Jul 10 2010

The Proud and Colorful Pastoralists – Maasai

Published by admin under Maasai, Serengeti, Travel Experience

The Proud and Colorful Pastoralists – Maasai
The Maasai, those proud and colorful Pastoralists, were ‘persuaded’ t leave the Serengeti and Ngorongoro by the end of 1958 and to sign a treaty which reads like many such treaties. It recalls the ‘agreements’ made between the US government and the American Indians in the previous century. And so the Maasai lost their fabulous ‘Siringet’ and the Crater. The name Serengeti is derived from Maasai word – ‘Siringet’ and means Wide Open Plains.

Ebony Masaai Carving Ebony Wood – Hand carved Sitting Maasai Pair for Sale

The Maasai, commonly misspelled as ‘Masai’, as always have learned to live with change, without changing. It is their weakness, their strength and their glory. They still have access to the slopes and plains around and beyond the Crater, outside the Serengeti, and their herds of hump-backed cattle may sometimes be seen grazing alongside zebra or wildebeest, a harmony reflected in the Maasai’s own ability to live, unlike so many of us, at one with their environment. The people, generally fine-featured and cheerfully hospitable, wrapped in red-brown shukas or blankets, the womanfok bedecked with beads and bangles and easily induced smiles, are seen wherever the grazing is good and the law allows.

Maasai Shield Maasai Shield
             Hand Carved Maasai Pair Hand Carved Maasai Pair

 

The Maasai do not normally touch game meat, with the occasional exception of buffalo and eland, which resemble cattle.

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Jul 10 2010

Serengeti Whistling Thorn

Published by admin under Serengeti, Travel Experience

 Serengeti Whistling Thorn
 One of the Serengeti’s most intriguing and recognisable trees is the whistling horn acacia (Acacia drepanalobuim). This tree has a slim trunk and rarely grows over 10 feet in height. It is most commonly found in central Serengeti on the way to the Western Corridor and the northwest of the park through to Fort Ikoma, in the impeded black cotton soil flats.It was given it’s name because it makes a whistling sound in the wind and it has developed its own survival strategy. It has very few leaves, thus avoiding the problems of transpiration; and its bulbous, dark skinned galls are where it stores its food.

Whistling thorn avoids predation through two defensive mechanisms. The first is its thorns. But Giraffes’ sensitive tongue can avoid these as they search for the tasty green leaves. So crematogaster ants, more commonly known as cocktail ants because they emerge with their tails raised ready to strike, have formed a symbiotic alliance with the whistling thorn.

Giraffe Carving Giraffe Wood Carving for Sale

The ants live in the galls and when Giraffe or anything else, including humans interfere with the tree, they emerge, tails raised, ready to strike.
 

For more info, visit Whistling Thorn

 

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Feb 24 2010

A Trip Back Home

Published by admin under Travel Experience

 

It’s time to go home for the first time after six years of my marriage.  As my flight passed through the clouds after eight hours, I saw my exquisite town: Moshi. It’s a small town situated at the north east of Tanzania at the foothills of Mt.Kilimanjaro. The voice of the local language pleased my ears, when the pilot said “Karibu Moshi”: (welcome to Moshi).As the plane circled above, I could see the Clock tower below in the centre park of town like an opal in a ring. Red brick houses, green mango trees and yellow maize plants were shining brightly in the sunshine. As we descended the sun hit my eyes through the window and I could barely see the airport. We arrived at Kilimanjaro airport. As the flight attendant opened the door the gush of warm breeze wrapped me like a warm, comfortable blanket. The smell of coffee plantation next to the airport filled my heart and I said “I am home”.When I stepped down the aircraft, I saw my family waiting in the balcony, waving at me. I collected my luggage and as I stepped outside, the first thing my brother said was “You’ve gone fat”.  I gave hugs to the rest of my family and we headed toward the car.It was an astonishing feeling going from airport to home. It’s a journey of thirty minutes, passing through small local villages, where houses are made of red sand and roof made of palm tree leaves. People sell fresh fruits on the pavement, some taking their cattle in the farm and children just having fun, playing with marbles and cars made from aluminum cartons. I even saw local ladies wrapped themselves in a local cloth called “khanga” and doing each others hair outside their home. As we carried on, the weather was so clear I could see Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I couldn’t take my eyes from it; it looked like the Christmas tree with white angel on top. It is the Highest mountain in Tanzania and most admirable with snow on the top. It’s the tourist attraction for Tanzania as it can be climbed by foot. It takes three days to climb up and two days to climb down. The experience of it is remarkable and cannot be found in any part of the world. Its 5895 meters in height. The temperature could be thirty centigrade at the bottom of the mountain and minus five at the top. It must be startling climbing up with big rucksack on the back with jumpers, socks, woolen hats and most important; the camera. Porters carry all the perishable items and climb with people. There are small huts on the way up to sleep at night for few hours, as the journey has to be continued before sunrise. For people who have never seen snow before, it is an unbelievable sight, when they reach the top. It’s a shame; I have never climbed up myself.When we reached home, our watchman opened the gate for us and I noticed my house was just the way I had left it six years ago. My bedroom was similar too and all my memories came back. I had tea with everyone and spent the evening chatting about my life in Manchester.Next morning I accompanied my mum for vegetable shopping. We passed from the spine of Moshi: Mawenzi road. It’s a long road with my primary school, bus station, doctor’s surgery, a temple and lots of shops on either side. The school looked very different to what I saw last. It had new roof, part of the building was renovated and some old walls were repainted. I couldn’t stop myself and went to greet my head teacher; unfortunately I couldn’t as he had retired. The structure of the buildings, of the bus stand, the market and some others, which I saw on the way were similar to Great Britain as they were built in British colonial times in 1910.

