Offside: Black Swan

Summary

A Facebook page in support of a black swan currently roaming the waters of Bruges has gathered nearly 10,000 likes

Figurative colour

A black swan is a metaphor for something unexpected, extremely rare and hard to predict. The term comes from first-century Roman poet Juvenal, who described something as “rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno” or “a rare bird in the country, black and very much like a swan”.

An example is given to us this week in a form very much unlike a swan. The Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) bat, with a small nose and big ears, considered extinct in Flanders, was seen fluttering in the region last week.

Joris Everaert, a volunteer with nature conservancy organisation Natuurpunt, picked up its call with his bat detector, on the edge of a wood in the Waasland of East Flanders. The last one spotted in Flanders was in the winter of 2000-2001.

Ten of the 17 bat species still extant in Flanders are endangered; the barbastelle brings the total to 18.

But sometimes a black swan is just a black swan, like the one currently swimming in the waters of the Reien in Bruges (pictured). According to mayor Renaat Landuyt, the wild black swan has to go because it may be sick and could infect the local swans. The city’s standard procedure is to take birds thought to be sick to a bird shelter.

But the residents of Bruges are less than keen, among them N-VA senator Pol Van Den Driessche, who is leading opposition to the move. “Even if the black swan is an exotic species, it presents no danger to the ecological system in the Reien,” he said. “Above all, it brings some literal and figurative colour to the waters”.  A Facebook page in support of the black swan has gathered nearly 10,000 likes. 

Photo by Jan Kerkhof

A Facebook page in support of a black swan currently roaming the waters of Bruges has gathered nearly 10,000 likes.

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