This week our columnist Gelard Kitabu interviewed Paul Nnyiti, Senior Conservation Officer at Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST) on Eradication of Indian House Crows in the city.
QUESTION: Why have you decided to eradicate the house crow this time around?
ANSWER: The house crows are aggressive and opportunistic feeders, and have a devastating impact on indigenous bird populations by eating eggs and chicks, and mobbing other birds that might compete with it. The Dar-es-Salaam city environment and its gardens in the 1960s had several indigenous/local bird species.
Records indicate that out of more than 1,000 bird species found in Tanzania; around 400 species have been seen in Dar-es-Salaam and the surrounding areas. The house crows would eat almost every small mammal and a variety of insects thus affecting the biodiversity to a great extent.
Q: History tells us that the house crow originated from India. How did they come to Tanzania?
A: The then Governor in Zanzibar ordered at least 50 birds from India by writing his fellow Governor in India. This was about 1891
Q: In recent years, the house crows are rapidly multiplying and can be seen everywhere in the country especially along the Coast. Which methods should be used to eradicate them?
A: There are several methods being applied to deal with this bird. At present we are using specially designed traps which are able to catch up to 200 crows in one week depending on the concentration of crows in a given locality but also on the proper management of the trap. One must put food and water for the crows in the trap every day to make sure that traps are able to attract crows to go in the traps. Another method is that of using certain chemical/poison which was specially designed for the crows.
The poison has been tested and proved to be effective and safe enough to other birds and animals as it breaks down fairly fast. This biodegradable chemical works in the crow system between 8 and 15 hours. The poison is normally managed by experts to make sure that it does not affect other non-targeted creatures.
There will be other methods planned in the coming years including the collection of eggs and chicks by public who will be compensated for that. Above all this we need to keep our environment clean to deprive the crows of food. The city dwellers should stop the haphazard disposal of food remains in order for the project to reach its target in time.
Q: You have hinted on application of poison as one of the methods used. How safe is the method to people especially children and other creatures?
A: This poison which is only obtained in USA and New-Zealand has been extensively tested for its efficacy and safety. The chemical is biodegradable and very safe if managed properly and that is why only our trained team is managing the poisoning operations.
The poison is not spread out in the field but managed and offered to the crows where they usually feed in good numbers. Any poisoned bait not eaten by the crows is taken away after the crows have taken enough. The crows dying out of poisoning have no danger even if another animal feed on it.
Q: Since the project touches people’s lives, what education and public awareness campaigns have been designed by your task force to make sure that you get maximum cooperation from them?
A: Public awareness is given via the media and meetings with different stakeholders. The good thing about this project is that the House Crow is seen as a problem by everybody and this helps to spread the news. There have been meetings from the Regional Commissioner level to the Ward Executive Officers within the city of Dar-es-Salaam; but also we have written information on this project in the daily newspapers and also used Television stations.
The poison team is also handing over information sheet to the people around the points being treated with the crow poison. During Saba-Saba day we also gave the public verbal and written information about the project and in particular on the operation of the traps
Q: By eradicating them completely, are you not violating rights to life and their existence on earth?
A: Not quite. Under normal circumstances problem animals are controlled in several ways. The case of the House Crow is different from normal problem animal as these birds are a threat to biodiversity and human health. Apart from that the crow we are dealing with are not native here and have more negatives than positives.
Scientists do tell us that its extinction is caused by destruction of their habitats but also invasive species do contribute a great deal in extinctions. If we need to save our Biodiversity in East Africa; then the House Crow has to go.
Q: By the way what is the positive side of House crows?
A: There is very little we can say about this. In a way this crow is a good city cleaner for the careless, dirty and lazy people. We do not need these here as we are able to do it ourselves. We only need to be responsible.
Q. If their aggressiveness and feeding on waste products helped to remove unwanted insects and some dangerous mammals, what mechanisms or alternative means have you put in place to replace the good work house crow was doing?
A: The responsibility of the city authority and in particular the health officers should help to stimulate the public to maintain cleanliness in their areas and be more careful in the disposal of wastes. We as implementers of this project are very grateful to the supporters and Donors who kindly volunteered to fund this very important project.
These are the Embassies of Denmark, Finland and the USAID but also the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. We are appealing to other interested parties including individuals, companies and hotels to help in solving the problem ahead of us through whatever practical way.