Saturday, 14 May 2016


Animals and creatures often reward us with interesting expressions. Sitting duck means being exposed to harm. “You are a sitting duck. Watch out.”  It is said the idiom arose around a hundred years ago and refers – to an immobile duck being an easy target as opposed to one that is moving.

How about elephants?
“There is an elephant in the room...” means that a problem is so obvious that we cannot help but notice it.
According to several explanations, this English phrase can be encountered in various famous novels by American Mark Twain and Russian Fyodor Dostoevsky. These two great nineteenth century writers used the term to describe something visibly important. Like a “white elephant” or “an elephant right in the middle of the room.”
What about- “Sly as a fox.”?
 Cunning. Smart.
Or “Chickens coming home to roost.”   This is dated 700 years and refers to someone suffering because of his or her bad actions.
How about “a sheep in a wolf’s skin”?
Someone who hides their bad intentions in a veil of lies and goodwillness. 
How many more can you add?
Speaking of additions and expansion. It is fascinating how animals are viewed so differently within cultures and nations. Take beliefs and superstition.  The owl, for instance. This bird is regarded with such awe and fear across Africa. In fact, we associate the huge rounded eyes and cat like face plus the hooting, with death. I remember when my maternal grandmother died.  I was only seven. During that week, we had seen and heard owls wailing and hooting on our roofs. Then the news of her demise came. It shocked and frightened me for many, many years. By contrast, in Europe, owls are birds of wisdom. You enter living rooms and find their pictures and paintings hanging adoringly. Citizens love them. “So cute, so intelligent,” they say.
My, my.
Yes, outlook and mentality makes our rounded world.
When I first arrived in Europe, I was bewildered at how birds and animals are allowed to roam in parks and roadside ponds. Here in London, you go in public gardens and see many geese, ducks and pigeons. No one touches them. It is illegal to kill or harm wild birds; you may be fined £5,000 (over 15 million shillings) or imprisoned for 6 months, in the UK.
No wonder this week an incident at a small village called East Isley attracted media eyes. Three ducks at a local waterhole had been acting aggressively towards the villagers. There were complaints. However, not everyone was annoyed. Children and their parents continued to feed them with breadcrumbs, etc. Wazungu do that a lot. They would stop to touch and feed birds and animals everywhere.   It is part of their customs. Things turned sour a few days ago. Someone shot the ducks.
Now the matter has been taken over by the police and subsequent investigation. It is very serious.
Meanwhile a hot debate has been ongoing on the internet. I checked out comments and name-calling and insults seem to divide the population. Some sympathise with the dead creatures. Others say good riddance. If it were in Africa, the ducks would have been eaten. We love meat and why try to pamper and tame creatures that are a nuisance?
Let us talk about Africa...
The continual killing of elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns has grown out of proportions. Last week we witnessed the burning of more than 6,000 tusks of illegally slaughtered elephants in Kenya. The symbolic “ceremony” has captured world attention and more pressure is being mounted to stop this horrible trade.
 Rhinos and elephants are rare animals roaming mother earth. The money dished by clients in the Far East to smugglers (who include terrorists), is tempting to jobless, semi illiterate young males. It is often said that some of our government officials are involved. But enough is enough.
Sometimes you hear the question: what is the use of elephants and rhinos? Dead or alive what is their value?
The answer is simple science. Each living molecule contributes to our earth. It is the food chain. Take worms. However uneasy and queasy they make us feel, they are crucial in keeping the texture of our soil. How about bees? Without them we would not have the fertilisation of flowers and hence plants and vegetation. Elephants and rhinos have a contribution too ...some of the uses of these huge animals are breaking down forests and thick grassland, Their big hooves and make holes for water ponds. Their dung is useful to insects and the vegetation. In Asia, elephants are used for transportation. In old days, they were useful in war.
Animals are part of our lives. We are also animals. Our earth belongs to us all.  

-Published in Citizen Tanzania  6 May 2016

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