Corporal Mbelwa

Name ID 1394

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18g
Extract Date: 1996 July 03


We drive down nearly 2,000 feet to the crater floor below. I feel like I am on a journey to the center of the earth. I have never been down here before. Rian explains that foot patrols are the most important defense to poaching. He says that a horse is good, like they use in Etosha Park (Namibia), but then you need backup. He says motorcycles are also good, like they use in Kruger Park (South Africa), but they give you away and you have to watch the road. 'There is no such thing as a bad field ranger,' Rian tells me, 'but they are only as good as their leader.' We arrive at the anti-poaching camp, and group leader Corporal Mbelwa assembles his men for me to inspect. There is a map of the area on the wall, and bunking quarters for the scouts. I like the scouts. These are the guys who make their living by trying to save rhinos. They are formal and disciplined on the outside, but behind all the guns and camouflage uniforms are the warm smiles of Africa. The thing Rian has learned the most since his arrival in Tanzania has been patience. It can cost up to $50 to send a one page fax or up to $100 to telephone his parents on a bad line, so communications are difficult. He also reminds me that he is just an advisor here, so all of his ideas and thoughts have taken time.

What I enjoy the most about Rian, is that he has been interested to learn the ways of the Maasai. He tells me that they are very proud people, but they are useless for manual work. The Maasai warrior has five different age groups, and the weapons carried by the different age groups are all different. They will also have two different leaders - a diplomatic leader and a war leader. Today, there is a certain amount of racism towards the Maasai. They are considered to be underdeveloped by other Africans. In the past, the Maasai used to raid cattle. They can't now; the times are changing. I find it interesting to see how a previously superior race is now becoming inferior to a modern day system. Now, when you steal a cow, you go to jail. Clement is a traditional Maasai, and he speaks English with an American accent. He spent some time assisting an American researcher studying baboons in the crater, and now he is Rian's advisor on traditions and practices here. He is 50 years old, and he explains to me that when he was 13 and the Maasai were living inside the crater, they used to play a children's game. One child would place something on a sleeping rhino, then the next child would have to take it off. The Maasai are fearless in the field; they have no problem with walking from here to Serengeti with just a blanket, even at night, and this is learned at an early age. Each day about 70 Maasai are permitted down into the crater with up to 1,000 cattle. They must have a permit to go down, and they must be out at night. There are 3 water holes down there, and it looks good to see the Maasai living as they must have for so very long - surrounded by wildlife. Time are changing though. In September 1992, the Maasai were allowed to cultivate inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This was an emergency measure due to the drought, but the Maasai are now demanding cultivation so that they can continue to grow their corn and potatoes to sell outside.

Extract ID: 3651