Sunday, March 15, 2009

Furadan, birds, Kenya, lions


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


Anonymous said...

I just saw an ABC 60 Minutes report on Feradan poisoning of lions in Kenya. Clearly if the Kenyan cattle herdsman who lose cattle to lions were reimbursed with money, they have less incentive to poison lions and other predators.

How can someone in the States or Europe offer this kind of reimbursement?

Anonymous said...

I watched the 60 Minutes story as well and have to ask 'Who is the parent company of this drug, FMC - and how does one help to put pressure on this corporation to address and stop this madness?'

Anonymous said...

That's weird 60 Minutes has been on CBS for decades, I wonder how it got on ABC?
So now we are supposed to bribe people not to kill wildlife? What kind of sick world is this?

Anonymous said...

When I watched this on 60 minutes the only thing that came to mind is "Stupid BLANKS". I'm sure you can guess what BLANKS are.

Jerry Haigh said...

Thanks for your comment & interest. Out further west here in Saskatchewan we have just watched the same show on 60 minutes.

You are right, the herdsmen of Africa value their cattle very highly, and of course they are no different than a cattleman here in N. America. If a bear, wolf or cougar started to take out cattle the owner would be incensed. Witness the reaction of Wyoming ranchers after the wolves came from Canada a few years back.

As Laurence Frank said at the top of the show it is not just Kenya's lions that are in trouble. The opening paragraph of my book "The Trouble With Lions" read as follows:- In 2005 veterinary students traveling with me in Uganda were horrified to learn that villagers in Queen Elizabeth National Park had poisoned two lions that they claimed had killed a cow. What the students learned first-hand was that the killing was merely that latest skirmish in one of the longest running wars on the planet." It is not just Kenya & Uganda. Anywhere in Africa where lions and other predators are a threat to livestock Furadan is a simple solution.

If you want to contribute towards compensation program for the Kenya situation, you can go directly to the web site of the Lion Conservation group at

Anonymous said...

From what was said at the end of the 60 minutes piece, Lion Conservation group is reaching only a very small segment of the herders. While we need to support this worthy cause, I think a big media campaign to force FMC to stop manufacturing Furadan is a must.

Jerry Haigh said...

You are right - the stuff needs to come off the market entirely. However, the manufacturers have, from time to time, claimed that Furadan was not to blame for some of the deaths, and then there is the quote in the TV program about its importance for agriculture in Kenya. I will be posting a new item about Furadan in the next day or so that shows both sides of the problem - in this case another on crop-raiding birds .
One thing that was left out of the TV piece was the initiative by the Lion Conservation folks to get a whole piece made that is narrated in the Maa language (language of the Maasai people) about lions and lion conservation. In one of their regular newsletters they describe how this has been shown in many communities and has been deemed a success.
However, you are right. The stuff has been banned in Europe, why not elsewhere?