Doctors without Borders in Ethiopia: Among the Afar

By Nyla Jo Jones Hubbard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5. BIRDS AND BEASTS

Despite the dust storms, we had received very little total rain in Gahla. The native plants were used to making do with little, however, and the acacias were beginning to show green. More birds were showing up even in the barren area outside the lab. The sandgrouse were still plentiful, birds that I hadn’t noticed at first because they were so well camouflaged by their gray and buff feathers. We had both Lichtenstein’s and the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Even a birder had to think that they looked plump and meaty, especially a protein-deprived birder. In fact, one day, one of our trucks hit a sandgrouse and Fred, not wanting to waste any living thing, asked the cook to fix it for us. It was delicious but we didn’t want to kill more of them. It wasn’t the MSF way to eat the wildlife and it might have upset our hosts, who would never have thought of eating such a thing. For my part, I didn’t want to scare the birds by plundering among them. As it was, the birds were not wary. It was easy to spot a Hueglin’s Bustard, a bird nearly three feet tall which reminded me of our Sandhill Cranes, even to the face pattern. With more birds, there were bound to be more scavengers and one day an Egyptian Vulture lit not far from the lab, feeding on some animal that hadn’t made it through the dry season. It was small com-

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