The Bangengele say that the salt opening in the forest is theirs; the Balanga say that it belongs to them. It is the Balanga who have turned it into a pigeon killing field. The pigeon hunters pay tribute to the family of the Balanga chief, Chef Butumbe. And the merchants who come with soap, medicine or food pay a portion of all revenue to the same family.
Perhaps it is the ambiguity of ownership that makes the management of this resource so shoddy. Perhaps the Bangengele will eventually be organized enough to kick the Balanga out, so why shouldn’t the Balanga exploit this opening to its limits now? How else explain the irrational slaughter of the pigeons? Already there are many fewer than a decade ago (down by 3/4 ) when the Balanga started killing them.
The first I heard of pigeon fast food was from Crispin last year when he told us about how they are killed, skewered ,smoked and packed out, first by foot and then by bicycle to the markets of Kindu. Crispin has led TL2 efforts to halt the slaughter.
First results seemed positive. The governor, Didier Manara, declared a closed hunting season and then he asked for a special investigation of the pigeon slaughter. All pigeon hunting stopped. The hunting season reopened but pigeon hunters stayed away from the salt openings. Through December the pigeons flocked in peace, but in January as the Governor lost control of the province, the capture nets returned. And the culture of killing resumed.
The macabre preparation of pigeon fast food:
These birds come from what distance? How much forest is losing its pigeons?
The effort to stop the pigeon trade:
With the support of the Administrator of Kailo Territory and the Provincial Minister of the Environment, Crispin led a group of military in to clear out the salt opening during the second half of March.
It is quiet again, but this is a temporary reprieve. The pigeons will only be safe once the salt opening is included in a national park. A national park is our (TL2 project) goal and the goal of Congo’s Conservation Agency (ICCN).