Where Have All The Animals Gone? “We Ate Them All”, he said.

Hunting in the rain Forest of Ivory Coast 1997
Hunting in the Rain Forest of Ivory Coast 1997

Stumbled on this photo the other day. Brought back memories of the first time I went hunting in Ivory Coast. The local Agni placed a homemade shotgun in my hands. I was nervous to shoot with the gun, but after careful examinaton I saw that the  craftsmanship was of surprisingly good quality.

The three of us walked off into the bush in single file to begin hunting for our supper. We were seeing little within range. Soon it dawned on me that I had no idea what we were actually hunting for. I could see birds of various kind flying in the distance, so I began to ask questions about our prey. There is little time for this debate with a timid animal in front of you and only a split second to decide whether to shoot, or not.

“Do you eat those birds?” I asked, pointing in the distance.

“Yes!”, came the reply.

“Do you eat those also?” I probed, as another bird jumps from a tree three hundred meters away, but considerably out of range.

“Yes!”, he said quietly.

For the first half hour of walking I continued asking the same question a dozen times for different species visible in the distance. I stopped asking because I was getting an affirmative about everything in sight.

“Basically, if I see anything alive, and within range, shoot it, because we will be eating it?” I asked.

“That is correct.”, my hunter friend said very quietly as we continued to move stealthy through the forest.

I understood that at this time of day we were looking for birds, not nocturnal Biche, Pangolin, Civit cat,  Bush Dog (Lycaon pictus), Bush Rat, or Hyrax – locally referred to as the “animal without a tail”- and at night as the Hyrax climbs down the tall rain forest trees to feed, they scream for the entire slow descent and you will swear someone is beating a women in the bush. (All of which have been served to me for supper in the village)

All we bagged that day was a Pigeon, and some kind of  black and white Horn-Bill/Tucan looking bird that is very common around the forests there. I paid for the shells, so I had two very happy hunters.

That evening we sat near the cooking fire as the birds were immediately prepared and placed in a peanut sauce for a late supper.

I inquired of my two hunting partners.  “I thought there would be a much greater abundance of animals in this Rain Forest. But we did not see very many for such a long day. Where have all the animals gone?”

“We ate them all!”, was this mans simple, yet honest, reply.

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