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Holy Cow!

May 3, 2012

La Chica has to share a story that she heard from el chico. El chico is a Masai from Ngorongoro, a beautiful part of Tanzania famous for its enormous volcanic crater full of an abundance of wildlife. El chico’s dad is a full on Masai (4 wives, 28 children) and the latest goss is this:

There was a group of 20 morani, who are Masai men aged between 18 and 35 whose responsibilites are to be courageous, strong and protective of their families and livestock, historically they were also required to fight other tribes to the death when their valuable cattle or goats were at risk. These morani decided to kill a lion, as in the Masai tradition they would achieve true manhood and warrior status only when they had killed a lion with their spears and lived to tell the tale, with evidence comprising tails, toenails, hide, mane etc. Located on the border of Serengeti and Ngoronogoro (areas protected by National Park status) the Morani had a great choice of live lions to kill (illegally, unless in self defence or protecting their livestock). Imagine their delight to discover a lone lion. With typical Masai stealth they surrounded the lion and before it could attack or escape they simultaneously released their spears, succeeding in a kill. Little did they know that the lion they had chosen to hunt was the subject of a research project by a European scientist who was tracking the lion through its daily activities. During the hunt, the scientist was hidden nearby, observing the lion, and on seeing such a large crowd of morani, stayed hidden! He had a video camera for his work, which he continued to use, and so captured the kill. He then left the area to report the incident to the authorities, and handed in his video footage as evidence.

Meanwhile, the morani excitedly began to divvy up the lion, cutting it into 20 parts for each morani to show off to their communities to earn their warriorhood status and eternal respect. One morani’s prize piece of the lion was something odd that none of them had ever seen before – it looked something like a necklace as it was hanging around the lion’s neck – how the heck could a wild animal acquire a piece of jewellery?! This ‘lucky’ morani took his part of the kill back to his boma (home) and casually hung it around the neck of one of his cows. (No doubt it was a fascinating talking point and a unique find!).

Soon the European scientist returned to the killing site with the authorities, to find only traces of blood and nothing else of the lion. But this didn’t deter him or the rangers, as they had video footage. But….they also had something else. The scientist has put a tracking device around the neck of the lion, and so they followed the signal to eventually arrive at the lucky morani’s boma where his chosen cow proudly wore the necklace. Ooops….guilty! The lucky morani became the unlucky morani, and he was arrested. In custody he was encouraged to give the names of the other morani, but he insisted that he was the only one who killed the lion, and it was because the lion had attacked his goat. (A story his morani mates told him to tell, so they didn’t get any blame).

Next, the good ol’ justice system in Tanzania started it’s usual process – no, not one of a fair trial, but one of corruption. Seeing an opportunity to exploit the situation with evidence of the involvement of 20 morani in the killing, the authorities said they would kill the case if the community paid 5,000TZS ($3.30) per morani living in the entire district. As la chica writes this blog, the hat is being passed around, and she suspects that very soon the man in charge of the justice system in the district will have enough money to build a nice new house.

The moral of the story? If you kill a lion, for heavens sake don’t take the tracking device with you!

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