The Tribes of the Elephants


The Samburu are related to the more famous Maasai tribes. The Samburu people are semi-nomadic pastoralists whose lives revolve around their herds of cows, sheep, goats and camels. Generally between five and ten families set up encampments for five weeks and then move onto new pastures. Roles are very traditional with adult men caring for the grazing livestock whilst the women maintain the portable huts, milk cattle, obtain water and firewood. Boys assist with cattle herding and learn to hunt whilst girls fetch water, wood and cook. The main part of their diet comes from milk (sometimes mixed with blood), with meat only being eaten on special occasions. Soups are made from roots and barks and vegetables are eaten if they can be grown in the area. Traditional dress is bright red material used like a skirt, worn with multi beaded necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Their language is a Maa language very close to the Maasai dialects.


The Maasai are famous herders and warriors whose tribe once dominated the plans of East Africa, they are now confined to a far smaller area of their former range. The main source of food for the Maasai traditional came from their cattle in the form of milk and meat. Others foods were obtained be exchange. Today they also need to grow crops and move their hers from place to place to allow the land to restore and give crops a chance to grow. Maasai society is organised into male age groups whose members are initiated to become warriors and then elders. They have no chiefs, although each area has a spiritual leader. More recently Maasai have been increasingly forced to settle and take jobs in towns. Much of what was previously Maasai land has been taken over for private farms, ranches, government projects and wildlife parks. This has often left the Maasai with the driest and least fertile areas.


The Turkana are a very traditional tribe with most of their people still living rural lives as they have for generations. Their territory is near the shores of Lake Turkana in the very dry regions of northwest Kenya. They rely heavily on the rainy seasons and the two rivers that run through their land for water which can often be very scarce. Livestock are the centre point of the Turkana economics, representing both a food supply and wealth. Camels, cows and goats are the favoured animals. They are a nomadic tribe with a lose social structure caused by a constant need to find the best grazing areas. Each family is a self contained unit with of 4 - 5 families sometimes grazing together.