Monday, July 03, 2006

Animal of the Week July 03, 2006 -- World Cup Nations 4 (France)

I guess many of you are reeling from the results over the weekend (although not the Sri Lankan, Portuguese, German, and Italian readers—do I have any French recipients?). I was so mortified I had to have an extra day to gather my thoughts. Anyhoo, now I can no longer preempt England's opponents, how do I choose the featured nation? By adopting England's nemesis Portugal, that's how.

So, on Wednesday the land of sardines will face the land of…Threskiornis solitarius (the Réunion sacred ibis)! I am well bored of Europe…but Réunion is département d’outre mer of France in the Indian Ocean. So while its residents tender Euros, the fauna of Réunion is somewhat different to that of Portugal and Sweden (unlike France's hybrid of the two). The first Europeans to land on Réunion were, rather serendipitously, Portuguese sailors in the early 1500s; however, by the mid 1600s the French had taken control, and the island, east of Madagascar and about 200 km south of Mauritius, was officially a part of France, as it is to this day.

The first people to name the large, nearly flightless, bird of Réunion called it a solitaire, a name also given to a close relative of the dodo found on the island of Rodrigues (in the Mascarene islands, a part of Mauritius). This name, descriptive of its solitary habits rather than its similarity to the Rodrigues solitaire, led people to classify the Réunion sacred ibis, then only known from historical reports, as an albino dodo or Réunion solitaire. A few year ago, however, bones discovered on the island clearly showed that the bird was no more a dodo than I am really interested in the football. Instead, the bird was most similar to the sacred ibis of Madagascar, mainland Africa, and the aviary along the Regents Canal by Primrose Hill, London.

Ibises are wading birds of marsh and shoreline. And for a while the Réunion sacred ibis happily roamed the island preying on ostensibly Portuguese cockles and winkles, but the settlement of the island by the French was like a red-card from an Argentine referee for the sacred ibis. By the late 1600s the birds were very scarce, the last sighting was in 1705, by which time the species was as doomed as a failed England coach.

Join me next week for a final celebration of the world´s most ............ sporting event.


At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if it will be possible to predict the results of world cup matches using animal of the week. For example, if you pitched Réunion sacred ibis against the sardine in a one to one contest, or placed each of them in a hypothetical food chain, the Réunion sacred ibis would come out on top. A sardine would be just a mouthful for the majestic ibis. Could this AOTW based prophecy mean that France will beat Portugal? I hope so - those Portuguese go in for too much diving - coincidentally, a trait shared by the AOTW Portuguese ambassador, the sardine.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger animaloftheweek said...

I guess only time will tell if this will be possible. I should have assigned animals to all the teams at the outset... oh I missed a trick.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey look, France did beat Portugal.

And if Italy were a bear then clearly it would kill that pesky bird...


At 8:55 AM, Blogger animaloftheweek said...

Next major sporting event I will assign animals to the competitors and place bets... a way to fund myself through uni methinks.


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