 The market is situated on Kibo road. As we entered the market, we passed through the meat section and I was put off by flies, people talking loud, bargaining for fish and the smell of the meat and the fish. This old building had no windows and doors as they were all broken during the wartimes. Due to financial reasons, they were not able to renovate them and now I felt, everyone had become immune to it. For tourists, the architecture and the life style of locals were an attraction but for locals, it’s a place to earn their living.  We walked through small stalls of different items. We then reached the vegetable and fruit section. It looked very colorful and smelled fresh. Bargaining was very common and It was done on every stall we stopped. The incredible experience of the market was drinking fresh coconut water straight from it, when mum checked, if it was fresh to buy.

I spent two weeks in Moshi; met my friends, visited different places, but I felt like a foreigner everywhere I went. I compared the life style with Manchester. I felt, I was a rich lady, due to the exchange rate of 1pound = 1800Tshillings.

 Even after having all the facilities in Manchester, I miss Moshi. It’s a town of peace with no traffic congestion, lovely weather; everyone has time for each other and they live like a big loving family.

  Post by Mariam Halai

 

 

 

 

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Feb 24 2010

African Cheetah

Published by admin under African Cheetah

 
These graceful animals, built like greyhounds while superficially resembling leopards, although they have more distinctive spots and longer legs, are fairly common on Serengeti’s open savannah grasslands.

They are the fastest animals on earth accelerating to speeds of up to 110 km/h over short distances. But they can only maintain this speed for up to 300 meters because their bodies rapidly overheat. Cheetah cubs eating a Thomson’s gazelle

2 cheetahs on a tree

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Their colloquial name derives from the Hindu word chita. “King cheetah” are not a separate species but a color variant.

The colonization of Africa, demand for their skins, over-emphasis on their predatory impact on domestic livestock and, less frequently, the demand for them as pets, has led to the shrinkage of their range or their disappearance from many parts of Africa.

2 Cheetahs on a Tree – Large

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They became extinct in India in 1952. They have disappeared from the countries they inhabited bordering the eastern Mediterranean. But they are still found in northern parts of the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Namibia, with some 2,500 cheetahs, has about a quarter of the world’s surviving population.


Cheetahs’ bodies, unlike those of the stockier more powerful leopard, are slender and held high off the ground on long thin legs. Their heads are smaller and much more rounded, muzzles shorter, ears smaller and they have distinctive “tear marks” which almost join the eyes and mouth.

Cheetah on tree – small

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They hunt mostly in daylight hours, mainly around sunrise and sunset and, in common with lions and leopards, rest during the hotter hours of the day on elevated sites warming themselves.

But, like everything else in the wild, there are no firm rules. In the southwest Serengeti, at noon, I watched a mother and her four cubs on a Thomson’s gazelle they had just killed.

The mother sat upright on the open plains ignoring my vehicle and the zebra that eyed her nervously from nearby. The cubs, about nine months-old, chewed away on the remains of the Thomson’s gazelle. When the meal was over, the mother, with that slow, characteristic, stately walk, moved across to the cubs, cleaning the blood from their muzzles.

Then, as if by an unspoken command, the five cheetah set out across the plains towards a herd of Thomson’s as if seeking another meal. In fact they were heading for a vlei (dry river bed) where the vegetation offered a measure of shade. At the vlei they disturbed a sleeping hyena that swiftly made off, although the fearsome jaws of the hyena could easily kill a cheetah.

Safari Ebony Cheetah – XSmall

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On another occasion, it was witnessed the maternal instincts of a female cheetah, her cubs threatened by a hyena.

