Name ID 1705

See also

Johnston, Erika The other side of Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 085
Extract Date: 1950's


When the hordes of seed-eating birds called Quelea first arrived and began gorging themselves on the wheat, the general attitude was that it was an act of God. Previously nothing had been done in East Africa to combat these vast multitudes of destructive birds, but the Ol Mologans were not prepared to sit back and watch themselves being ruined, as a nearby farmer had been only a few years back.

They found that firing shotguns, setting off fire-cracker bird scarers at intervals and small African boys beating tin cans were ineffective. The birds only left the wheat fields at last light, jinking and chittering into swarms, like large veils waving in the wind. Following on horseback, the men discovered that they collected in huge roosts for the night, where on bushes and trees they were jampacked in their thousands. Here was a target to attack.

The Ol Mologans got hundreds of gallons of molasses from a sugar estate below Moshi, and mixing it with water, sprayed the roosts from high pressure pumps at night. The molasses gummed up the birds' wings so they could not fly, and the pressure of the pumps knocked them off their perches to the ground, where they were beaten to death with sticks and any survivors were later destroyed by predators such as wild cats and jackals. It was a macabre method, but at least something was being done against them, and the molasses did temporarily cut down the amount of birds who could fly the next day.

As Archie put it "Those bastards now have to walk to work, which should discourage them!" Later this method was to be supplanted by the more effective process of blowing up the roosts with gelignite instantaneous fusing fixed below forty-four gallon drums of diesel oil and petrol-a dramatic sight, not unlike the mushrooming effect of a miniature atom bomb. But more effective still in another year by aerial spraying with a form of unstable poison gas, which technique is now used in many parts of Africa.

Extract ID: 4457