March 5, 2010

Ex-pat grumblings and rumblings.

There is a plague in Dar es Salaam. A plague of crows. These loud, large black birds are Indian Crows. Their entry into Tanzania was originally anticipated to be more of a blessing than a curse. Over a century ago, the Indian Crow was imported to Zanzibar by Sir Gerald Portal to help the island's sanitary conditions through their penchant for consuming waste. Since that time, the crow population has grown in both their population size and reach. Today, in Dar es Salaam on mainland Tanzania, the crow population is estimated to be 1 million.

Dislike for these birds, also commonly referred to as "flying rats", is palatable. For instance, former U.S. ambassador Robert V. Royall made quite a name for himself here within the Dar es Salaam community when he called in members of his Marine detachment to his compound to fire at these birds with 12-gauge shotguns. This pasttime for the former ambassador resulted in the killing of about 1,000 crows, which hardly made a dent in their overall numbers, but I suppose proved quite a diversion for him on a personal level. To be sure, dislike for these birds extends well beyond trivial concerns about commonplace nuisances to ecological concerns related to how these crows have wiped out other bird populations within Dar es Salaam, and public health concerns that they are can potentially pass avian influenza because they are known to attack and eat young chickens.



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