Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disaster in Ethiopia. 5/7/2011.

Ethiopia is a phenomenal country for birds, but also for varying cultures and presents opportunities where we in the West can be confronted with something very different in a whole manner of respects.

Recent reports of the impending disaster about to engulf parts of that country , Kenya, Sudan , Djibouti and Uganda raise real feelings of concern within me given I've had the privilege of visiting several of the areas. In 2008 I visited southern Ethiopia and doubtless touched on some of the areas now affected by the drought, wherein no rain has fallen in two years! Even then we were dismayed to find we had to spend a significant amount of time one morning hunting down water in one of the villages we had stayed in. A realisation of how close to the cutting edge of survival one was approaching!! In one area to witness that people were collecting waste water from elsewhere in order to survive was a more than a bit of a leveller! To also realise, elsewhere, that the camel and cattle herders had driven their beasts a considerable way simply to water them was another hard learned lesson. Now the situation is far worse and animals are actually dying due to a lack of water, animals that are the lifeline for so many communities. Nobody ever mentions the harsh surroundings such husbandry is usually carried out in. Anybody conversant with a trip to such habitats will be familiar with the thornbush landscape, harsh, and relatively unproductive such that nobody ought to be attempting to derive a living from such an unrelenting landscape. But people are eking a living out for themselves and their families!!

In an utterly selfish way I have to admit I saw some particularly brilliant birds in those surroundings.........Ruspoli's Turaco, Streseman's Bushcrow, White-tailed Swallow etc and many others. That's all very well from my currently comfortable surroundings considering entering such a list on Bird Base. But what of Ethiopia? Well, should you wish to contribute to the various appeals that are ongoing, I can only encourage you to do so. It seems to me that one aspect that is important, after all the concern has died down, and that is that interest in the area doesn't die away. Very seldom do we see reports that say circumstances are back to normal. When it's sensible to do so , consider a trip to Ethiopia , it's a tremendous place and you'll be helping various people from guides, to drivers, accommodation providers, cooks, shopkeepers and so on. I met a family who oversaw an eagle owl site, ensured its protection and relied on contributions from birders to maintain their family. Touching, yes it is, but it's the reality of how things operate outside of many structured economies. Go there!!

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