from my vantage point but the flooding ground in front of the camper.

“Bwana, big male simba near cage! Cage have much water around, but she simba ok. Now he gone Bwana.”
“Miles, watch for that big male. Do you see “one-eyed” female?”
“No, Chuck. I’ve got nothing.”
“There he is! He’s coming around camper toward you, Miles!”
“Ok. I’m watching. Nothing yet!”
“Bwana, one eye simba! There is one eye simba! She run toward you, Bwana Miles.”
“Yeah, see ’em both. They both just ran by my back window.”
“Got them up here! Now they’re heading back toward you Miles. What are they doing?”
Makali stands and steps away from his side window vantage point. He looks directly at me. (This is only the second time that I have witnessed fear in his eyes.) In a soft but firm voice, “Bwana, simba are circling us. They surround us, Bwana.”
Benga jumps to his feet and yells, “They attack us, Bwana! They prepare attack, Bwana.”
“Oh my God, Chuck. They are searching for a way to get to us!”
“Jacob, my friend, did you bring a weapon?”
“It’s in my truck. I’m sorry!”
“Here, Mate. Take my .375. I’ve got my 12 gauge. If anything happens, it will be at close range.”
“Thanks, Myles,” taking the rifle and facing the other side window.
“Good idea for all of us to lock and load! Benjamin, do you have your rifle?”
“Yes Charles, right here – and it’s loaded.”
“Tranquilizer gun?”
“It’s leaning against the wall, right here.”
“Loaded?”
“Yes, Charles.”
“Benga – do you feel well enough to hold your rifle?”
“Yes, Bwana K. Me stay near this window.”
“Everyone, we are in tight quarters. Stay alert and watch all sides. Point those guns always toward the windows – away from each other,” screaming to be heard over the sound of the hail hammering the camper.

Turning to return to my post at the front window, there is another booming thunder clap, and the camper seems to almost elevate from a powerful wind gust. There is a deafening explosion from near overhead. I am knocked off my feet and thrown against the wall close to the driver compartment. Benga falls out of his seat and yells in pain. I see Jacob slam into the refrigerator. His impact shakes open the cabinet and a whole stack of plates hit the floor. The interior lights flash off momentarily, then back on. The explosion is followed by a blinding flash of light. The air is filled with sparks and flying debris. Through the front window, I see a large acacia tree engulfed in flames and falling toward the camper.

“Watch out!” is all I have time to scream.

There is a violent crash and a sound similar to a bomb detonating over our heads. The flaming tree slams into the roof of the camper throwing us all to the floor. The three ceiling lights in the front and mid section of camper flash and short-out. A giant limb extending from the tree trunk like a sword, stabs through the ceiling as if it were made of paper, barely missing Benga, breaking the table in half, and planting its jagged point 6 inches into the floor. The large limb must be a foot around and is blocking a clear path to the door. The ceiling has been ripped open and the large acacia limb, still smoldering, is steaming and filling the camper with musty smelling smoke. Rain water is pouring in. The gash is about five feet long and at least a foot wide. I jump to my feet. There are two small lights still providing a small amount of light in the back window area. Remarkably, no one seems to be hurt. Benjamin is standing and helping Makali to his feet. There are several other gashes in the ceiling from the impact, and large amounts of rain are beginning to flow into the camper from these holes. The roof has been crushed down about a foot from the trees’ weight, and the floor is covered with pieces of shattered branches, wet leaves, and chips of still sizzling tree bark. The continuous flood of rain instantly extinguished the flame engulfed tree. I take a step forward and offer my hand to help Myles stand. Before I can reach him, there is a violent collision against the right side of the camper near the door. Myles jumps to his feet and moves toward the side window. “I can’t see! I can’t see! Throw me that flashlight..” – another booming impact to the side of the camper.
“Chuck, Chuck, it’s the big male! He’s trying to get in!” he yells.
“Myles, make sure that door is secure! Jacob, you ok?” I asked.
“Yeah. One of those limbs gave my arm a pretty good cut, but we’re ok.”
“Where’s the female, Myles?” Benjamin screams, pointing his flashlight out the side window.
“Don’t see it – here comes the male again. Oh shit – he just spotted me! Oh my God! Oh my God! Look out!”

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!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

“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…

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.

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

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?”

The call for help ..

It’s 7:30 Thursday morning. The phone is ringing as Dr. Meredith Henley walked into her office at the San Diego Zoo. It is the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife from Nairobi.

“Good morning. Meredith Henley, may I help you?” she said.

“Dr. Henley, good morning. Noah Mwangi, from Nairobi,” he answered. “How are you?” he asked.

“Oh, good morning, or I should say, good afternoon in Kenya. Good to hear from you, Minister. Hope you are well, and how can I help you?” Meredith answers.

“Meredith, you may have read that we have a bit of a lion problem in the southwest region. We have confirmed five deaths from lion attacks in the last three weeks. We believe it is the same pride of three lions that are responsible. The most recent mauling happened just two days ago. Two employees in my department who were doing some field work in the southwest sector were attacked and killed. One was a Field Veterinarian and friend of mine, Dr. William Apopo. He is survived by his wife and four children. What a horrible, horrible death. I can’t even imagine the horror. They are man-eaters,” he said.

“Oh my God, Noah. I know Bill Apopo. I’m stunned. I don’t know what to say. How horrible. I have heard only some general details about the attacks. Is it true they are all in the same area, just west of the Masai Mara Game Preserve?” she asked.

“That is true. We think the three lions have migrated over the border probably pushed north by poachers in northern Tanzania,” he answered.

“The story I read was not real clear. Is it reported to be two male and a female?” Meredith asked.

“No, eye witnesses have confirmed it to be one large male and two female. They are definitely hunting as a team and preying on humans,” he replied. The last attack has made this personal, Meredith. They must be stopped,” he added.

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