Tag Archives: uganda

Be your own kind of beautiful

This solitary and elusive Shoebill Stork lives in wetlands in very small pockets around Eastern Africa. Their stealthy movements enable them to stalk and lunge at potential meals of lungfish. Standing at up to 5ft high and with somewhat menacing looks, this bird sure can intimidate! But when personally becoming acquainted with one, as I did this one while sitting next to his bucket of fish inside his enclosure, they are incredibly gentle and endearing characters.

Although this rare bird is called a stork, genetically they have more in common with pelicans and herons. With an imposing beak that ends with a sharp hook, these ambush predators can certainly take a large chunk of fish fillet to go. They are primarily solitary birds, doing what they do best alone unless mating or caring for their young. They exude a no-fuss attitude, with their silent nature, slow and measured steps, and a powerful sense of calm.

I love all animals equally, but a soft spot has definitely been reserved for the Shoebill Stork. Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, they are at a high risk of becoming critically endangered due to continued hunting and habitat loss.

Making space for giants

On April 30, 120 tonnes of seized ivory will be piled high and lit in a pyre at Nairobi National Park. These tusks are of course only a fraction of the ivory that comes from the 33,000 elephants that are killed every year.

The ivory burn is set to take place while movers and shakers from the continent will come together at a summit for The Giants Club, an initiative started by the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, Gabon and Botswana to save the African elephant from extinction. Hosted by Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, celebrities, global business leaders, senior conservationists and elephant-protection experts will be coming together over April 29 and 30 in Nairobi to discuss the way forward and to forge new plans to reach the goal of protecting at least 10% of Africa’s elephants by 2020.

This summit will strengthen the home-grown, African-led drive to stop the trade. May this create another boost to escalate the efforts from the continent to protect these giants, and hopefully complex issues including corruption and lack of enforcement can be addressed so that the murder of elephants can be stopped once and for all.

A visitor from the forest

In the mornings in Kampala, I was usually greeted by the endearing cackling of eastern plantain eaters, a squawk or two from some egrets and maybe a call from a local marabou stork that had perched itself on the top of the roof. However when the Ross’ Turaco comes to visit- you know it is going to be a special day.

My blinds are drawn wide open as usual, and I am getting ready for work. I sense someone is watching- but who today? There is a curious Ross’ turaco, sporting a clearly distinctive hairstyle, peering back at me.

Usually found in forested woodlands in dense foliage, this bluish-purple bird is a sight to be seen. Photographing in dark areas is already difficult- let alone a speeding subject in dark conditions, which makes it even harder. So it was truly a treat when I saw this one perched in the morning light on an open branch, right outside my bedroom window.

With a couple of toes that are pointed backwards to ensure better gripping around branches, these beautiful and vibrant birds scurry along branches, seemingly sometimes, as though they have 4 legs. They almost sound as if they do too- their deep calls are likened to a monkey’s. They love fruit, and I left some banana slices out on the balcony railing that day, though it didn’t appeal to their palate it seemed. They probably flew back to the faraway forests before long, away from the maddening crowds and the chaos of the city. If I were a bird, I would do exactly the same.

Here’s to the birds who remain mostly hidden in the canopies of dark jungles and forests, fraternising with the mountain gorillas- but sometimes do show themselves. And when they do, we can see what beauties they truly are.

In the name of sport

A female bushbuck by the lake during the last light.

These antelope hang out in greener pastures, literally, in and around forests, bushland and water sources.

They are also frequently hunted for sport. Everything about how to successfully gun down one of these creatures is well documented: recommended calibre, ammunition grade, gun scope, shooting distance, shot placement. It is nothing more than a game and a scientific approach to destroying life. Whether the IUCN rank them as endangered or not, it’s an antiquated sport that robs innocent animals of their lives in the name of entertainment. How would we explain this to the next generation?

Trophy hunting needs to be banned because all lives matter.

Stop! Hammer time.

Or Hamerkop time. With a head shaped like a hammer, this bird might possibly be one of the very few creatures that has more than half a dozen names. Due to their uniqueness, they have been difficult to classify. While they fall into the pelican and cormorant group, they solely occupy its own family and genus and have a class of their own- how’s that. In addition, it is the closest relative to the beautiful, unique, and somewhat intimidating, Shoebill Stork. Well, they do say the most divergent beings are invariably the more interesting ones…

In mating rituals, the hamerkop are known to run around each other in circles in groups of 10 or more; they will falsely mount each other in these rituals, sometimes even in the wrong direction; and they have a particular liking to building massive nests, up to rituals, sometimes even in the wrong direction; and they have a particular liking to building massive nests, up to 2m/6.5ft deep and wide, regardless of whether they want to breed. Though they will be loyal and have 1 partner for life.

Here’s to being unique, divergent, and not having to fit into any one category, as the Hamerkop does naturally- and very well indeed.

“Today you are You, That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.”

-Dr Seuss