A very eventful day in Tofo and a tawny owl

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Africa » Mozambique » Southern » Tofo
May 23rd 2012
Published: May 23rd 2012
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Today has been so eventful I really don't know where to start. I guess I will start this morning. Leslie (my roomie) and I walked down to the market, I wanted to buy a couple of things. She had to leave for an ocean safari after 30 minutes or so, at which point every guy in the market bombarded me. They need to eat, feed their kids, they are my friend, they make good price....omg. It went on and on. And yes, I bought. I also ran away, down the road to Fatimas, a sort of beach bar/restaurant. Two guys followed me, but when I shook my head they left. I guess they didn't want to get the Fatima staff upset by hassling their customers. Fatimas is nice...a lovely place to sit and just watch the waves roll in. I had breakfast, then walked back through the market, up the stairs of death and to the house. I don't know how many miles a day I'm putting in, but it is miles, up and down hills. One cannot avoid hills in Tofo.

I chatted with Katie about her dive for a while, she is one of the project coordinators. I went out onto the porch and saw Daniela talking to some guys across the road. She called up saying there was a bird hurt, so I went down. A group of 4 or 5 men were lighting a fire. I looked down and there was a beautiful, green eyed, tawny owl on the ground, with what looked like a badly broken wing. The men said they were going to burn it alive. Felix came down around that time, he speaks Portuguese and began to talk to them. We tried to explain that owls are good, they eat mice and other rodents. They didn't care, they said the owl was evil and they were killing it. I don't really remember what Felix was talking to them about, but I knelt to take a look at her. A beautiful owl. Felix let the men know we were not going to allow the burning, and then they walked off, but not before the whole neighborhood came out to watch. Daniela gave me her blanket and I threw it over the bird. She scooped her up and we carried her to our back yard. I uncovered her, and she tried to fly, but couldn't. We called vets and found one in Inhambane who said she would take a look at her. I put a blanket over her, picked her up and put her in a large plastic container which I covered with the blanket. Birds know it is time to rest in the dark, I've always put sheets or blankets over bird cages at night. After she settled down a bit, we gave her water and a piece of bacon. It was time for Daniela, Ross (the other coordinator) and I to do an afternoon dive, so after putting the owl in the dining/work area so Katie and everyone else could make sure the cat didn't get at her, we left. The vet gave us an appointment at 530p in Inhambane.

Off to the dive. We went to Marble Arch where the visibility was awful, maybe 25 feet. I am posting a few pictures of what we saw on the dive on http://www.flickr.com/photos/9204763@N04/sets/72157629709466112/ . It is so difficult to take photos....there is so much plankton in the water, and there is surge. After we came back, we beached the boat, and up the stairs of death again. It was close to time when we needed to go to Inhambane. We managed to get a "chappa" (taxi) and we hired it only for ourselves, we certainly didn't need 25 people in it with the owl. We went to the vet, Sonia, and she was lovely. She called a couple who run a lodge here and love birds, and they agreed to take her. The vet readied everything for putting the wing back together. Katie, Felix and I were overjoyed that she would be cared for, but then we all saw the damage. The wing was not only broken, it had been ripped off of her body and it was hanging by a very small tissue. It would be like if someone tore your arm off and it was hanging by a ligament. The area under the wing had been torn from her body. The vet worked on it a while, but at last said the damage was just too great, the owl would never fly again, and the wing would probably have to come off. I wish this had happened in the states where I could have taken her home to care for her, but obviously, I am not home. The poor thing was in so much pain. I stroked her head and her feathers were so soft and light as air. The four of us discussed the situation, and decided to put her to sleep. I have never seen damage to an animal like that, they were beating her with sticks and pulled her wing out of her body. After the owl was gone, Katie, Felix and I rode back to the house. I was very, very upset, of course.

I have seen much cruelty and ignorance here in Tofo. They kill and slaughter sharks right on the beach, cutting off their fins and selling off the meat. I realize how poor they are, and at least they believe they are just fishing and sharks are fair. But those men with the owl...it was nothing but cruelty. No one eats owls, there was no reason in the world to hurt her. But there they were, laughing, hitting her, and starting a fire. The fire was already lit as I came out into the road to see her. It was very tense as we wondered what they were going to do to us, at first they had no intention of letting her go. I am horrified and saddened by the pleasure they took in hurting the poor owl. New figures came out today about the populations of mantas and whale sharks here: whale sharks are down 65%!,(MISSING) mantas 87%! (MISSING)No wonder I haven't seen a whale shark, and haven't seen a manta on a dive. I have always been idealistic and believed there was hope for every creature on this earth, but I believe these animals have absolutely no chance. I respect and admire the biologists and conservationists here for continuing to try, but when the government won't listen or do anything, there is little hope the people here will do anything. I don't know, what can you do to fight against this? I wish I still believed that people are good at heart and mean to do the right thing...I am beginning to realize that some people really are sadistic and cruel, and have no care for anything or anyone but self. It is so late, and I am tired, but I needed to write this blog. I will carry the memory of what I saw today with me always. She was so beautiful, a small owl, there was no reason for this but those men enjoyed torturing that poor creature. I am with Walt Whitman:

“I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.”
Walt Whitman


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