The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns is possibly among the most popular means of introducing young people to classical music and to the different instruments that make up an orchestra. The other is that wonderful symphonic fairy-tale for children, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. At the end of May this year, the Grahamstown Music Society devoted the first half of their concert to a transcription by Werner Thomas-Mifune for cello and piano of The Carnival of the Animals. Parents were invited to bring their children and “nobody will take offence if they leave at interval!”
I cannot show you all of the animals, but will introduce you to a few – with a South African twist.
The Royal March of the Lion
Instead of hens and roosters you can see a Red-necked Spurfowl
Donkeys will stand in for the Wild Asses
I will have to skip the kangaroos and the aquarium, but a Zebra will step in for the Characters with Long Ears
Skip the cuckoo for now and come to an aviary
Of pianists I have no pictures, so perhaps some Bagpipers will do
The fossils will be represented by a skeleton
Alas, I have no swan so will show you a Yellow-billed Stork instead!
Love is in the air, in the rising of the sun
Love is in the air, when the day is nearly done
Cape Turtle Doves catching the sun on a branch.
Warthogs getting to know each other
The urban lifestyle is so far removed from the natural order of things: eat and be eaten. While some may have fruit and vegetables growing in their gardens or on their balconies, the majority of urbanites rely on supermarkets, butchers, bakeries and the like for their daily food. Meat comes wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, bread is pre-sliced in plastic bags, vegetables are ready picked and washed on the shelves – perhaps even pre-chopped / sliced / mixed all ready for roasting or stir-frying …
That is not the case in nature, where the eat and be eaten order applies.
This is what remains of a Mountain Tortoise:
A Zebra munches the dry winter grass:
What is left of a Kudu:
The grisly end of a Cape Buffalo that had been a meal for many:
This is a Warthog grazing – note the way it rests on its front knees:
They also rest on their knees when drinking:
An elephant tucks into a nutritious meal:
I have mentioned before how Cattle Egrets are frequently seen in the proximity of the Urban Herd, quick to catch any insects disturbed whilst the cattle are grazing.
We saw several examples of a similar relationship in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first was a pair of Fiscal Shrikes hovering around these Warthogs as they scuffled around in the dry grass for food.
Next up was a pair of Cape Glossy Starlings keeping a close watch for whatever the Zebra may have disturbed while grazing.
A Cattle Egret found several insects to eat next to this Zebra.
This one hitched a ride on the back of a Cape Buffalo!
While this Cape Wagtail had a feast in the company of a Warthog next to the Hapoor Waterhole.
Gentle giants meeting at a waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park.
Impala seen in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve.
Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) grows primarily in the dry areas of the Eastern Cape.
Recent research has shown Spekboom to be an excellent ‘carbon sponge’ with the ability to sequestrate (absorb) free carbon from the atmosphere which is used to make plant tissue. It does so particularly efficiently, which means that a stand of Spekboom has the ability to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than an equal amount of deciduous forest. Spekboom is unique in that it stores solar energy to photosynthesise at night. This makes it ten times more effective per hectare at carbon fixing than a tropical rain forest. Each hectare of Spekboom can capture 4,2 tons of carbon every year.
Note the thicket of Spekboom behind this Cape buffalo.
You can see the shape of the leaves of the Spekboom in this picture of a Cape Weaver.
Because of its ability to capture carbon, Spekboom is being replanted in degraded thicket areas in the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, the Addo Elephant National Park, and in the Great Fish Nature Reserve. These projects not only help to restore natural ecosystems, but as they are labour-intensive, they provide a source of income for rural communities and thereby help to alleviate poverty. The picture below illustrates an area of the Great Fish River Nature Reserve where cuttings of Spekboom have been planted.
Here you can see how other cuttings have bushed out over time.
Small star-shaped pink flowers are borne en masse from late winter to spring, usually after the first rains. They are a rich source of nectar for many insects, which in turn attract insectivorous birds.
This dragonfly is resting on a sprig of Spekboom.
Here a Cape Sparrow perches on Spekboom.
The ubiquitous dense stands of succulent Spekboom form an important part of the diet of the elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park. Their top-down browsing habits apparently help the plants to spread and thrive by promoting the natural umbrella-shaped canopy. Spekboom regenerates quickly, ensuring a regular food supply. Note the baby elephant feeding on Spekboom in the picture below.