This Easter holidays, the family and I went for a couple of nights to Nkima Forest Lodge in the Mabamba Wetlands (just the other side of the bay from Entebbe Airport) with the aim of, yes, getting some much needed rest, but also hopeful of catching sight of one of Uganda’s famous Shoebill Storks. Happily, we were successful on both counts.
The Shoebill sighting was thanks entirely to our very knowledgeable (and superbly-named!) guide, Hannington, who spotted her from our boat in the marshland from a distance of some 90m or so. After some careful maneuvering, we were within 10 paces of this magnificent, primordial creature with as much time as we needed to take pictures, while Hannington regaled us with his vast knowledge of the species and its behaviours; did you know that:
- the Shoebill has one of the slowest wing-flaps of any bird
- Shoebills live for up to 35 years
- the proper scientific name for the species is Balaeniceps rex, meaning “Whale-headed king”
- Shoebills are very brave, sometimes being known to fight off crocodiles who threaten their young or territory
- Shoebills can stand as tall as 5ft and have a wingspan of over 8ft
- Shoebills are one of the highest soaring birds?
No…? Me neither!
But there was one particular gem from Hannington that really blew me away. Now, you will know that Shoebills are endangered: there are only thought to be 10,000 remaining worldwide, and so in the Mabamba Wetlands, which cover some 64 square miles, there are only 9 Shoebills. They are notoriously solitary animals so live at a good distance from one another. However, when a new chick hatches, which happens only once a year, all nine Shoebills in the wetlands will contribute to feeding it in its first weeks. I was truly stunned to learn of this shared community responsibility for nourishing the young. I guess you can see where I am going with this…
A child in the KISU family will interact with many adults during the course of any given school day: parents...teachers...receptionists…nurses…coaches….teaching assistants… older students, even. If each of us who interacts with that child can grasp the opportunity to nourish her in some way, by developing and embedding in her the values and qualities we hold dear as a learning community- values like integrity, resilience, empathy, open-mindedness and compassion- then we will most certainly be preparing her to soar one day!