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Picha

When villagers fall in love with a ground hornbill

TWO weeks ago we covered a history behind names of some important tourist’s attractions in the country. The details of article prompted some of our esteemed readers to ask for more information about different places including those which are located in Pwani or Coastal Region. 

This is one of strategic located regions in the whole of East African countries whereby from time in history it has been a center of attraction from sailors, explorers, traders, missionaries and different ethnics groups from different parts of Africa. Mainly composed of Persians, Arabs, Phoenicians, Chinese, Swahili, Ndengereko, Wazaramo, Wakwere and other ethnic groups.

Of all the tribes that are found in this region Wazaramo are very well known for their strong culture which can be seen through traditional dances such as Mkole, Mkinda, Vanga and the thrilling Mdundiko. Which is capable to pull almost everybody out of the house whenever the dancing crowd passes through a neighborhood. It is believed that regardless of sex or age very few individuals in Buguruni, Magomeni, Mwananyamala, Msasani and Kawe can stay away from dancing to the tone and beats of this spectacular dance.

History tells us that between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago there was an important event that involved ancestors of the Wazaramo and other Bantu ethnic groups living in the area around Niger and Congo river, because of different reasons including civil wars and the need of new areas for farming some decided to migrate southward toward lake Victoria and the rest of East Africa where the Zaramo are found today.

It is being said that these people first arrived the new found land in small groups families which grew bigger to form clans such as Kolelo, Wabunga, Semindu, Wakalagale, Mzeru, Mgombe, Kisuru, Mlali, Wahemba, Mtonga, Muhafigwa and Kawambwa, history shows that Kuzarama was the method which these people used to occupy their first settlement in Mwanarumango.

In simple English the word Kuzarama or Kuzaramo means to shift or move to a new area, and the word came from one of ancient languages spoken by the first clan to arrive in the area where they were welcomed by other communities. With the arrival of more clans such as Wabena and Mweluguru who first stayed around Uluguru mountains the new community grew bigger and stronger under one name “Wazaramo” who had to defend themselves against invaders such as Maasai and Kamba from the northern area.

It is being said that in those days strong lions pride with fearful individuals used to wander from Msimbazi, Pugu, Kazimzumbwi and Mwanarumango on their way to the banks of Rufiji river to quench their thirsty from a crystal clear tropical water which plays important role on lives of people and animals.

In those old good days the whole of Coastal or Pwani region was a very good play ground for different animals including elephants, hyenas, buffaloes, Puku and birds such the ground hornbill which used to move freely from the banks of Msimbazi river in search for food. Ground hornbill is a predator which feeds primarily on small mammals, frogs, snails, insects, reptiles including venomous snakes which they obtain when foraging on the ground.

It was during those old days when a man from Uzigua together his sister arrived in Pera and found the area is dominated by lions, to avoid being killed by predators he opted to spend most of his time on trees until they were joined by another man from Usagara who secretly started following the sister on her tree until they established the first family which was named Ngh’were or Kwere in simple English the name explain the action of climbing on trees.

In those days the whole of Chalinze was dominated by huge baobab trees which attracted flocks of ground hornbills that gathered to perform a ritualized dance which was marked by high pitched songs and managed to attract attention from the family which was growing in number because it is being said that at one time hundreds and hundreds of these birds would congregate in one area only for this dance.

Some zoologists say among hornbills before courtship, a male hornbill will look for a favorite prey such as snake and romantically put small bits of food into her mouth. This action which is regarded as sign of love and care because once she is pleased she will allow him to mount her. All these and other made the first family of Wakwere to name their village Mperamumbi in honor of these birds, Mumbi is Swahili name for ground hornbill while Mpera stands for baobab tree. 

Southern ground hornbills dwell in area with savannah vegetation and tall tress for nesting and grasses where they hunt ground dwelling mammals. Reptiles and insects, in those days almost the whole of Coastal region including Mwanaremango, Bagamoyo and Kibaha was covered with this kind of vegetation which provided favorable environment for these big birds to flourish.

While foraging these birds move in small groups made by three to five individuals which communicate with through powerful calls which are repeated in chorus like songs that is maintained by all members in a herd at distance of up to three kilometers, the songs are also used as special ritual to keep a territory covering about 100 square kilometers under their control.

Not only that, the breeding behavior of these birds is quite interesting because during rainy season usually in October the birds become increasingly vocal as they display to each other by bowing and fanning their wings above their backs to attract a favorable mating partner.

Ground hornbills are obligatory cooperative breeder whereby each breeding pair raise their chicks while receiving assistance from their relatives. This is a unique traditional system in the savannah which enable offspring to receive care not only from their parents, but also from members of the heard. These are helpers which most of the time are juveniles which are allowed to remain with their parents as helpers. 

Among ground hornbills juveniles with more than six years of age are allowed to assume this important role. Although this tradition has long history in the savannah but different researches indicate that without it the existence of these birds would be jeopardized at the same time the juveniles work very hard and gain knowledge and experience of taking care of their own offspring.

Zoologists say ground hornbills reach maturity at seven years but need more time before they are able to assume full responsibility of raising a family. A move which begins when an individual is more than nine years and able to build a nest on a rock or deep hollows in very old trees.

Normally a female lays one to three eggs and in unusual way in the whole of savannah whenever all three are hatched through different methods nature takes down two leaving one strong chick to fledge. Scientists say the eggs are laid at the beginning of rainy season where 40 to 45 days are spent for incubation and before they reach their 85th day. Two of them must be killed to provide a door for the strongest chick to embark on the second and important stage among birds which is fledging or development of wings.

Different researches indicate that these birds spent one of the longest periods in the savannah under parental care before becoming full independent and ready to breed after three years and it is being said that because of their strong culture which put enough emphasize on training of every living individual. Female ground hornbills are one of the few successful mothers in the savannah. Ground hornbills are found in different national park and game reserves. Like other animals in the savannah their existence depends on what humans do, please protect nature for our own existence. 

DELEGATES from the East African ...

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Author: REGINALD STANISLAUS MATILYA

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