Thursday, 6 December 2012

Village Living: Animals

Animals domestic, wild, edible and otherwise; they all manage to feature in our five weeks in the village.

Funky Chicken
There were the pests, like the mice who kept us awake at night. They were clever mice, as one time I heard them set off the trap, but in the morning there was nothing in it…they set the trap off, then ate the food and escaped. Another morning a less clever mouse ended up in a shallow bucket of water. Not deep enough to be drowned, too steep and slippery to escape. Michelle had mercy on the mouse and threw him out with the water. The chicken had less mercy and chased it across the grass and under the house. Apparently the mouse then escaped into our outhouse, as the chicken was guarding the door. Yet the mouse was having a bad day, for there was no mouse in the outhouse, just a splashing sound coming from down the pit. I guess it drowned after all.

Punky chicken
Another pest in the outhouse was a snake. It fell from the roof and slithered across my feet as I left one time. Not nice. Not nice at all. I was not reassured by people who told me it was a house snake and harmless. Another family was equally uncomforted by that information when a similar snake made an appearance in one of their beds.

Stumpy chicken
More amusing were the funky chickens who roamed our village. In Australia there is a movement to protect heritage breeds of hens so that the dominant white breed do not become the only breed. Well, we had enough chicken varieties to calm any fears of a chicken mono-culture. Chickens with mo-hawks, chickens with bald necks, chickens with no tails and a chicken whose feathers all pointed in different directions. The shiny black rooster who strutted about the place as head of the flock redefined ‘cocky’, but I would have gladly strangled him when he took to crowing well before dawn in the tree beside our house.

Hair being burnt off pig.
Two pigs made an appearance in our village in five weeks. One was full grown and we ate it for dinner over several nights. The other was a piglet who took a liking to our waspapa and followed him all over the place. More than once the piglet was chased back to the village when Papa wanted to go further away. A wild pig also got into one of the family gardens and stole a lot of food. For subsistence farmers this is a significant loss.

Baby sugar glider
Another POC family got a reputation for liking animals. Not only did they start in a village with a pet cocky (sulphur crested cockatoo), they were brought an injured chicken to look after, a baby sugar glider and a small bird that escaped.

Victoria Crowned Pigeon
Strangest of all were the animals we ate. In an area of low protein availability, you eat what you catch. This included bats, ‘bush rats’ and birds. When the beautiful blue bird was brought to us, we wondered what endangered species we were consuming. A Victoria Crowned Pigeon, we found out. Wikipedia gives me little comfort by giving it the status ‘threatened’. It truly did taste like chicken though. The King Parrot on the other hand, had a stronger beefy taste.

 I’ve not yet eaten them, but muruk and kumul are two favourite animals that people hunt and eat. Unfortunately they are also two of my niece’s favourite zoo animals; cassowary and tree kangaroo. My next zoo trip with her when back in Australia could get interesting…


  1. Aww, tree kangaroos are such lovely creatures- one of my favourites, too! :-)
    And some are, like the VCP you ate, also endangered...I've seen documentaries where they were trying to track a rare variety, and had to keep stopping the locals from eating it once one had been captured. They couldn't understand why you'd go to all the trouble to hunt, capture, and tag and animal, and then not make good use of it....

  2. There is some understanding of endangered species, as on several occasions we were told that there used to be more animals and more variety of animals, but that they hunted them too often. Still, when you are hungry...
    I hope not to have to eat tree kangaroo, but shall try to be strong if it is ever served up to me.