The hyena had conspicuously journeyed across the plains, obviously intent on the very young cheetah cubs. Suddenly, disregarding her own safety, the mother flew at the hyena, leaping on its back. The hyena emitted a frightened howl, disengaged the enraged cheetah and swiftly fled.

Meanwhile, the tiny cheetah cubs had disappeared amidst a sea of wildebeest. Surely they would be trampled to death?

Yet, none the worse for wear, they re-emerged chasing each other and playing as if nothing had happened while the mother shepherded them away, trying to restore a semblance of order.

The cubs remain with their mother for about a year, dispersing before another litter is born. Males’ may form cohesive bachelor groups that have very large, sometimes overlapping, home ranges.

Unlike leopards, cheetah are averse to swimming and are infrequent tree climbers. Cheetah are also not as water-dependent as many animals, relying on their prey for moisture requirements.

Their call is bird-like resembling a chirrup when excited or greeting members of their group, and they may purr, growl, snarl, hiss or cough depending upon whether they are content or feel threatened.

They prefer to attack stragglers in prey groups, approaching their intended victims openly, pausing only if it shows signs of nervousness, and then running the victim down with an electrifying burst of speed.

Mating occurs throughout the year and courtship is a very subtle and complex process. If a female is not ready she may swat the male aggressively and emit a stuttering call. If she is ready, the male will mock charge, copiously spray urine and he may scrape up small mounds of earth with his hind legs and urinate or defecate on them.

Cubs weigh 250 to 300 gms at birth and they are usually born in tall grass or underbrush which offers camouflage. The average litter is four and the cubs are blind until the 10th or 12th day when their eyes open. At three weeks they begin to move around and after six weeks they can follow their mother.

They are highly vulnerable to predators in this period and the mother often moves them one by one by the scruff of the neck to a new hiding place.

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Feb 24 2010

Soap Stone Info

 

Soapstone, also known as steatite, is a metamorphic rock . It tends to be a very soft rock, and is therefore easily worked into forms such as bowls, pipes, or figurines. Many Native Americans once used soapstone to make cooking vessels because of the ease in carving and the fact that it holds heat well.

Soapstone Elephants – Trunk up!

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There are two different kinds of stone, popularly called soapstone; Talc, which is a softer stone, used for carvings, and Steatite, wich is harder than Talc, used for countertops, fireplaces, ovens and etc.

The Soapstone carvings from Kenya, East Africa, also known as Kissi stone, are a beautiful way to adorn your home with a smooth, eclectic look. The Gusii and Abigusii ethnic groups individually hand carve each of these one of a kind pieces. The craftsman first mine the soapstone from the hills around the village of Tabaka and then, using knives or handmade tools, they individually carve each piece. After carving, the figure is wet-sanded and then polished, all by hand. To form the colors they dye the stone and then incise it with the patterns the individual artist desires.

Soapstone Angel

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The digging of these rocks is done using crude method, which is labour intensive. Due to the market potential and the easy availability of this natural resource commodity, many Kisii people have come to rely on it as one of their major soure of income.

African Wildlife 2 Soapstone Coasters

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The trade of soapstone comprises both the men and the women, young and old. Traditionally, it is men who do the digging of the stone from the mines or the quarry as well as carving the products in the required designs. The women’s part involves polishing and washing the finished products as well as applying the shinning wax cream popularly known as cobra wax. Though soapstone is a leading export product, it happens to be a very fragile commodity, which requires extra care particularly, when it comes to handling and exporting or transferring the finished product from the rural areas to Nairobi and even to the port of destination be it in Kenya’s Mombasa port or overseas.

Lover Natural

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Adorn your home with one of these traditional, one of a kind pieces of artwork and display the ingenuity and talent of these traditional African artisans.

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Feb 24 2010

Ebony Wood Info

 

Scientific Name: Dalbergia Melanoxylon
African Name: Mpingo
English Name: African Blackwood
Commonly Known Name: EBONY

   

Maasai Ashtray

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Ebony is an exceptionally hard and beautiful wood, found in the Sahara desert regions of Africa. Its exceptional density not only makes it very heavy, but also gives it an incomparable sheen when polished.

The Ebony is extremely expensive, ranging in $50+ per square foot. Compare this to the finest American black walnut which costs less than 1/10 the price of blackwood.

Makonde carving is probably the best known art work produced in Tanzania, East Africa. This art is produced by the Makonde people of southern Tanzania, and their material of choice is African blackwood, or mpingo. Their work is both traditional and contemporary, reflecting a tribal past as well as modern response to urban life. They utilize their tribal myths and stories as inspiration for the masterful work.

Masai Bust – L

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Ebony normally is brown on the outside of the tree; and black on the inside. The carvings often come as a beautiful mixture of black and brown; as well as the pure blackwood that is most well known. Each has its own special beauty. Like any wood, ebony is subject to drying and cracking: especially in dry climates.

