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Black crow politics: To kill or not to kill!

[Incidentally, the phrase ‘phony war’ described a phase marked by lack of major military operations by the (Western) Allies against the German/Axis forces in early World War-II, 1939- 45. But, that’s another story…) The story here today’s about black crows (members of the Corvidae family and Corvus genus — if I may wax scientific!) and their fate in coastal Tanzania in particular.

The first (surprising) development was the announcement by the Head of the Zanzibar Govt. of National Unity, President Ali Mohammed Shein, that his Govt. would intensify its fight against black crows in the Isles. Indeed, Zanzibar isn’t exactly original or the pioneer of the Crow War.

Mainland-Tanzania has been at it longer! The second development — which is most gratifying — was an article in the Govt. English-language weekly ‘Sunday News’ on Oct. 7, 2012. Penned by columnist AmbyLusekelo, the article was titled ‘Can Dar win war on kunguru, really?’

‘Kunguru’ is, of course, ki-Swahili for crows; and ‘Dar’ meant Tanzania Mainland… Noting that “the Govt. has been in a two-year ‘project’ (what a semantic beauty) to rid Dar, Morogoro and Coast Regions of more than 800,000 (black crows),” the columnist said the project started in July 2010 and, by Sept. 2012, 807,961 (exactly?) kungurus are reported to have been killed…” Apparently, this averment is based upon a statement by the Ministry of Natural Resources & Tourism.

“The exercise,” the Ministry smugly explains, “is aimed at controlling the number of kungurus, thus reducing inconveniences to members of the public — especially at eating places…!” Oh, there’s much more that’s intriguing in the AmbyLusek piece… For instance, the ‘war’ — which has already consumed the goodly sum of US$1.2m (roughly Tsh1.9bn) — is being funded by Denmark, Finland and the USA!

According the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, there’re about a million black crows in the skies over Dar and its immediate surroundings. So, it roughly costs one US dollar to kill one black crow… This in a country where 36% of the 46m-population lives on less than US$1 a day!

The arsenal used in the ‘war’ includes bird traps and a poison code-named ‘DRC-1339,’ a.k.a ‘Starlicide,’ or “gull toxicant, a chemical avicide that’s highly toxic to European starlings and gulls…” Now you know! I’ve gone into so much detail here on the AmbyLusek article because not many people may have had the privilege of reading it in its original form. My objective is to give enough background to what follows herein below: the pertinent posers raised by the author — and with which I unreservedly agree!

For starters, AmbyLusek wonders via the QWERTY why the Govt. should spend such a relatively whopping sum — no doubt part of it in scarce foreign exchange to import avicide and bird traps — on a war which, in all probability, it’s never going to win… Or sustain the ‘nominal victory’ well into the future! Secondly, avicides which may work on European starlings and gulls may not work on ‘our’ crows! “Kungurus are some of the cleverest birds, and the ones in Bongo-land are downright intelligent,” AmbyLusek marvels.

Besides, “killing kungurus doesn’t cause the surviving ones to leave town! It merely allows more of the next season’s young to survive due to less competition for the available resources. Matter of fact, changes in kunguru numbers are very short-term,” the writer notes, citing the ‘Humane Society’ webpage for that morsel of information. Columnist Amby isn’t alone in these sentiments against the ‘war’ on black crows.

I’ve penned similar sentiments in the past… One, titled ‘Crow-killing: good money down the drain,’ was published in the Daily News of April 18, 2011. (The other, titled ‘Why black crows won’t simply go away,’ appeared in The- Citizen of April 30, 2011]. In both articles, I decried the phony war on crows — arguing that it’s as inordinately expensive and unnecessary as it is futile. In other words, there’s no value for money in it!

So, what is/are the real motive(s) behind this unholy, inhumane war on one of God’s little creatures? Well, let AmbyLusek propound on that… “Someone out there’s living a good life at the expense of the kungurus (I like that choice of diction!)… A couple of new cars, His and Hers, of course; a new house; some clothes — and even some new cutting-edge electronics…”

Get the Big Picture? Surely, aren’t there more directly beneficial socio-economic priorities to pursue using the funds wasted on a futile War against Mother Nature and Father Time’s creatures? I ask you! Cheers!



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