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‘Paper lion’ man: No, I wasn’t high on miraa when I called KWS

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 error.

“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.

“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.

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.