 

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Feb 24 2010

Elephants of Tanzania, E.Africa

Published by admin under African Elephants

 
 Elephants are a key species in the ecology of forests and savannas. While feeding, they shape the environment around them. By eating greenery high above ground, they punch holes through which sunlight penetrates, enabling low-growing plants to thrive. By uprooting grasses, they turn over the soil, aerating it so new plants grow to replace the ones that are eaten. In times of drought, they dig water holes from which other wildlife also drink. As they walk through the dense forests and jungles, elephants clear paths that smaller animals, including humans, can use.

In Tanzania, Elephants are found in all national parks, while the Selous Game Reserve boasts one of the world’s largest populations of elephant. Though their population was greatly reduced by poachers to the extent of being considered as among the endangered species, in recent years the population has increased.

African elephants are the heaviest land animal, and the second tallest in the Animal Kingdom. They are a sexually dimorphic species; males appear larger than females. The height of a bull at his shoulder is about twelve feet (about 3.75 m), when the female’s height is nine feet (about 3 m). They have enormous ears, each measuring about four feet (120-125 cm) across. They have a unique nose that is simply a long, boneless trunk extending from the upper lip. The trunk usually measures about five feet long (about 150 cm) and weighs around 300 pounds (about 135 kg). The two finger-like projections on the tip are so dexterous they can pick a blade of grass. The trunk itself is so strong it is capable of lifting 600 pounds (250- 275 kg). Their incisor teeth develop into tusks about 8 feet long (245-250 cm) and can weigh about 130 pounds (60 kg) each. The only other teeth they have are four molars, which are replaced six times throughout their lives after the previous set wears down. African elephants have dark gray skin which is scattered with black hairs that wear off through the years. As a result the adults are mostly hairless. Their skin is about 2′l2 inches (2-4 cm) thick, but flies, mosquitoes and parasites still penetrate it.

Elephants have one of the longest lifespans of all larger mammals- about sixty years. Their age can be determined by height comparison to the matriarch, molar dimensions, or more complicated methods like measuring the weight of an eye lens from an elephant that recently died. Aging elephants faces appear sunken and their ears fold toward their body as they get older. They may also suffer from arthritis, tuberculosis or blood diseases like septicemea. Accidental death can occur if an elephant falls down a hill, or if tusked during a fight with another elephant. Deaths from poaching still outnumber any natural or accidental occurrences of death in elephants.

The size of adult elephants leaves them invulnerable to wild animals. Poachers are the only predators to adult elephants but calves are susceptible to be preyed by lions and packs hyenas. If they sense a predator nearby, the largest cow instinctively herd the calves into a bunch around the matriarch. Next, they form circles around the cluster which creates protective layers that are impossible for predators to penetrate.

Very few species can alter its own environment like elephants do. They demolish bushes, pull up trees by their roots and pack down the soil which can lead to erosion. This destruction also turns wooded areas into grasslands that are needed by grazing animals. Elephants create water holes by digging in dry riverbeds. They coat themselves with mud from the waters edge to protect from the sun and parasites, which creates a larger water hole. They can make and enlarge caves by searching for salts to lick. These caves are used for shelter for many different species. When elephants walk they stir up insects for birds to eat and easily disperse seeds which pass through their system undigested. The African Eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) only grows after it has been through their system and fertilized by the elephant dung.

Elephants eat vegetation like leaves, roots, bark, grasses and fruit. Each day they can consume up to 20% of their body weight of food, and drink up to 50 gallons (190 L) of water. During the rainy seasons elephants eat grass and herbs like papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) and cat tails (Typha augustifolia). During dry seasons in the savannah they eat leaves collected from thorny trees and bushes. Swamps are a last resort for food because swamp vegetation contains fibrous nutrition. However, dying elephants are often found in these areas because this vegetation is softer and older elephants are often missing molars.

Elephants do not have any specific mating season. During the rainy seasons the reproductive rate is higher while times of drought or crowded conditions result in a lower reproductive rate. After a 22-month gestation period, single elephant calves are born weighing about 265 pounds (120-130 kg), twins are rare. A short time after birth, they instinctively are able to follow their mothers. Females give birth every four to nine years. Older calves are weaned a few months before the next new born.

