How to catch birds the Congolese way
About a week ago three new mindele people came in. Our camp manager went to the air strip to welcome them and accompanied them on the 25km walk-in. He brought back some feathers of birds from Iyaka, the hunting camp near the savannahs. I wanted to know how the local people catch birds and which species the feathers belonged to, so I decided to go there the next day. The fishermen brought me over the river and from there I walked the 7km alone. The men at Iyaka didn’t expect a mundele that morning, but they were very friendly and I was able to use Lingala to explain what I came for. I didn’t come to judge, but was just interested in the progress of capturing birds. Nalingi komona ndengue ya bokila ya bandeke. Bowo took one of the Omphalocarpum fruits that the men had brought back from the forest. Omphalocarpum is a strictly elephant-dependent tree that produces 20cm round hard fruits attached to the stem. Only elephants are able to break open the fruits and swallow the seeds inside. When the elephants disappear from an area, the tree will eventually as well.
The inside of Omphalocarpum fruits is very sticky and the local people use is as a kind of glue. Bowo took a thick piece of wood, cut a sharp point at one side and started pounding the inside of the opened fruit. After five minutes he put the sticky mash on a big leaf and started kneading it with his hands. He removed the seed fragments and added some extra liquid to make the glue stronger. After ten more minutes the glue was ready to wrap along a small stick. The only thing you have to do next is putting the sticky stick in a tree and wait. The birds come down to sit, usually in the afternoon I was told, and can’t fly away. It’s a passive and very opportunistic way of hunting, but everything is a bonus here, I guess. It’s probably also not the most animal-friendly way of killing. The same can be said about snare traps, which are commonly used all over Central Africa. These people depend on the forest for their daily food consumption and have a different attitude to wildlife as we do. But who are we to judge their way of life. We don’t have to deal with the difficulties of life in a remote village in Congo. Instead we bring powdered milk from Ireland, sardines from Morocco and corned beef from Brazil to an isolated research camp in Congo. Spending some time in rural Africa and talking to the people makes you see things from a different perspective.
By the way, the feathers they showed me were probably of a kind of bee-eater.