Home' Travel News : February - March 2018 Contents 34 travel news february/march 2018
february/march 2018 travel news 35
It is early morning when Juma left his thatched house on the edge of the beach outside
Kenya’s coastal village of Kikambala, writes Duncan Mitchell from Vipingo Ridge. The day
was cool and a gentle breeze rustled the coconut palms, but there was no bird song.
Only the persistent nasal cawing of the Indian House Crow, or kunguru in Juma’s kiSwahili. In fact the harsh
dominating cries of that ghostly bird made Juma pause and think. When was the last time he had heard the
coo of doves in the morning, or the distinctive evening gurgle of the bottle-bird?
These days one never saw a single one of those beautifully-coloured Love Birds that once flocked the
coastal region. Where had all the twittering sunbirds gone? Recently he found a dead Lila Breasted Roller;
Kenya’s national bird, with its eyes cruelly plucked out. It seemed every African bird around his village had
disappeared or had been wiped out. He thought more about the crows, scavengers, who were comparatively
new to his part of the coast.
His neighbor had given up trying to rear chickens, no sooner were the chicks left to free-range than they
were snatched by the crows. Another neighbour complained of ugly, septic sores on lactating cows and
goats’ udders, caused by vicious crows pecking milk-drops with their deadly and infectious beaks. Juma
strongly suspected the rotting sickness in his small paw-paw (papaya) and mango plantation was somehow
caused by the infected crows gorging on his ripe fruit, vectoring the fungus onto his neighbours’ trees and
even further afield.
Juma did not know of the other deadly diseases the crows carried; avian flu that
could wipe out the poultry industry or cryptococcus, a particularly horrible fungal
infection, fatal to humans and animals.
He knew little of the crows ways; of plucking up putrid garbage from one area and
carelessly discarding it in-flight, so it dropped aimlessly into a school playground
or on a doorstep to be trodden within. Their droppings are so toxic it can blister
His once pristine Kikambala beach was spoiled with fish offal snatched by crows
from the fishermen’s cleaning-stage, dropped, and left to rot. The beach cleaners,
the crabs and the sea-birds had long been killed or chased away by the crows.
The loss of the crabs turned the fine white beach sand dirty grey and the sea’s
natural leavings were no longer speedily removed, so the beach now smelled of
Even fresh coconuts, he mused to himself, were a problem. Coconut palms were
favourite kunguru nesting sites and an attack while harvesting them by irate crows
forty feet up was no laughing matter.
He remembered his grandfather telling stories about how it was only bats who
could pollinate the mighty baobab tree....he gazed with concern at the massive tree
near his house, its huge white flowers hung heavy, ready to release the evening
bat-attracting aroma. Only there were no bats, all had been killed by kunguru.
His daughter spread a blanket in the shade of the neem tree and laid her toddler
carefully as she busied herself arranging washing. Juma smiled; the little mite’s
face and fingers thickly smeared with sticky breakfast porridge. Suddenly the crow
cawing changed note and he became aware of sinister, dark shapes flitting into
the shade tree, the crows were gathering. He shouted and waved frantically; they
bleated sneers and casually hopped higher, ever watching the baby.
Juma is not alone in his concern.
The last count puts the population of crows in Mombasa at 0.8 million, with another
1.3 million thriving along the Kenya coast from Lunga Lunga to Lamu. Uncounted
millions can be found along all of the African coast from Suez to Cape Town.
Introduced into Zanzibar by the British in the late 18th century, the Indian House
Crow population explosion now totally dominates the East African coast...to the
detriment of all our other natural specie, from birds to baby turtles.
This alien invader has successfully conquered and the horror has already started!
Arrivals at Mombasa’s international airport are greeted with swooping black devils
flying unrestricted through the arrival and departures halls. The airports restaurants
are plagued with crows snatching food out of innocent hands, then splattering
filthy highly corrosive excrement inside the terminals.
The pestilential plague of the Indian House Crow that blights the East
African coast. Words by Duncan Mitchell
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