Sexual maturity is reached between 10 and 12 years of age. Elephants of Tanzania live about sixty years in the wild and up to70 years in captivity. They continue to grow in height during their lives, reaching a maximum of 13 ft (4-4.5 m) for males, and 9 ft (approx. 2.5-3 m) for females. (Estes, 1999; Eltringam, 1992)

A females’ estrus period lasts for about forty-eight hours. A bull in musth, a heightened state of sexual aggression and activity, must determine if the cow is in estrus by smelling her genitals. He inhales with the end of his trunk rubbing her genitals, then exhales with the end of the trunk in his mouth. This sends chemicals to his Jacobson’s organ, located in the palate, to test her condition for mating. Larger males with the largest tusks are usually around fifty years old and do most of the breeding; leaving the younger bulls to roam until a mate is found. Males constantly search for mates and rarely stay for more than a few weeks with a female and her herd.

The calf is born into a nurturing herd of related females and young males. After a gestation period of 22 months, they are precocial as they can see, smell, and almost walk a short time after birth. These well-developed calves are guarded and taken care of by their allomothers: young females who assist the calf s mother. Elephant cows of the herd, which are typically related, frequently suckle each others’ calves. (Estes, 1999; Payne, Langbauer, Jr., 1992; Moss, 1988)

Elephants of Tanzania wander day or night in nonterritorial herds that can reach 200 elephants, even one thousand during the rains. Their society is based on a social matriarchal community. The matriarch is the oldest female who leads a clan of 9 to 11 elephants. Only closely related females and their offspring are part of this herd because males wander alone once they reach maturity. The herd’s well being depends on the guidance of the matriarch. She determines when they eat, rest, bathe or drink. As the matriarch begins to be limited by advancing age, around 50-60 years old, the next oldest replaces her and she is either abandoned or leaves by herself.

Females in the herd practice motherhood by being allomothers to the calves. While the adults are sleeping (standing or lying on their sides), these assistants must protect the babies and retrieve them if they stray too far. Males, however, leave the herd at maturity and wander alone or in bachelor herds. Around 25 years old, they begin to compete for mates. Elephants display dominance with a raised head, trunk, and ears. They also snap their ears, shake their heads, make trumpeting noises and rumbles. They display submission by leveling their ears, lowering their heads, rubbing their eyes and swaying.

Elephants of Tanzania are typically active during the day but herds in areas with high levels of human activity often become primarily nocturnal.

The habitats occupied by elephants of Tanzania vary because they can survive long periods of time without water; they occupy deserts, forests, savannas, river valleys and marshes.

 

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Feb 24 2010

Maasai Hunting Lions

Published by admin under Maasai

 

Lion hunting is an ancient practice that plays an important role in the Maasai culture. Here are some of the cultural reasons including methods and tools used by the Maasai warriors in the practice of lion hunting.

Lion hunting is viewed by Maasai society as an act of bravery skill, wisdom, and achievement. This task can be pursued in a group of five warriors or individually. The game allows Maasai warriors to show off their fighting ability on a non human target. At the end of each age-set, usually after ten to fifteen years, the hunted lions of the entire initiating age-set are counted and are compared with those hunted by the former age-set. This is in order to measure accomplishment of the age-set.

Masai Warrior Ready to Hunt – IV

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Empikas (warrior delegation) plan for lion hunting a few days before the fact. The planning is done secretly. No one in the community other than the warriors should know about the day of lion hunting. The game is so secret that Irbanot (young warriors) of the same age-set are denied information regarding the day of lion hunting. They are not informed because they are considered immature. Older warriors fear that young warriors can easily release information to elders, local politicians and Western conservationist, groups that are opposed to the act of lion hunting. If a warrior spreads rumors and is found guilty, he is harshly punished by his colleagues in the form of beating. Furthermore, he will be looked down upon throughout his entire age group’s cycle.

Masai Warrior Ready to Hunt – small

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It is not easy to hunt a lion alone. However, a majority of Maasai warriors have done it. Solo lion hunting is about confidence and skill. A warrior must build internal physical strength and must be passionate about the game. Unlike group hunting, solo lion hunting is not necessarily planned ahead of time. In many cases the hunting happens at random, usually when a warrior is out grazing livestock.

The lion hunting journey starts at early dawn before anyone in the community is awake. The warriors sleep in different Manyattas (homesteads) and meet at a nearby landmark, e.g. tree, hill, rock, etc., and head towards predetermined areas, where lions are likely to be found.

The reason warriors leave villages at early dawn is to avoid chances of encountering people opposed to the practice. A few minutes before the journey begins older warriors (Irmorijo) and their leaders must choose qualified warriors, those identified as mature and strong who are believed capable for the game of lion hunting. This group is known as fearless warriors (Irmeluaya) who are ready to die or live from the game of lion hunting. Young warriors (Irbarnot) who are disqualified are sent back home for rest. This rejection often creates a dispute within the group, as not every young warrior will accept to return home. When this happens, the dominant group and the rejected young warriors often challenge one another using clubs and shields. Losers are always the young warriors. Despite this, they still believe that the challenge is worth a try.

