"I hope we did the right thing," Winter said as we drove away. "This kind of poaching is never going to be eradicated. The people are hungry for meat, for protein of any kind. They see game as competition for their cattle. And with the human population of Kenya growing at about 3.5% a year, the competition is going to get sharper and sharper. In the old days the tribes were nomadic, so they took their killing of the game with them whenever they moved. Now the government is encouraging permanent farms, subsistence farms. No farmer wants bushbuck invading his plot of maize. He sets wire snares along the game trails. Keeps crop loss down and puts meat in the pot. When lions kill his cattle, he puts a spoonful of Coopertox—cattle dip—into the carcass and the lions are finished. Poisoned. In the old days the warriors went out after the lion with spears, but that's all in the past. Tin roofs, babies, wire snares and cattle dip—that's the wave of the future. That's what will ultimately finish the wildlife."
Later in the day we found the skeleton of a buffalo, its horn tips cut off to make the ubiquitous Kenyan snuffboxes called karanges. Stopping at various villages along the way, we heard the same story from everyone. Nyama mingi—plenty of game. Lions had been taking the cattle. There were elephants and rhinos in the deep forest. Baboons had been into the corn last night. Would we shoot them?
"But the hunting is finished," Winter explained time and again. "It is over. The government has taken away our guns."
"But I am a good skinner. Could you not hire me for this safari?"
Driving back to camp that night we spotted glowing eyes in the light of the head lamps—a leopard high on Naibor Keju. I hoped it was the same leopard that had kept me awake every night with its coughing four years ago, as it prowled in search of baboons. The stars were out in fuller force than we had seen so far. Beyond the reach of the campfire the air was Rocky Mountain crisp. I recall hearing that this was the very country in which Arthur Neumann, the turn-of-the-century elephant hunter, made his name. I was told he was the first white man to live here permanently. And that only 70-odd years ago. The Samburu have a name for him, Nyama Yangu—My Meat—because whenever they came begging he turned them away with that phrase. An old man named Lesombolo, who came to camp in hopes of selling us a spear ("This is my heart!" he exclaimed in his sales pitch. "I'll take $8 for it"), said he once worked for Nyama Yangu. He said that Nyama Yangu carved his initials and those of his safari boys on a tree trunk below the waterfall across from camp. But that was long ago.
Dropping off to sleep, I remembered being told that Nyama Yangu had never sold the ivory of the elephants he had killed. He told friends he had cached it somewhere in the Samburu country. Maybe there, near the waterfall, where the old man had told us we might find his initials? The Treasure of Nyama Yangu.... That's what Africa does to you.
The leopard coughed up on the rock face far above my tent. That was reality—at least there was one leopard left.
The Shaba Game Reserve, north of Isiolo in the Northern Frontier District, is a small park by Kenya's standards—only 100 square miles in area—yet it is quintessentially East Africa. Flat-topped acacias stud the rolling, high-grass game plain. The country looks deceptively easy to travel but is in fact a lava bed that will turn an ankle in an instant of unwariness. The park's northern boundary is the Ewaso Ngiro River, cascading down from the heights of Mount Kenya to die, finally, in the Lorian Swamp south of Wajir. When we arrived the river was in spate, thanks to the ongoing rains. It ran red between its sandstone banks, carrying with it tons of topsoil.
On the way in we spotted birds working over a carcass and, on approaching, found it to be that of a young lion. He had not yet developed a mane, and the condition of his hide—hair slipping at the touch of a boot—showed he had been poisoned.
"Probably a cattle killer," Winter said, "or maybe the son of one. At any rate, the Coopertox has finished him for good and all. The trouble with this indiscriminate use of poison is that it kills everything that comes to feed on the carcass of a dead cow. Jackals, hyenas, vultures, marabous, not to mention the lion that quite innocently did the job in the first place."