Clarissa Hughes

Marabous of Virunga

News is full of the troubles in Democratic Republic of Congo again. There has been renewed fighting around Kanya Bayonga, north of Goma, and rebel leader, Laurent Nkunde, has established his stronghold in and around the Virunga National Park.

Virunga was the first national park to be established in Africa in 1925, to protect the variety of wildlife found there, including mountain gorillas and okapi. One can jump to conclusions as to what’s happening to the wildlife populations under such conditions. The hippos have been under fire for a decade or more now, but that’s another story. Or perhaps we would be surprised to learn that Mr Nkunde has instituted some kind of martial lawfulness in an otherwise lawless country?

I visited Kanya Bayonga and Virunga some years ago and a vivid memory is of an outdoor restaurant on the shores of Lake Edward where delicious banana chips and bream were served. Marabou storks wandered between the tables looking for titbits. For those unaccustomed to them it was a little disconcerting to have a long, ugly face suddenly appear silently at your shoulder. However, what was remarkable was that they were accepted and tolerated by the restaurant owner and the customers!

I like to think that this innate forbearance, so typical of Africa, would return once all the ignominious influences either dissipate or are brought under control.

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