|Lembris Kephas Mollel - a smile to lighten the world|
A member of the Waarusha tribe, Lembris lived all his life in the small dusty village of Lerang'wa on the northwestern corner of Kilimanjaro, occupying a small homestead of traditional round huts and cultivating a few acres of maize and beans when the seasons permitted. When Charles Foley and I arrived to undertake a census of the Kilimanjaro elephants in 1990 he was one of the young men of the village to work for us as a porter on our lengthy transects through the forest, and on my return in 1992 he became one of my field assistants alongside Mtapa Abdallah and Obedi Daniel. In this capacity he helped carry the kit, set out quadrats, make camp and cook - we spent many nights huddled round a campfire together, eating an unappetizing meal of ugali and fried cabbage. He and Mtapa were with me on the occasion we walked unawares into a pride of lions and had to take evasive action into the (fortunately) giant heather trees (Erica excelsa). On another occasion he was deputed to take my parents for a walk in the forest; they came across some buffalo dung and my mother asked 'Where are buffalo now, Lembris?' He said 'oh, far away' - at which point, inevitably, two buffalo burst from cover and dashed off in the other direction (also fortunately).
In addition to his help 'outside' Lembris also assisted Obedi in drying and managing my herbarium specimens, even mounting many of them onto cards, some of which are still to be found in the herbarium at Kew, and contributed to my ethnobotanical records of the uses of forest species. It was Lembris and Mtapa who guide me to the only known small stand of bamboo on Kilimanjaro (now Oldeania alpina, which uses the Maasai word for bamboo, oldeani, to form the generic name) and, on my last day of the fieldwork, to the tree that was to give the clue to my thesis. This was a huge Juniperus procera, standing alone in broad-leaved forest; since it requires open bare ground to germinate and establish it was evident that the vegetation in that spot, far from being immutable climax forest, had been bare hillside about three hundred years previously.
|Lembris (left) and Mtapa at the foot of the solitary Juniperus procera., August 1994|
|Lembris and Lerang'wa village Chairman Joseph with my sheep, 2009.|
|Anna and Elia|
Kwa heri, Rafiki