How Elephant Milking Hoax Made Man a Millionaire

  • Peter Baraza's route to millions cannot be termed as conventional.

    Baraza's road to wealth can be traced back to October 30, 1998, and materialised on November 15, 2006, when a court awarded him Ksh2 million.

    Then an unknown farmer from Nyahururu, he was awarded the sum for a defamation suit that he filed against Daily Nation, for alleging that Baraza had milked an elephant.

    One of the elephants from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Nursery in Nairobi National Park with her caretaker.

    The daily had published a story that later became infamous titled, The Man Who Milked a Jumbo which they published twice first on October 30, 1998 and again on November 4,1998.

    The newspaper went into great detail to explain how the farmer had attempted the bizzare feat.

    The story was subsequently pulled down but the case, Nation Newspapers Limited v Peter Baraza Rabando [2007] provided choice excerpts on how Baraza had allegedly milked the elephant.

    "A young farm hand suffered two broken ribs, and a dislocated shoulder...after trying to milk an elephant.  The elephant, which had been browsing peacefully with her calf, suddenly realized that she was being handled and indignantly tossed 21 year old Peter Baraza into the air together with his half filled can of milk," the publication reported.

    The media house detailed how Baraza struggled to get away from the gigantic mammal.

    "Badly wounded, he struggled to escape by climbing a nearby tree, but she seized the tree with her trunk, uprooted it with one violent tug and waved it in the air with Peter clinging desperately to a branch," the article read.

    The story, that merited a reprinting, was so popular that it was picked up by the international media.

    A report from the Chicago Tribune published on October 30, 1998 featured the story as it was presented. 

    "The Daily Nation said Peter Baraza, 21, crept up on the wild elephant near Lake Nakuru in Kenya's Rift Valley and managed to pull nearly a pint of milk before the cow realized it was not her calf that was suckling," the Chicago Tribune informed at the time.

    It went on to highlight that there was an inconsistency in the piece, given that Daily Nation did not provide reasons as to why Baraza was milking the elephant in the first place.

    "The Daily Nation said the elephant was finally distracted by a group of screaming women and Baraza was rescued and taken to hospital. The newspaper did not say why Baraza -- who suffered broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder -- tried to milk the elephant," the international media house criticised.

    The speed at which the story spread across the country prompted the daily to release the second version of on November 4, 1998.

    "Twenty two year old Peter Baraza is a daring man.  He did what nobody ever attempted to do- he milked a rogue elephant.  Baraza concedes that he had never seen a jumbo before but his encounter with the mammal will ever be imprinted in his memory for the rest of his life," Daily Nation reposted. 

    One of the elephants from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Nursery in Nairobi National Park with her keeper, Edwin.

    In the second version, the daily went ahead to publish a picture of Baraza holding a can full of milk with an elephant in the background

    According to Peter Baraza Rabado v Nation Newspaper Ltd [2006] Baraza, in his arguments against the daily, argued that the article painted him as a fool, a man of very low intelligence or a drunkard.

    Baraza further argued that the article portrayed him as a person who could not differentiate between a cow and an elephant.

    "In the present case, doing the best that I can, and taking into account the factors that I have enumerated hereinabove, I hereby assess the general damages to be paid to the plaintiff for being defamed by the defendant to be Ksh2 million," the judge ruled in Baraza's favour.