‘Olamayio’ is a traditional Maasai lion hunting party, usually comprising several warriors (morans) of the same age-set. Ideally, morans will go out to test their bravery, which will subsequently provide prestige and status for the victorious moran within his community. It will also very much help to ‘draw in girls’! One day last week, we were out doing some training with the new Lion Guardians in Olgulului on part of their work – spoor counting.
While tracking one of our collared lions using telemetry equipment, I suddenly saw fresh tracks of a lone lion. We decided to follow the tracks and see whether it was Sikiria the collared male lion that we have been unable to locate for a while now (i.e. he has been playing cat and mouse with us!) Accompanied by 2 of our Lion Guardians, and armed with a set of telemetry equipment as well as a GPS downloader, our party could only be compared to a modern day Olamayio! It was actually a combination of modern day tracking using state –of –the-art equipment, and traditionally proven lion hunting techniques! Here is one of the tracks we spotted.
After carefully tracking the lion through 7 km of thick bush, finding evidence like hair and places where it had dozed earlier, we lost the tracks. Confused and disappointed, we split up and circled the area in the hope of finding the tracks again. Suddenly, from only a few feet away, I finally locked eyes with our target – a big male lion with a yellow brown mane around his neck, staring at me at very close range! Apparently, he seemed to have seen me long in advance and was calculating my every move! Our eyes fixed together for a number of seconds, trying to detect each other’s next course of action. I was also trying to see whether there was a collar round his neck (there wasn’t one)!
The tension clearly building between the 2 of us changed immediately when Samanya, one of our Lion Guardians entered into the scene by alerting me to take care as he could tell we were close, clearly unaware of the lion’s presence directly in front of me! At this, the lion must have realized I was in the company of several people and with a deafening growl he turned tail and ran towards the hills.
We headed back to camp strongly convinced that these Maasai morans, though currently part of the threat to this iconic African species, may also be essential to its survival, through programs like ours.