Masai Candlestand 2

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The fight between young and older warriors could potentially pose a major conflict to the dominant group, as some of their members might stress favoritism towards individuals from the group of young warriors, usually a relative from their clan or family. This situation can push the decision making process into extremes. Nevertheless, if this happens, the battle is treated as part of the learning process. Group dynamics is treated by warriors as progress.

The young warriors, who are sent home, are urged by older warriors to keep the information of lion hunting confidential until their colleagues return from hunting. Young warriors are also forced by older warriors to give up their weapons. (Extra weapons are not necessary for lion hunting. Instead, it is just a way of insulting the young warriors.) This attitude is a form of training that the riot are being regarded as responsible, so that they would be motivated.

Dancing Maasai

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When the older warriors return from lion hunting with the lion, a one week celebration takes place throughout the section’s land. The warrior who first speared the lion is embraced by women from various communities and receives a double-sided beaded shoulder strap (Imporro), which he must wear every time a major festival, such as milk ceremony, eunoto ceremony (senior warrior’s graduation ceremony) takes place in the community.

The successful completion of lion hunting brings gratitude and excitement to the hunter’s entire community, as it is deemed an accomplishment of individual bravery and skill. His community will honor the hunter (Ormurani lolowuaru) with much respect throughout his entire lifetime. His accomplishment will not only be heard in his community but also by the entire section. The hunter will also receive nicknames from his colleagues, e.g. Miseyieki, meaning that no one will ever mess with him. When warriors attend ceremonies in other settings, they praise their colleague and urge others to acknowledge the success of their member. The warrior’s information is effectively delivered through songs and verbal stories.

Lions are abundant throughout Maasailand; they are many as warthogs. However, they are as smart as people and can hide very well. The lion search ranges from 20 minutes to 10 hours. Usually lions do not charge people; instead a hunter must go after the lions. The Maasai warriors, in order to make the kill, must chase a lion from 5 to 30 kilometers. This chasing method is to force the lion to develop anger towards the hunter is a one of the few methods used by the Maasai warriors when hunting a lion. Another widely used method is to force a lion to move away from his kill. The lion does not like noise, for this reason the Maasai warriors use loud bells made of metal, purchased from traders, to disturb the lion. This method in turn makes a lion mad and will come after the hunter.

Masai Hunters 2

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Fighting a lion inside intensely vegetated area can be very dangerous, as he moves faster than a human being. Instead, the Maasai warriors fight them in the plain. This is the best decision to make and best place to be. The warrior’s idea for doing so is to give the lion a chance to fight with the hunter. Lion hunting is all about challenging another creature.

Pursuing the lion’s tail is different in the various Maasai sections. The process to get a lion tail is a challenging one because warriors must achieve the lion’s tail using physical power. Warriors must wrestle in order to get the tail. The strongest warrior is most likely to win this competition. In Irkisonko section, the first warrior to spear the lion receives the tail; there is no much competition involved other than to spear the lion first. There are no tools to build physical strength, e.g. body building, rifle, homework, lecture, specific food, drink, or institutions such as a gym, classroom, club, shield and machete. The lion hunting game is about personal assignment, goals and accomplishment. The game is based on your background, environment, and culture. Your age group, clan, and section grade the accomplishment.

The Maasai depend strictly on livestock (cow, sheep and goat) and do not eat game meat. Three products are used from the lion: the mane, tail and claws. The mane is beautifully beaded by women of the community and is given to the hunter. It is worn on the head and used by warriors during ceremonial occasions. The lion mane serves as a warrior’s costume and helps his fellow warriors, from other locations, identify the toughest warrior.

When a warrior graduates from warriorhood and becomes a junior elder, he must throw the lion mane away for hyenas and other creatures to eat. Before the warrior throws the lion mane away he must pay respect to the mane in the form of sacrifice. To do this, the warrior must slaughter a sheep for the purpose of this sacrifice and grease the mane using sheep oil mixed with ochre. This is done to avoid bad spirits, as the Maasai believe the mane has special spiritual attachment to the owner and cannot be thrown without showing respect. The mane is also used by warriors to make a mini leather skirt, worn over the shoulder. This skirt is also beaded by women of the community and worn only by the hunter on special occasions.

The lion tail is also beaded by women of the community and given to the hunter. Before the community women bead the lion’s tail, warriors must prepare it first. It is stretched on a stick, in order to dry and soften the leather, thus making the skin easy to bead. After beading the tail, is given to the hunter and he must wear it on ceremonial occasions. When the warriors graduates from warriorhood he throws away the tail, using the same process used in the mane. The lion tail is the most valuable product in the practice of lion hunting as tails are kept in the Manyatta (warrior’s camp) usually from ten to fifteen years.

