Man's best friend: Why villager and baby baboon are inseparable

Wednesday May 13 2020
Isaac Kibet

Isaac Kibet, 32, at Samar village in Arror, Marakwet East, holding a baboon he rescued in October last year. He has named the baboon Josephine Kibet. PHOTO | FLORAH KOECH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By FLORAH KOECH

A man in Marakwet has become the talk of the village after adopting a young baboon and making the wild animal his best friend.

Although his interest in primate may have cost him his family after wife and children ran away, 32-year-old Isaac Kibet, harbours no regrets at all saying he had found peace in living with the animal he has named Josephine Kibet.

When we visited Kibet we found him seated on a wooden stump in his two-room mud-walled house as he cuddled the one-year-old Josephine.

Josephine appeared uncomfortable by our arrival and held on to her caretaker as she ate a banana and a slice of bread and avoided facing the cameras.

She kept lifting her arms up indicating that she wanted it being scratched, as she swatted flies away in the process destructing our conversation with Mr Kibet.

From a distance, some few awed neighbours were watching from a distance and dozens of children wanted an opportunity to play with the baboon.

Kibet from Samar village in Arror, Marakwet East, said he rescued the baboon and took her to his house in October last year after he found her in his farm on a rainy evening in the company of his goats.

According to Mr Kibet, the baboon was so tiny then, weighing less than a kilogramme and had no fur on her body.

 “I cannot tell whether it was left by the mother or she followed my goats from the grazing fields that day. It was raining heavily and she looked so helpless, very tiny with no fur on her body. I decided to take her to my house and nurse her as I thought of the next move,” said Mr Kibet.

 It is not surprising that the farmer ended up giving the baboon a human name because he said she has always behaved like a human and could discern visitors to his home.

He said Josephine had become familiar with the language spoken around and she already responds to her name.

“She is very fond of me to an extent that she knows my voice and can identify me in a crowd. Whenever she spots a new person or senses danger, she jumps on to my back,” he said.

 The father of four says that the baboon has turned to be a companion after his wife and children relocated to Kampi Nyasi in the neighbouring Baringo County.

He, however, declined to divulge if living with the baboon affected his relationship with his wife who relocated elsewhere with their children.

 “This baboon has become part of my family; in fact I take care of her as if she is my last born. She is my only companion after my wife and children relocated to the neighbouring county. She amazes me because she understands my language though she cannot talk like a human being, she does as I command her to,” said the farmer.

“I also know when she is hungry, when not feeling well or when she senses danger,” he added.

 Mr Kibet goes with the primate everywhere, including the farm, shopping centre and even village gatherings, something that has surprised people in the locality.

 “I have converted one of the rooms in my house to be her bedroom and when I retire to bed, she also goes to sleep. In the morning I prepare tea for both of us and we leave the house together for our daily chores,” said Mr Kibet.

 He relies on menial jobs and farming for his survival, but he ensures that he gets milk and food to feed Josephine.

 “I normally ensure that she gets three meals a day apart from what she eats when we are in the farm. When I go to a hotel, I buy a cup of tea or a meal for both of us. But she only takes the food I give her myself, not anyone else and she takes everything I eat,” he said.

 “I also trim her nails regularly and scrub her with soap and water regularly to ward off pests and harmful insects,” he added.

 According to the farmer, staying with the baboon in his house for more than six months has taught him to develop love for primates.

 “This baboon has formed part of my life; I have developed a passion for primates after I took in Josephine. I have come to also realise that she is intelligent and behaves like human beings, apart from the tail and I only wish the Kenya Wildlife Services would allow me stay with her a little longer,” said Mr Kibet.

 However, the farmer has had a fair share of criticism from his community who view him as an outcast and defying the norms to live with a wild animal.

 “I have a name in my community and the neighbouring villages, both for the wrong and right. I am a fan of my many children who want to come to my home and play with the baboon but a section of the locals view my move to live with it as uncivilized and against the cultural practices,” he said.

 He said some of his peers have avoided his company for fear that he is engaging in witchcraft or has been bewitched.

 He said that one his sons had threatened at some point that he would come back and kill the baboon if he will not surrender it to the KWS.

A neighbour, Naomi Kiptoo, said that it was a good move to rescue the baboon but it was not right for the farmer to keep it in his house.

 Mr Kibet however said that after he rescued the baboon, he reported to Chesuman Police Station and he was authorised to keep it.

“When I rescued the baboon, I immediately reported to Chesuman Police Station boss and he wrote a letter indicating that I should take care of the animal. The KWS are also aware and they keep visiting to check on her progress,” said Mr Kibet.

The Nation saw the letter which was written by Chesuman OCS dated October 16, 2019 indicating that Kibet rescued the baboon and he should be helped to secure the animal in its natural habitat.

“Mr Kibet happened to take into safety one young baboon that is suspected to have been abandoned by its mother during heavy rains at KVDA Chepkum. Please assist him have the same animal be secured in its natural habitat,” read the letter.