Tanzania: How Is House Crow Eradication Going?

by Mar 18, 2012Wildlife News

The Crow Eradication Campaign project is almost at the mid-way point. It is well into the second year of the three year project to eradicate the destructive non-native Indian House Crow (Kunguru kaaya) from Tanzania.

Since this extremely important broadly supported civic activity is a project of limited time and money, it needs to be evaluated in a timely manner. Are we on target to meet the objective of not just reduction, but eradication? Certainly the number of crows is markedly decreased. It is being reported that more than 700,000 have been killed.

From where I sit it seems to me that the Crows have decreased by more than 50%. The people who have accomplished this big job deserve applause. Thank you! But there are still huge flocks of crows. Do I detect a slight resurgence? Crows are very adaptive so they will not be easy to eradicate. Bird experts suggested that I participate in the campaign with a crow trap for the garden. I ordered the crow trap in early November. Within days people came and built a trap.

It looked sharp – new wood and wire. The proposal states that traps will be visited once per week so I expected that within a short time a trap monitor would come by. We needed two things – 1/ training about how to manage the trap correctly and 2/ “starter” crows inside the trap to encourage their friends to join them. Mid-December we got four starter crows, a bucket for water and a plate for food.

The next morning one crow was found dead at the bottom of the cage and the other three were gone. What had happened? It wasn’t clear. Early January the trap attendants came to put in two more crows. Same as before. One disappeared and one was dead by the next morning. Early February another two crows were delivered. We sat near by and watched… when darkness fell, a mongoose (nguchiro) entered the trap and killed them. The mongoose carried one crow out of the trap in its mouth.

The other was left behind. A month later, since it was obviously not a good place for catching crows (although a good way of killing them!) the trap attendants came for the trap. They took the wire off the wooden frame and away it went. That was my experience. I had a trap and for various reasons it did not catch any crows. I pass the trap at Oyster Bay Police Station twice a day. It was sited at a garbage dump which is supposed to be a good place.

In fact crows flock there. But the area around the cage is disturbed by a lot of activity and people burning brush nearby as if it wouldn’t frighten the birds. This cage is also not catching crows. Last week it had a dead crow in it only; now it sits completely empty. At the International School, a trap was delivered quickly, not serviced. They hardly catch any.

So is this the whole story? Are there other traps actually capturing birds? It would be useful to evaluate the difference between the traps that catch crows and those do not. I was told that the traps are not being made to specification. I do not know if that is true, but is overseeing that the traps are made to specifications? Some people have suggested the Crow Eradication Campaign is becoming a crow trap selling project? People also have questions about the poison.

It used to be advertised as starling and crow specific. These days nobody is claiming that it does not kill other species. Is it being used carefully and wisely? I wonder because, every day for the last several months I have been looking for the small flock of Sacred Ibis (Kawara) that have always flown over my house in the evening.

After twenty years are they suddenly taking another route? Or have they been disappeared? Have they been disappeared by poison that is meant for the crows? Are other species affected? It must be said that the first part of a job like this is the easiest. So a lot has happened and that is appreciated. But now is the time to ask, ” Are we on target for eradication in less than two years?”

Or are we beginning to slide into the natural history books as another failure? No. Let’s conquer this problem. This is a big chance. Department of Wildlife and your technical partners Rodent Control Centre Morogoro, Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and the Tanzania Bird Atlas Project how are we doing?