The plaintive keening cry sears the soul – it’s a call to, and a celebration of, the wild and wildness. It’s October 24th, the 55th anniversary of Zambian Independence, and since we are in the bush a day to celebrate our national bird, the ubiquitous fish eagle. Appearing on our flag and coat of arms, the fish eagle represents freedom and the nation’s hope for the future, alongside emblems representing the country’s economic backbone: minerals and mining, agriculture, and wildlife.
In the low light of dusk, elephant amble through the floodplain in front of camp, impala skitter from shade and shrub, but the fish eagle, perched on a high branch, remains impassive; a brilliant, seemingly starched, white bib and vividly sharp tungsten bill mark stark contrast to the dark tree canopy and the swirling dust below. In the work of a moment the sharp sleekness becomes a blinding blur, smudged by heavy wing-draft and the emblem and anthem take flight to view some new stretch of river: thrilling fishermen with the prospect of a good catch as the supreme hunter blesses the fishing beat, surveying her demesne.
Her scorching cry, furrowing through the gloaming as the evening cools is a reminder to us, in the Lower Zambezi, and in Zambia, of the fundamental importance of our wilderness and our wildlife: One Zambia, One Nation.
Words by: Tara Vivian Neal
Image by: Tayla McCurdy