A family in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria’s South-south, has a bizarre reason for killing two colourful birds which flew into their residence.
The birds, identified as Red-vented Malimbe, are common in Nigeria and other West African countries.
The family said the two birds were fighting on their late father’s grave, and that they considered the incident “not ordinary”.
A woman, Goodluck Ralph, who is a member of the family, shared on Wednesday, photos of the remains of the two birds on her Facebook stories, and narrated what happened.
“Those birds were seen fighting seriously on the grave till one had to kill one. After killing one, the second one became very weak and wanted to fly buh (but) brother had to kill the second one,” she said.
Ms Ralph, who is a teacher in a private school, said the birds “have failed” and that she and her family were “more than conqueror” – a popular phrase among Nigerian Pentecostals, suggesting a victory has been won against some evil forces.
She said the incident happened on the New Year Day, after her father’s burial on December 31.
“After killing them (the birds), we burnt them,” she told PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday.
Asked if she did not feel pity for the poor birds, she responded: “Pity them? Birds that fought on my dad’s grave? Ah!”
Ms Ralph said she would not be surprised if anyone thinks what her family did was wrong. “People have a choice to feel differently,” she said.
Akwa Ibom, with about five million population, is predominantly Christian, with many holding superstitious beliefs and attributing almost every occurrence, including ill-health, job loss, and a failed marriage, to some “evil forces”.
The Red-vented Malimbe’s conservation status is said to be least concern – meaning that their population status is not threatened or near threatened.
However, Edem Eniang, a professor of Wildlife, University of Uyo, said the species are now scarce in Akwa Ibom.
He said the birds use the leaves of raffia palms to make their nest on tall palm wine trees.
“Their net has a shoe shape. These nest, when we were children, they were common and we used to wear it and marched like soldiers, those of us who were born during the (Nigerian civil) war.
“We were not wearing it to serve as shoes but wearing it to have the fun of wearing shoes which we couldn’t afford,” he said.
He said the killing of the birds is evidence that, “We live in a society where people attached a lot of superstition to every common environmental situation”.
“They also do this to different types of animals. Whatever they don’t understand, whatever they don’t appreciate in terms of biological science, they attach a lot of interpretation.
“This is built from a culture that depends so much on myth, unverified myth, which has made our lives even more complex.”
The government, he said, needs to introduce conservation education in the school curriculum at all levels.
Mr Eniang said the Red-vented Malimbe are in their breeding season, and that the two that were killed may have fought for territory.
“You might find two adults fighting themselves to control a territory, a nesting ground. During their fighting, they won’t even know where they are landing, whether it is bare ground, whether it is grave, they are out to fight and win. That is even the reason the observer is able to walk to them and strike them to death, without them noticing your presence,” he said.
The professor stressed the importance of birds to the ecosystem.
“They play significant role as the indicator of the health of the natural environment. If they are not there, it means the ecosystem is not balanced. Like any other bird, they help in pollination, they help in controlling insect population, they also serve as members of the food-chain for other species that are higher than them on the food chain.
“The singing of birds are very important (to man).”
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