It was the poet John Donne who first told us that no man is an island, implying that we cannot live entirely without contact with other people i.e. we do not thrive in isolation. Simon & Garfunkel sing the refrain, I am a rock / I am an island, claiming to be self-sufficient – for the time being anyway. To isolate ourselves is neither possible nor a good idea claims the philosopher, Karl Popper (1902-1994). According to him, we are social creatures to the inmost of our being.
True: so are many other animals in their own way, which is possibly why we enjoy scenes such as the ones below as they reflect the empathy we have for others and connect with our desire to be regarded as being ‘special’ to someone.
Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park
Zebra in Addo Elephant National Park
Yellow-billed Storks in Kruger National Park
Giraffe in Kruger National Park
Springbuck in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
We have become so accustomed to seeing herds of cows, bulls and calves all over town that we can recognise individuals by the patterns on their hides, the curve of their horns or simply by association with each other. Thus, there is The New Year Bull’s herd, the String Bull, the Golden Cow, Caramel Cow and so on. Efforts to have the livestock removed from the urban areas have proved to come to nought – the animals are back within a day or two.
It was with some concern then that I heard loud mooing coming from lower down the hill where we live the other day. It sounded frantic and came from more than one animal at a time. Had someone driven into them on the road? That is always the danger. Only the other night motorists had to come to a halt in the dark as there were black cows standing in the middle of one of the main streets in the suburbs. I peered out of my gate.
The small herd that I could see were on the trot and mooing as they did so. See their tails raised and their quick gait. Then I saw two men shouting at them from behind and waving long sticks. They were really too far away to be very effective – until a municipal tractor arrived to drive alongside the animals, the driver too adding to the cacophony.
The animals had been interfering with traffic near the bottom of the hill – a busy part of town now that the schools and university are operating again after the summer holiday. I can just imagine the order, “Get them out of here, anywhere, just get them away from here!” The hapless men were not going to extend themselves. Why should they? By afternoon that same herd was back grazing on the lawn below our house!
This wire sculpture is just about the closest we can get to see a chameleon these days.
To the delight of our children, they were fairly common in our garden when we first arrived. We would see them making their way through the shrubs and dense bushes, and watched in fascination as they changed colour or caught an insect with their incredibly long tongues. Their separately mobile eyes were a marvel to observe too.
I like to think of our garden as being environmentally sound: we use no insecticides or even fertilizers; there is an abundance of indigenous trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers; plenty of natural cover; a ‘wild’ section which is seldom touched; and water is available at a variety of heights. Still, we have not seen a chameleon here for years.
The Eastern Cape Dwarf Chameleons (Bradypodion ventrale) seems to have disappeared, although I am told they are still around – if one knows where to look.
Seen at the Addo Elephant National Park on the last day of 2017.
Zebras at Domkrag Dam
My wish for you all is a year filled with interesting and joyful times; that you will have time to observe the uniqueness of nature; make time to enjoy the company of friends and family; and that you will enjoy the fulfilment of a life well lived. Thank you for having joined me on my discoveries around my garden and elsewhere. Happy New Year!
Little donkey, little donkey
On a dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards
With the precious load.
One of several donkeys that roam around the suburbs adding a rural air to our crumbling town.
Hunters in South Africa seem to have become imbued with a desire to bag ‘something different’ – what else but demand (and the monetary rewards from satisfying such demands) would drive the selective breeding of wild animals for different colour mutations? While it is true that natural colour variants occur from time to time in free-living wildlife populations, these are rare occurrences. Are these ‘novelty’ animals now being bred to encourage more hunters? Do people breed them simply because they like seeing white Blesbuck
or coffee-coloured Springbuck?
As the natural colouration of animals suit their natural environments, I wonder what benefit breeding animals specifically for unnatural colour mutations can have for the individual animal, the species, biodiversity or conservation as a whole. Apart from the initial ‘look at that’ factor when seeing the results of such breeding, I cannot help thinking that the originals still look better!
Having said this … perhaps there is an advantage tucked away somewhere … are we not better off with the carrots, beans and potatoes we have today instead of the ‘originals’, not to mention cows and all we get from them.