Those who chew miraa beguile their audiences with tales of how they will make it big in life and get rich quickly. In their parlance, it is referred to as “building castles in the air” and as the effects of the stimulant settles in the brain, they also experience wild hallucinations.
To figure out how Franklin Murimi, a farm worker at Kiangua, Imenti South in Meru mistook a painting of a lion on a branded shopping bag for the real animal, Kenyans online concluded that Mr Murimi was in the influence of khat.
However, whether Mr Murimi had chewed miraa or not is not the subject of the matter right now; he won himself a fully paid trip to Maasai Mara National Reserve courtesy of his visual judgement erro
“That’s not true, I was sober,” he laughed off the suggestion on Thursday while on an early morning game drive in the world famous Maasai Mara as he concluded his three-day all expenses tour, which was sponsored by Expeditions Maasai Safaris.
“I occasionally chew it but on that day I had not consumed the stimulant. I was sure that what I saw was a lion. In fact, on this tour I have seen a pride of about 10 with the lion, lioness and the cubs and the image is similar to the one I saw,” he told Nation.Africa in a phone interview.
He explained: “Of course I was afraid it could be a lion. We live near Mt Kenya forest and wild animals have in the past been captured in the village so by alerting people I wanted to make sure I did not make any mistake,” added the 25-year-old.
Asked what it felt going on a Safari in a tourist van, something he would not have dreamed about in his entire life, Mr Murimi said: “I have now been exposed to this world. It is very exciting.”
Mrs Mary Mugambi, his employer of three months who called Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers and accompanied him on the trip, said they were enjoying themselves. “It is wonderful and we have seen many animals.”
On May 4, Mr Murimi spotted the shopping bag under a flower bed with the image of a lion on it. The cat looked like it was ready to attack, sending the entire village into panic.
“We alerted KWS officers who, when they came, were also cautious and thought it was a lion,” Mr Murimi said.
Kiangua assistant chief Basti Mwandiki said when he was called to the scene, he also did not doubt it was a lion.
“We kept a distance and out of fear we could not realise that it was a mere drawing. Our fears were buttressed by the fact that there has been a marauding wild animal that has killed many sheep in neighboring Igoji East,” Mr Mwandiki said.
He said when KWS officers arrived, they also affirmed that the image was a real lion. “The officers had to climb to the rooftop of a nearby house to get a closer look. This is when they discovered that it was not a wild animal much to the relief of locals,” he said.
Mr Joseph Maina, Expeditions Maasai marketing manager, said when they learnt of the incident, the company decided to offer a trip for Mr Murimi “to afford him the opportunity to see the real lion”.
“Murimi said he has never been on a safari and as a farm assistant, it would have taken him some time to afford one. We came in to offer him the opportunity to experience what our customers experience when on holiday with us. We are ready to touch the lives of others who might otherwise find it hard to pay for a holiday and we will continue to do so,” Mr Maina said.
Kiangua residents also said they were convinced it was a lion, since over the last three months, several domestic animals had been killed by a wild animal. Mr Muteti Rwiro, a resident, said he lost seven sheep to a marauding wild animal in February.
He said the unidentified animal resurfaced three weeks ago and killed several sheep in the neighborhood.
“The KWS has been setting up traps in the area but no animal has been caught. We have been living in fear,” Mr Rwiro said.
Area residents were yet to clear the memories of a 2018 incident when a lioness terrorised them for about two months.
It took KWS rangers seven hours of chase to kill the lioness after it turned violent even after being sedated.
The lioness was believed to have escaped from Meru National Park before finding its way to the area through Tharaka Nithi.