AlbertinoJardin de Yoki-Elolou
I left the former Zaire in 1998, amid revolution leaving everything behind me. My coffee plantations probably nothing remains but I remember this earth is alive and continues to tell me her stories.

My two plantations, Yoki Elolou and Lomani, were located in the heart of the country, close to the equator, 1,600 km of rivers in the capital. Extending about 15 km2, far from civilization and accessible only by boat, nature there abounded animals. Families that land lived by hunting, fishing and small agriculture, drawing forest everything they needed.

At that time, the Zairian forest was home to a diverse wildlife and local culture owls enjoyed a special status, considered companions male doctors and sorcerers.
One day in 1985, our team of sawyers had left in the forest cutting trees for wood needs a very physical job requiring great finesse and precision. It sometimes happened to find them in the tree felled bird nests. The poor creatures were usually caught, often end up in the pot. But that day was different.

Scieurs de long près de Yoki-Elolou

Upon their return, they put me a little ball of feathers stunned to barely 12cm tall, white and light as a snowflake. Knowing my love for animals, which I had already treated a lot in the past, they had decided to give me the bird, probably too small to be a serious candidate for a meal. It was a tiny owl, and his hooked nose reminded me of the face of a dear friend. So I named Albertino.

Never having had the indiscretion to look up her feather dress to see if it was a boy or a girl, Albertino had to accept the name. From the start he showed great confidence in me even need to tame, he adopted me instantly. It was the beginning of a long and amazing friendship. He followed me everywhere and slept at home. But enjoying total freedom, he could come and go as he wished.

When he was little, he was especially funny to watch. At first, with plumage of bird, unable to fly, he was on foot. Sitting, he looked like a tiny white shells. But when he got up two surprisingly long yellow legs came out of his sleeping bag, and guided as he walked to land a few steps further, taking an apparently motionless.

Albertino in the house of Yoki-Elolou

I liked to watch, fascinated by its quiet setting. The feeding with small prey he was growing rapidly. He accompanied me everywhere and quickly adapted to the short string I attached to one of his paws in our travels by canoe, so it does not fall into the water. This string seemed to please him, I think he drew some pride. Sometimes he looked at his leg, and as if nothing had proudly resumed his impassive under which yet nothing escaped him.
Growing up, he began to make us real teenage whims, including fugues. First he disappeared a few days, then returned by landing on my shoulder, rubbing his head against my cheek as we greet a friend returning from a trip.
Later, it was the longest running away, sometimes up to several months, but he always ended up back and resume his domestic habits. He then divided his life between two houses, forest and home.
House Lomani, Albertino in direct communication with Kinshasa

I suspect he started a family, but his presentations have never been made, I can not say for sure. That said, I have observed many times that it was accompanied by another owl, which however was always away from home, without closer. She watched Albertino and out of home. These habits of be strange in many respects.
Once grown, Albertino did not need me to feed. His disinterested friendship was then my great happiness. With him I lived unforgettable moments, like this story with Maurizio. But this one, I would tell you the next time.

- Birte Jantzen is a journalist and wine expert based in Paris, great traveler and lover of chocolate since her childhood. She came to visit us, and during her stay we not only distilled together, but also shared some of my Zaire stories in the evening with dinner around the fire.

Panos Panagos
Panos Panagos


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