In recent years Maasai elders began to oppose the practice of lion hunting as a result of external pressure from topocrats (politicians and Western conservationists). Topocrats pressured the elders by telling them that; “if warriors refuse to stop lion hunting, they will be gathered and punished in the form of government judicial system”, meaning government laws. (It is important to acknowledge that Kenya and Tanzania laws, of course, do not speak Maa language). As a result of threat from topocrats, the Maasai elders are no longer encouraging the warriors to hunt lions. Nowadays, they tell the warriors that “lion hunting is too risky both physically and politically- and warriors should stop the practice.”

The Maasai warriors refute this discouragement by saying, “The elders have forgotten that the warriors adopted the practice of lion hunting from them and they in turn adopted from their fore generations”

 

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Feb 24 2010

Serengeti Antelopes

Published by admin under Serengeti


Serengeti is home to almost 20 species of antelope of which the wildebeest is one. The largest antelope is the Patterson’s eland (Taurotragus oryx) that weighs up to 900 kg and stands 1.7 meters at the shoulder.

They are dull fawn in color, often with vertical white stripes on their bodies. Older bulls tend to become blue-grey and calves are a reddish-brown. Both sexes have horns that are laid back, spiraled and ridged.

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Their preferred habitat is shrub and grassland, and they are mainly browsers who feed at night when the vegetation has more moisture. They range over large areas, but are not territorial. In summer months they form large herds that may number several hundred.

They trot rather than gallop, fight vigorously to defend their calves and fight each other, sometimes resulting in fatalities. The low cholesterol content of their milk, and their meat, is particularly valued.

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Two other large antelope the visitor will see are kongoni, a Swahili word for Coke’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), and topi (Damaliscus korrigum). Despite the similarity in their shapes they can readily be told apart.

The hartebeest is yellowish to tawny in color with a reddish saddle while the topi is brick red with definite blue-black markings on the face and hindquarters. The topi s horns are broad and rimmed while the hartebeest’s are slightly ridged and bent sharply outwards.

Both are savanna animals. But while the larger hartebeest congregates in smaller herds, the topi may link up in huge herds numbering several hundreds when migrating. Both are fast runners.

Two other antelope you will also see which can be readily identified are the Defassa waterbuck (Kobus defassa) and impala (Aepyceros melampus).

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Waterbuck in the Serengeti are generally lighter in body color than the common waterbuck found in southern Africa; and the white rump circle of its southern cousin is more a broad white patch. However, these two species are very similar in other respects.

They are stocky animals with short legs, grayish-brown in color, with white collars. Their coats are rough and shaggy, the horns (worn by males only) sweep upwards in a smooth curve and they have a strong goat-like smell. Males weigh about 270 kg.

In contrast, the impala is a much more delicate-looking antelope, although sometimes cruelly referred to as “the goat of the plains” because of the way it vacuums everything edible, degrading areas for other species such as waterbuck.

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Medium-sized, weighing about 50 kg, its upperparts are reddish, becoming whiter on the belly, chin, chest and throat. The buttocks have vertical black stripes and there is a tuft of black hair above the hoof of each hind leg.

Only males have horns that are long, sweeping backwards and then forwards. Their preferred habitat is open savannah woodland and they will not be found on the southern short grass-plains of the Serengeti.

Males are territorial during rutting and they snort, grunt and roar their disapproval at intruding rams while unendingly trying to herd in their ewes, who in some cases number as many as 30. They both graze and browse.

Two other smaller antelope to be found in the vicinity of kopjes are Kirk’s dikdik (Rhynchotragus kirki) and klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus).

Dikdik maybe found in wooded areas at the base of kopjes. They weigh about four kg, with the female slightly larger than the male. They are drab-grey, have large, luminous eyes that are white ringed, and pointed noses. Only males are horned.

Klipspringers are to be found on rocks in the northern parts of the park, particularly in the Lobo area. They weigh 10 to 13 kg, have coarse, spiky hair which is yellow-brown to grey-yellow, and creamy under parts, chins and lips. They are the only antelopes to walk on the tips of their hooves and are extremely agile and sure-footed on the kopjes. Only males have horns and both species make a nasal whistling sound.

Also in the northern area, you may see grey bush duiker (Sylvicaprn grimmia) and Cotton’s oribi (Ourebia ourebi). The oribi is the largest of the small antelope weighing about 14 kg. They look like small gazelles, have distinctive reddish-fawn coats, black-tipped noses and tails and circular gland patch below the ears.

They are to be found in open short grasslands with patches of taller grass providing cover and they whistle sharply when disturbed. The Serengeti duiker range in weight from four to 80 kg, are grey-buff in colour and, like oribi, only the males normally have horns.

