Largely silent and solitary, like a steely-blue statue snagged in dense stands of papyrus, the shoebill shares similarities with herons, hammerkops, storks and pelicans – but it belongs to none of these groups. It is a loner, both in habit and taxonomy. Imagine a dodo on stilts. Then add some serious attitude. That enormous clog-shaped bill is no party piece – it’s a lethal weapon more than capable of wrenching lungfish from their burrows or striking out at snakes, turtles, young crocodiles and even lechwe fawns.