When my uncle called me -nugu ino- I told his girlfriend then, please tell my uncle not to call me a baboon. He took it very seriously and called me other names instead: wakahare(squirrel), gitoore(not sure what it is in english), ngware(spotted wild chicken).
When the baboons came to eat the maize planted near the house, I pretended to chase them away, but all I did was call chui, my dog to bark at them. But, I also felt sorry for the ugly things, especially the ones that had little baboonlets on their backs.
I didn't call them out until I thought they each had something to take back home. It was the same when the vulture tried to carry off one of grandmother's little lambs, I thought he must be really hungry to try get one, right in front of the house. We had eight of those, there was enough to go around.
|cucu's lambs: my little cousin Chriswell's photo collection|
The Aberdare forest is on fire, and I have a splitting headache. I know, I should be worrying about a retirement plan, health insurance and another pair of neat shoes, since my daily one wore out. Those are things that can get fixed, like rent and food, they always get taken care off, somehow, but how do you stop a forest fire?
Last time they brought in men. Truckloads of them to cut grass and quench the raging fire.They said they, 'would set fire on the opposite side, and when the two fires met, they would burn themselves out.'
I remember wondering, to myself, in my heart why they didn't ask the local met to assist. Not for free of course, give them 200bob, and mkate na soda madiaba for lunch. Involve them.
I grew up 500 meters from the Aberdare National Park fence.I went to Aberdare Academy.
The fires were constant. At night the orange flames succeeded sunset and I would be afraid to sleep in case, like they said, a strong wind came and blew the fire all about. We would be massacred(sic).
There were many theories about the said forest fires:
Poachers who dropped a cigarette butt
Woodcutters who lit a fire to boil tea and forgot to urinate on the fire
Honey harvesters who spiked too much fire for the smoke.
Nobody was very sure.
As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time looking into that forest. I was awed by the big trees. The occasional nguyo jumping from tree to tree. I would have liked to take a stroll in that bush.
At night, the mighty River Honi gushed like floods. My uncle would tell me how big the river was, how buffaloes swam right across and if you got the right fishing equipment you could get a big fish out, but if they caught you, you served time.
Why? I would wonder. It's just a fish. I had never eaten a fish.
In my mind the waterfall was a big as Victoria Falls.
For a longtime, there were two elephants living just near the fence. They grazed near the fence, I took a picture, 2010 but my desktop monitor won't start I'll share the picture another time.
On Sundays,when an elephant was sighted, someone would whistle and yell- Njogu!- soon people would stream into our fields to look at the elephant. We would be quiet.
Elephants hate noise, they said
We looked, and smiled and sighed.
Half an hour later, the small gathering would hang around for tea. The women sat on the grass. The men hang about the cowshed. I was sent to bring out mukimo, and warm the tea.
-Hey, u nyamu iyo ti nene-- one woman would exclaim.
iwee, iyo mungitungana nayo, kwisha maneno-
and the men would argue facts:
- do you know an elephant must die in the same place it was born?
- and it must be escorted by two mature elephants-
- but now,,,, people have settled everywhere, where would they pass?-
-why can't they ask as to go into that forest, o mundu na kiondo kia mbembe-we plant maize and plums for those baboons. no tukiremwo?-
|we would not even ask for seeds|
|and we can do a variety|
-But I think baboons just come here to socialize, not that they are hungry matunda maria mari githaka kiria itinginina-
Recently I heard a few people in my village had been killed for pouching and cutting down trees. At first I Yaaaayed! Take that, stupid poachers, then I looked around and thought.
Ok.When the people of Endarasha were settled next to that forest, did anyone ever sit them down and tell them:
Guys, you know, this forest is a very important asset. These trees are the reason you can plant all year round. And the animals in this forest, they bring in some money for the country.
What we saw, and see, are tourists driving into the forest in Land-cruisers. We would wonder why a mzungu would come all the way from Europe kuona Nugu. At times they stopped, ran behind a tree to take a picture of us herding the cows to the river- ehm, honestly? No wonder they are paying to look at baboons. Craaaaass.
I know the two elephants are no more, and the big trees have been re-placed by stumps and climbers.
In primary school the teachers arranged for tours into the forest. We saw some baboons and buffalos.
At night. the lights are bright at the Treetop Hotel and The Ark.
But, how about the adults? I am an adult now and starting to see their view point. So, if all I know about this big extensive forest is that it is the reason I harvested two bags of maize instead of ten; what will stop me from grabbing an axe, marching into that forest and swing off a couple of branches to sell for firewood?
|I hate poaching I'm sure but not sure if I hate poachers|
The locals can be blamed for killing elephants and felling trees, but have they been educated about wildlife? I've listened to people say:
-If I was given, just 5k to kill all the manugu in this forest, I would use it to buy poison, and a gun-
Because it's all we know the forest to be about. A breeding ground for baboons to come and eat our maize.
My headache blew up into a migraine.
But I'm fine now.