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Mystery cries at death's door

Local | Georgina Noyce Feb 12, 2019
Frozen in my tracks, I listened carefully for the sound I had just heard, in a woody area deep in the New Territories. It sounded like the anguished cry of a baby, a very young baby, then it came again, with an echo, as if two or more were wailing in unison. Long experience of the woods, wind and topography have taught me that it is not always easy to pin down a sound direction. Maybe my interpretation was at fault. Mere seconds later the sound was gone and, looking around, there was no sign of agitation in myriad water birds foraging in the river, and the dogs sniffed their way onward without hesitation. If the animal life in the woods wasn't worried, then who was I to puzzle over possibly imaginary sounds. Shrugging off the sound, I watched as several spoonbills shoveled their way through the mud, as a pair of pied kingfishers bounced lightly on an overhanging branch as they watched the river for their next catch. A bevy of cormorants carried on their sweep fishing as they do every day, immune to the sound. Several weeks later, at almost the same time of day, early morning before most people are up and about, there it was again. The sound a newborn makes when it wants something, the sound faint at first then for just a few seconds louder, but still by no means loud, then fainter until it was gone entirely, as if it had never been. Very odd. Once again the dogs seemed unfazed and the birds unworried. Maybe someone liked to walk their baby in the relative peace of the woods to get the baby to sleep. More than a year later, I found out what the sound was. Following a rickety truck along a NT highway heading out before sunrise, I heard, once again the surreal cry of a baby and grimaced, as I realized that the sound came from about a dozen pigs packed into the back of a truck as they headed to the slaughter house. A needy cry indeed. Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four-legged waifs and strays.

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April 2019