Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bird Hunting

As there are many ways to skin a cat, there are as many ways to kill a bird. Here is a short comparison of a few of the ways:

I often bike in the mornings to a neighboring village to work with one of the farmers there. The mornings are beautiful: the coolest part of the day, birds still have energy to sing, as you bike the air is refreshing, people are cheerful, and I am once again optimistic that today will be successful. And then I pass overweight Frenchmen shooting doves in Africa because they've got money to burn and testosterone to spare. They come bounding up in their trucks, sparse hair blowing in the wind as they hold their heads out the window and dream about conquering adventures. They drive a few hundred meters off of the road, forging ahead to new discoveries (of a modest farmer's corn field). There they disembark, stalking their claim, getting a feel for the lay of this foreign and harsh land. And then they shoot. And shoot. And shoot and shoot and shoot. They don't bother to find their trappings, they don't eat dirty relatives of the thinly muscled pigeon, or even really bother to move. A few steps to the left a few to the right. If you scare a flock of them into flight, there's no need to scout out your prey. And as it rains dead birds, they feed the masses. Young Senegalese boys run around collecting the carnage for lunch. Look, they have fed the hungry with their hard work and generous hearts! All hail the foreign hunter! He brings cado cado cados! There is not much that will ruin a day faster than watching people kill doves for no real reason, although I have to admit that the stench of rotting cow that now lines that road is a close second. Senegal does not have much. It does have beautiful birds. I wish that people would not take that from us as well.

I do not paint that picture to make you think that only foreigners come in and kill Senegal's wildlife. Certainly Senegalese kill the animals around themselves with little more purpose. The other evening I was sitting and reading in my compound when about 30 Senegalese children come running in, screaming. They are hot on the trail of something. It's gone behind my grandmother's hut and they follow with sticks and rocks and a purpose. I ask my mom what's going on and she says it's a bad thing that kills people. She assures me that they'll catch and kill it, so not to worry. When it's done and stoned I ask if I can see what caused such uproar, and before they burn it, they consent to let me see. A baby owl. I was unaware that owls killed people...

But some of the ways animals are killed here are much more interesting and uplifting. There is a bird here, the Franklin (wholo in Jaxanke), that is shaped somewhat like a chicken and apparently has very tasty meat. Unfortunately I have not had the chance to eat one yet, and I think that is because my host brothers are still young. Franklin's are killed only when the sun is at it's hottest, when they're tired and slow. They sleep in the bush on the ground and although they can fly, they usually go short distances from one clump of brush to another. When a village wants to go Franklin hunting, they'll organize a whole group of young men to go out together. Each man will carry a stick and they'll wack the bushes with it to scare anything out of them. If a Franklin flies out the race is on. The men will chase the bird until one finally corners and catches it. Not only are they catching dinner, it is like a game where teamwork is required and the winners get the meat. It is a testament to human strength. We can survive the heat and sun, work together, race a bird, and catch it. I do not mind the killing of animals, but there are different ways of going about it; this seems like one of the most honorable ways possible.

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