Gotcha! How other media houses fell for ‘Nairobi News’ April Fools’ Day prank
It was meant to have been a goodhearted April Fools’ Day joke, but many people out there – including our professional colleagues in the media – took our prank on Indian house crows too seriously.
Our editorial team at Nairobi News settled on this particular story late on Friday evening after wide consultations and considering other equally ‘believable’ story ideas. The brief from the News Editor was that the story be published early on Saturday morning at 5am sharp.
And that how our juicy story, with fabricated quotes from fictitious sources, gained a life of its own within a few minutes of going live on our website.
Interestingly, several other media houses quickly copied and published our story as if it was their own. With the reward being Sh10,000 for every Indian house crow killed, the said media houses coined their own catchy headlines to sell the story.
But so as not to publicly shame our highly-esteemed colleagues in the industry, we have chosen not to mention them here by names – but you, our readers, have probabbly come across these copycat stories by now.
One of these media houses posted the same story around 9am but later deleted, perhaps on realising that it was a prank. Another media house ran the story at 10am with the ‘author’ of the story cheekily quipping, “Honestly, for the pay, I might just book a train to the coast right now.”
But while our story was a hoax, what is true is that for years these birds have been wreaking havoc at beach hotels in Mombasa.
The birds, commonly known as kunguru or kurabu, have built a reputation of preventing tourists and residents from holding outdoor activities. They are even known for stealing food from holidaymakers in open-air eateries.
In a story published on Nation.Africa in October 2021, it was reported that some hotels had employed various strategies to deal with the birds, including deploying workers to scare them away at meal times.
It is for that reason that in 2018, the Mombasa county government, in its medium-term draft budget for 2018/2019, allocated Sh30 million to eradicate the birds in the tourism hub within five years.
But the plan was eventually dropped after residents objected to the proposed expenditure. It was later reported that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was at the time looking for money in its budget to deal with the birds.
Even the National Environmental Management Authority was drawn into the debate, with the environmental watchdog saying, “It is KWS who are actually supposed to deal with that thing. Our work is to do environmental impact assessment, and public consultation so that we can verify whatever they want to do is acceptable to everybody, but it is the county and KWS who can do that. But people are complaining, especially hoteliers, saying it’s a nuisance.”
A Nema official also shared that biologists were also complaining that the birds are killing other species.
“It’s not only about allocating resources. Dealing with this issue (requires) a thorough study to avoid impact on human beings, animals, and our ecosystem.”
These complaints notwithstanding, you should not go about killing the Indian house crows – or any other bird species for that matter – without the authorisation of KWS. Other than not receiving any cash for your efforts, you might only get into trouble with the authorities.