The October 2008 issue of the magazine Kenya Birds contains a thoroughly diusturbing article by Martin Odino, Darcy Ogada and Simon Musila. Its tile is Furadan killing birds on a large scale in Bunyala Rice Fields, Western Kenya. The front cover shows an open-billed stork being held in someone’s hands, and I thought that it was probably a carcass. Not so. The article shows how live birds are used as decoys to attract numerous birds to sites where furadan soaked rice is used as bait. The technique involves the rescue of a poisoned birds and its treatment with copious quantities of water. The live birds are tethered close to the bait, and their primary feathers are removed. Birds that do not eat rice, such as opened-billed storks, are poisoned when snails have furadan inserted into their shells and the birds eat them.
This is another version of the grizzly story of bushmeat in Africa. The baited birds are either killed with sticks when still alive, but disoriented, or collected when dead. The bodies are taken to market and sold. According to the three authors the hunters claim that if the crop and stomach are removed prior to cooking no harm will come to the consumer.
I have written about the use, or misuse of furadan for the poising of predators, but this is something different and some will wonder what is behind it. The explanation is simple. Hunger and poverty. A year’s supply (200 gm) of furadan costs less than $1.50. In their report the three authors, who met hunters ranging from teenagers to men over 70, were told by one hunter that the daily harvest ranged from 25 to 200 individuals of mixed bird species.
Folks interested in birds and conservation can subscribe to Kenya Birds, which is published by the Bird Committee of the East Africa Natural History Society, and can contact Catherine Ngarachu at firstname.lastname@example.org.