The recently concluded eye clinic conducted on Eselenkei and Olgulului Group Ranches of Amboseli was very successful! The clinic, sponsored by Kenya Wildlife Trust and MEAK, in conjunction with the Lion Guardians program and tourism partners Ker & Downey, Gamewatchers Porini camp and Tortilis camp, was a benefit provided to people from both Group Ranches for their tolerance of lions, in particular, and other wildlife species, in general.
Phase One of the event was a screening process where a team of eye doctors traveled to several sites within both group ranches and treated over 500 patients with a variety of less invasive methods such as administering eye drops. These initial screenings led to Phase Two where more than 50 patients received much-needed eye surgery to correct more severe ailments at the eye clinic held in southern Olgulului. Before each patient was treated, they were asked to sign a letter acknowledging that they understood that the treatment and benefits they were about to receive, were because of their tolerance of lions and peaceful coexistence with wildlife.
Even though this was the first event of its kind for all the participating organizations, the smooth and organized manner in which it was conducted left many amazed and inspired. But by far the most inspiring outcome of the clinic was the beaming smiles on the faces of patients, the majority of whom got their sight back after years of blindness or partial blindness! Women, men, young, old, educated, and not, were all welcomed and operated on by professional doctors at the Esiteti Primary School where two classrooms had been transformed into a hospital ward.
Moonka Olting’idi, now 62 years old, was a true Maasai warrior in his youth. He had killed a record nine lions to prove his bravery. But for the last four years, Moonka had become completely blind and in fact, had to be led around by one of his children. After the operation, as his face creased into smiles, he happily announced that he could see the foot of Mt.Kilimanjaro which was almost 20 kilometers from where we were! He then added ‘I regret having killed lions in the past, but now I will pass the message to my children never to kill lions again because they have given me my sight back’. (Watch this video of Moonka talking about how Lions gave him his sight back)
Linkoe Orkolui, a young pupil at Loirero Primary School, had a cataract in her right eye that made it very difficult for her to read anything written on the blackboard. This impacted negatively on her general performance in school. Amid many fearful tears and after much persuasion, Linkoe underwent the cataract removal surgery. Once the bandages were off, her tears turned into an unforgettable smile and Linkoe immediately joined the pupils in Esiteti Primary to exercise her reading prowess.
These are just two of the many inspiring stories we heard from patients that were treated at the eye clinic.
On one of the days, the patients and pupils gathered in a darkened classroom-turned-theater to watch the Lion Guardians film during their lunch-hour. They all enjoyed it so much that we played it twice as more and more people gathered to see the film and be part of the excitement.
The manner in which the Lion Guardians program, Kenya Wildlife Trust, MEAK, Ker & Downey, Tortilis, and Gamewatchers handled their respective responsibilities left many community leaders and other stakeholders in awe. The organizations also received a lot of appreciation from patients, their relatives, and all community members who witnessed the successful outcome of the operations.
In the next couple of days, a follow-up team will visit all patients that were treated to remove stitches from trachoma patients, assess their condition, and attend to any other eye related problems. We will continue to update you with inspiring stories as more community members begin to “see” the benefits that come from peacefully coexisting with lions!