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14 Aug 2007 23:59
“The African peasant only knows the renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words. In this imaginary world where everything starts over and over again, there is no place for human adventure or the idea of progress.”—Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, July 26, Dakar
I am pleased to announce that a new species of bird, the African pheasant, was recently discovered by French wildlife enthusiast Nicolas Sarkozee.
After years of carefully observing pheasants from all over the world, he visited West Africa and spent time in the jungle, noting carefully the features of this curious bird.
Last month in Dakar he delivered a paper on his findings, discussing the remarkable consistency of characteristics possessed by the African pheasant that make it unique among game birds worldwide.
Sarkozee spoke about the pheasant’s “endless repetition of the same gestures”.
As game birds go, the African pheasant is tough, with rich dark meat. It has become more common in Europe, where it lives in vast, dark, multistorey caves in the suburbs surrounding Paris and other cities. For generations African pheasants were taken to France and now France has become part of their migration route. But environmental factors—walls and fences, wires and thorns, and police and soldiers, to say nothing of verbal threats—have caused problems in the pheasant’s French habitat.
“Due to their particular nature, they benefited quite a lot from our control and benign influence,” said the esteemed observer.
He was referring to the pheasants that managed, through careful and expert French training and general benevolence, to learn how to leave their homes and look for food to peck in France, where they became plump, put in cages outside Paris and released for the pot every few months.
Monsieur Sarkozee, who for years was the French Pest Control Authority, criticised the reckless importation of African pheasants. This, he said, had resulted in the African birds acquiring European pheasant behaviours and, as a result, the African pheasants in France were now spoilt, pecking and heckling and rustling their feathers angrily.
“Zey have become scum. And hooligans. Zis is why I have come to study ze African pheasant in hees own context. Here, he feeds in ze old time way, surrounded by green genocides and warm dictators and nuclear power contracts. Here, zis species, so different from our own, knows only ze renewal of time and goes about rhythming everwhere—and zis, for me too, it ees a problem.”
In a speech made before Africa’s leading pheasant conservationists, notably Omar Bongo and Moammar Gadaffi, he emphasised the need to create strong “Euro-African” partnerships to conserve the African pheasant.
Sarkozee was careful to use simple words to explain his complex analysis of the problem of African pheasants. “I want to speak in simple and rhythmic clichés about Africa, because I speak to the simple and rhythmic African pheasant. Working with ze migrant pheasant populations in France, I learned to communicate appropriately. Zis for me is the most diplomatique and charmant way to get zee African pheasants to trust me.”
When asked why he claimed to have discovered the African pheasant, when Africans had known about them all along, he said: “France will be by your side like an unwavering friend to develop ze African pheasant. Zis is my role. I do zis because I desire to help Africa develop. My rich friends in France will help.”
Some analysts call Sarkozee’s new conservation policy refreshing. Says one: “He is advocating for goodwill hunting, rather than old school hunting of African pheasants. He was keen to ally himself with prominent African pheasant conservationists like Professor Omar Bongo, who specialises in recycling Gabon’s oil revenues to help maintain the condition of the African pheasant in its timeless and pristine way, removed from the polluting influence of other species.”
Meanwhile, it has been suggested that the unique cry of the African pheasant, a cry at once rhythmic and repetitive and meaningless—Ugga Ugga Ugga Ugga—would make a good anthem for the Euro-Africa partnership.
Monsieur Sarkozee is also a musician and hopes to sample this rhythmic cry to raise awareness about the plight of the bird, which he intends to rescue. In support of this initiative, Bongo has volunteered his personal opera house, complete with a recording studio. Tens of thousand of pheasants will be shipped in from the suburbs of Paris, from the fields of central Africa, from Sandton and Gugs, from Cairo and the Rift Valley. Onstage they will gurgle in their repetitive, identical and meaningless way and the recording will be funded by the French ministry of culture’s Marginalised Species Language Project.
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