By JOE KIARIE
With a pocket radio tightly pinned to one ear and six dogs panting at his feet, Mr Saitoti Letevesi knows so well that he cannot afford to wink one too many times. Events from the previous night explain why.
At 10.30pm last Tuesday, he came face to face with a pride of four lionesses as he walked home. Convinced he had dodged them by calmly engaging the reverse gear, he would moments later be stopped in his tracks by the roaring of a lone male lion roaming the grasslands only a stone throw away from his house.
With barely 24 hours gone, he is thus well aware that the lions could be lurking in the nearby bushes, reading his every move waiting to pounce on the treasured yet vulnerable cows, sheep and goats.
To most people, Letevesi’s plight could easily pass as a script from an unnerving jungle movie. But to the pastoralist community in Kitengela, this is the reality they have to contend with for the better part of the calendar.
Here, attacks on sheep by the marauding wild cats no longer make news and the locals have to spend sleepless nights if they are to save their livestock from the mighty jaws of the jungle kings.
Pass as a script
It is in this same village that morans speared to death six lions, among them two cubs, which were feasting on sheep in one of the bomas (homesteads) barely a week ago. But Letevesi claims the current attack spree by lions is bewildering as the cats have been daringly invading cowsheds and feasting on livestock for hours in the past few weeks.
“Mimi sijawahi ona hivi. Hawa simba hawaogopi. (I have never seen this. These lions are fearless,” he exclaims.
Miles away in Olosirkon Village adjacent to the Nairobi National Park (NNP), similar battles between men and carnivores persist. An elderly Mzee Muneenge ole Keeja recounts how he had to boldly accost a lion that had pounced on his bull at midday last Tuesday.
“I was watching over the cows when I suddenly noted a male lion trying to isolate a bull. But it stopped after I ran shouting and threw my club at it,” notes ole Keeja, whose livestock grazes alongside hundreds of wild animals such as zebras, antelopes, wildebeests and ostriches.
Simon Olopii, a resident who grazes on the plains daily explains this is not a new occurrence as lions and other wild carnivores have always pounced on their wildlife. “After a rainy season, the natural prey such as zebras and antelopes run away from the lions in the park and come to this side.