An owl was spotted in parliament buildings in Dodoma on Tuesday spooking lawmakers and officials.
The solitary nocturnal bird with its broad round head, large eyes facing forward, large ear openings on the side, and its sharp talons perched on the roof seemed to be peering down at the MPs in the debating chamber.
Attempts to chase away the bird proved futile forcing the Speaker Mr Job Ndugai to assure the legislators that all was well.
“Honourable Members of Parliament, we have been seeing an owl in this House since morning but in the tradition of people of Dodoma, an owl that is seen during daytime cannot have any effect on anyone. This means that we have nothing to worry about its presence,” he told the MPs when the House resumed business on Tuesday evening.
In Tanzania, as well as in many African cultures, the presence of an owl or even its hooting is perceived to be an omen of bad luck, ill health, or death.
Tanzanians took to social media on Wednesday after local media reported the story to air their views.
Abdul Mngwale said "it means what they [MPs] wanted to do was not right, the proof will be seen after 21 days. For those who have never seen an owl, it's a bird with a face like that of a cat."
Cats, particularly black ones, are also considered a symbol of misfortune and death in some African and European cultures.
Many of the netizens said the presence of the owl was a sign that a key leader in Parliament could die.
"An owl can sense the carcass of a person before the person is even dead. This means in Parliament there is a carcass, let's wait," opined Mbeti Mbeti.
But others questioned the beliefs.
"Tanzanians believed in superstitions yet in developed countries people trust advanced technology. That is where we differentiate from the West," said Kennedy Manengo.
Kighera Kighera said the owl's presence "was not a sign of anything. Owls can live in your home if its a good habitat. Where I live, we have many trees and owls live there. We live very well, they perch on the trees, while I live below."
Facts about owls
- There are around 200 different owl species.
- A group of owls is called a parliament.
- Owls have extremely sensitive hearing, which helps them to locate their prey.
- They don't have a sense of smell, so they can't 'sniff' out prey.
- The birds live mainly alone.
- Owls can rotate their heads and necks as much as 270°.
- They are able to fly without making any noise.
- Owls hunt mostly small mammals, insects, and other birds, although a few species hunt fish.
- They are found all over the world except polar ice caps and some remote islands.