Two species of reedbuck are found in the Serengeti. These are Mountain or Chanler’s reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) in the Lobo area and on higher ridges, and Bohor reedbuck (Pelea capreolus) that live around reed lands.

The mountain species is grey-fawn in color over most of its body, with white under parts. In contrast, the Bohor reedbuck is yellowish to pale red-brown with black markings on its forelegs. Both species have short, forward-pointing, horns.

One other antelope, which you are unlikely to see unless you venture well off the beaten track, is the Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus). They are the second largest antelopes after the eland, weighing about 270 kg, and occur in fairly inaccessible country on the Ndoha Plain in the southwest of the Western Corridor.

Their general color is grayish-brown tinted with red and they have very distinct white muzzles and eye patches. Both sexes carry horns that are heavily ridged, swept back and curved. They live in small herds led by a mature bull with a dominant female who selects feeding areas.

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Feb 24 2010

African Serengeti Lions

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African Serengeti Lions
There are about 2,500 lions in the Serengeti ecosystem. This is the biggest concentration in a national park of Africa’s largest carnivore (meat-eater) and the lion is the animal most visitors want to see on their safari.The last remaining lions in Europe were killed in Greece (which gave the original Greek name leon to the species) around AD 100 and they were exterminated from Palestine around the 12th century. In Asia, a few can still be found in northern India’s Gir Peninsula.In Africa, too, their range has been severely curtailed. They are now extinct in north Africa, having disappeared from Tunisia and Algeria around 1891 and from Morocco in 1920.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where the largest concentration of lions survives, their range has been gradually reduced as humans have expanded their own. Once they were common in South Africa’s Cape Province; today, outside zoos and reserves, they have vanished in that area.

They hunt mainly at night but are easily seen in the daytime. In Serengeti, they may be heard roaring at night, although one must try to differentiate between the sound they make and the sound of the several thousand ostriches. But such differentiation is not always easy in the befuddled condition between deep sleep and total consciousness.

Lions are lethargic animals, showing an aversion to exerting themselves except when intent on a kill. Even then they can be inefficient, certainly when compared to hyena, and intended prey may bear morning-after scars showing where lions have hit and missed.

Most usually, the visitor will find lions lolling about or sleeping in the shade under trees or shrubs, usually in prides, sometimes in small all-male groups. But, despite their apparent passivity, they can swiftly become very aggressive if disturbed, wounded or otherwise remotely threatened.

Unlike most other carnivores (notably cheetah and leopard) lions are social animals, living and hunting in prides which can number a dozen or more and which may embrace several age groups.

Prides are usually found in areas where there is abundant game, such as buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. The lioness is the nucleus of the pride although there may also be a dominant male. Fights between rival males for a pride occur and can sometimes result in death or serious injury to one of the combatants.

Male lions become sexually mature at about two years old but usually have to wait another three years to mate. Females become pregnant for the first time around the age of four and produce litters every two years until they are about 15 years old.

Copulation between lions is notable for its foreplay and frequency. Courtship is initiated by either sex with the pair remaining together and the male following the female at all times and resting beside her.

Copulation occurs about every 15 minutes, lasting around a minute, over a period of several hours. During breaks the lion and lioness will lie beside each other or walk short distances before the next mating session.

The male may gently stroke the female on the shoulder, neck or back with his tongue to encourage submissiveness; he may seize her by the scruff of the neck (a painless, largely symbolic, act) during copulation, and the lioness can be heard purring.

Fertility is low and the number of cubs an impregnated female produces averages only 2.6. Cubs suckle for six to seven months and have a high mortality rate – as high as 60 percent in some recorded cases – due to scarcity of food, abandonment, disease and other predators.

The average weight of an adult male lion is around 190 kg, with females averaging 126 kg. Adult males, who stand 1.25 metres at the shoulder, reach their maximum weight in seven years, females in five to six years.

The colour of adults is sandy or tawny on the upper body and white underneath. The backs of the rounded ears are black in sharp contrast to the body colour. The tail, roughly half the length of the combined head and body, can be black-tipped.

Adult males have a mane up to 160 mm in length that with advanced years, can become black. The mane of the younger males tends to be sandy or tawny although climatic variations can affect colouring. Maneless male lions are rare.


Lions have five digits (toes) on the front feet and four on the rear. Each toe is equipped with very sharp, scimitar-shaped, retractable claws. These claws, and the formidable lower jaw, are the main killing weapons.

Male lions rarely participate in the hunt, leaving this to the lionesses. But once a kill is made they take first priority, with the lionesses having to wait until the male has eaten his fill. Cubs come last.

 

 

 

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