The evening catch was accumulating in the nets when Crispin and the guards arrived at Mont Ngaliemu.
This was Crispin’s sixth trip to the forest salt-springs on the edge of the Loidjo River. These springs are visited by hundreds of mineral-seeking pigeons every day. On his first four trips Crispin had been the forest crier, carrying the word of conservation-to-come and warning the pigeon trappers that their business was illegal. Time to leave.
On his fifth trip he was accompanied by military. They came with guns, and they emptied the camps, but still they let trappers and their families clear the nets, finish the smoking and carry out all of their dried pigeons on hundreds of neat little skewers. Crispin and the military told the trappers, however, that this was the end. No more trapping allowed in the camps. Any further trapping would lead to arrest.
That was in May. Crispin returned in early July with six of the newly arrived park guards. They walked all day west from the village of Oluwo , first to the pigeon camp of Mont Ngaliema and then across the Loidjo to the second camp of Mbula Likembe. The local Chief , to show his support accompanied them well into the forest.
This time there was no discussion. The three trappers at Mont Ngaliema were arrested. Their leader, Onombe Komando, had vehemently opposed the creation of a park at the recent community forum before the traditional tambiko. He and his compatriots had already smoked over one thousand pigeon-packed skewers. The guards made a bonfire of pigeons in the center of camp. The houses were emptied, and torched.
Ground nets full of struggling pigeons filled the forest opening where the springs bubble out of the earth. This was – the evening catch. As many as possible were liberated , then the nets were burned.
The prisoners were marched to the Loidjo River and on to the second camp, Mbula Likembe. They arrived as night fell. The camp was empty, but all the houses were torched. Komando said that no one had been there for a week.
The next morning they checked the pigeon opening. The nets had been left spread on the ground and were full of dead pigeons; a few still struggled. Komando shrugged when asked why the trappers would be so wasteful as to leave the nets spread. “So they can find supper when they come back”
Again the living pigeons were liberated. The prisoners collected the nets into a pile; it was set on fire.
On the way back Komando said that he knew what he did was wrong and that he would never come back to hunt in the pigeon opening again. “Give me work with the park”, he said, “I, too, will be a guard.”