Monday, 22 March 2010

Walking with a Ranger

National park rangers in Tanzania are usually recruited form the military - apparently having one year's training in the army is quite desirable. Candidates then join the ranger or guide service for further training - this time in animal identification, habits and characteristics. They conduct short walks or longer hikes into the bush if you want a better African experience. You can even hike into pygmy country around Ngorongoro crater and go hunting with a bow and arrow.
The guide's name was Idi and he told me quite a lot about the life of a Ranger. Their job consists of monitoring the impact of humans on the park life as well as monitoring the animal life and its general well-being. He carries a gun chiefly to make a noise and scare off any animals they may encounter, and mostly Cape Buffalo and perhaps lion. I asked him how many times he had used his weapon and he replied ' many many times', mostly I gathered in order to scare off some of the larger predators that he encountered in his walks. I was asked about how many people were killed by predators not expecting a reply. He told me that only last year to Maasi men were mauled to death, presumably by lions while they were trying to get home. He did at that both men had been drinking heavily and had probably fallen asleep somewhere in the bush so represented an easy target and the animals. I got the impression from him that although many of these animals are in fact quite dangerous, if you treat them with respect and avoid any direct encounter you're likely to come off quite safely. Because you're never quite sure  of the whereabouts of these animals at any one time the local farmers, the maasai bring their livestock back into the family compound every evening. You can hear the clinking of cowbells always through this area as the boys herd there animals to greener pastures and then bring them back again in the evening. For the entire three hours that we were walking over shadowed by several local Maasai boys asking for the usual school pen or dollar notes. They didn't get any. They were also very curious as to why we were taking pictures of landscape, especially when I set up my tripod to do some HDR shots on the rocky sea in the bottom picture. The lake you see in the background is 50% salt water and 50% freshwater and provides a unique environment that Tanzania's last remaining pygmy tribes. I didn't meet any of course but a trek in that direction to experience their way of life sounded like a cool thing to do if we had more time.

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