This week saw a horrendous hyena attack in at of the nearby Maasai villages. In the middle of the day a small herd of cattle was grazing near the village. Without warning a pack of hyenas, about five, appeared within the herd. Before the young boys herding the cattle could raise the alarm, the hyenas had ripped the throats out of two of two milk cows. Startled and maybe frightened by the shouts of the herders, the pack of hyenas lumbered off. Alerted by the distinctive calls of the boys indicating an immediate threat, warriors quickly came running with their short swords and spears. They went off tracking the hyenas.
This attack in broad daylight quite near a village was very unusual. Hyenas often attack villages in the night, carrying off a young goat or sheep. From time to time a hyena will enter a house, grab a woman or child by the foot while sleeping, and try to drag the person away. But this is the first time that I’ve heard of such a daring daylight raid.
Traditionally, we thought of hyenas as scavengers of dead and rotting meat, the kills of lions or leopards. In more recent years we’ve come to realize that hyenas are hunters and very effective ones. On the plains spread out before us here at Olbalbal, one sometimes comes across packs of hunting hyenas running down Thomson and Grant gazelles.
In the Maasai villages of Lorlmun’yi on the mountain above us here there have been a rash of recent leopard attacks on sheep and goat enclosures. A number of families have lost animals to these stealthy and powerful animals. The people are uncertain whether it is a single leopard attacking or a number of them. They are so fast getting in and out of a “boma”, taking a goat or sheep in their powerful jaws, that the warriors so far have been unable to catch them (or it). They tell me that they are looking for some kind of poison to put on a freshly killed goat to get the intruder when it comes back for a second meal.
These days Tanzanian schools are opening for the new term. It is a stressful time. School fees must be found and paid and all the needs of the new term looked after, from notebooks to mattresses. Three of the students that I support for their education are returning to their various schools.
Lenkangu returns for the second term of his first year in Teacher Training College. He is the young man that I have talked about in the past. He dreams of
teaching in Maasai country. Lenkangu talks often of helping to raise the level of education among the Maasai. Most teachers will do anything to avoid appointments to bush schools, so Lenkangu shouldn’t have a problem to get assigned to a Maasai school. This term he will be assigned to some school in Tanzania for six weeks to do student teaching, then back to the college for the rest of the term.
Fabiola returns for her final year of secondary school at St. Joseph’s high school run by sisters. She has done very well so far except for math that seems to be the waterloo of so many Tanzanian students. Otherwise, her marks are all A’s and B’s. She hopes to do better in Math during this final year.
Tuke has just finished primary school here at Olbalbal and has been assigned to begin Form I at the government secondary school at Malambo, a small village across the plains from us here at Olbalbal. He is very excited about leaving Olbalbal and beginning the adventure of high school. He has never traveled beyond Ngorongoro so Malambo will be a new world for him. Getting him ready for school has meant looking for everything from pencils to blankets and a mattress.
Lesisita has begun to study electricity at a trade school run by the Spiritans. He started school a month ago. I called the
priest headmaster yesterday to see how Lesisita is doing. It seems that he is serious and is fitting well into the program. He is hoping to find a good job afterwards to build his life and support his mother.
This has been a scary week. A few days ago a sharp pain in my hand rudely awakened me. A scorpion had stung me. I felt a sharp pain in the hand that was hanging over the side of the bed. On turning on the bedside solar light, I saw a small scorpion scurrying away across the room. For some time I’ve been afraid that this would happen. I see them from time to time when sweeping the floor or moving furniture but up to last night I had never been attacked. The pain was formidable. There was no more sleep after that 2AM encounter. For a full day and a half the pain was intense, like the blade of a knife stuck in my hand. Then I could see that the bite had become infected. I went down to our local government clinic and was given antibiotic pills to take for a week. Now it is much better, not hurting any more and showing signs of healing. Last night, waking up at about 3AM and turning on the light next to my bed, I spotted the critter next to my bed. I was able to grab by walking stick and crush the creature. His hunting days are over.
Two days ago, some young warriors were passing by the house and sited a very large snake just entering the house through the narrow opening between the
roof and the top of the wall. They managed to kill it with rocks. It was very fortunate that they saw the animal and were able to kill it. This was the second Red Spitting Cobra that we sighted and killed in a month. These snakes are very lethal. Just a couple of weeks ago we killed another one next to the church. These animals are really big, thick and about four and a half feet long.
From Wikipedia; The venom of this species, like most spitting cobras, contains a mixture of neurotoxins and cytotoxins. Bite symptoms include slight pain around the wound and numbness of lips and tongue. Although it rarely causes human fatalities, survivors are usually disfigured. In September 2011, a snake keeper from the Eastern Cape in South Africa died shortly after a red spitting cobra sprayed venom into his face while he and a friend were photographing the snake. Some of the venom was believed to have entered his nasal passages and led to anaphylactic shock. His asthma is believed to have contributed to the fatal reaction.