PATTERNS IN NATURE: GIRAFFE

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PORCUPINES LEAVE THEIR MARK

It is always fun coming across the odd porcupine quill whilst walking in the veld. These nocturnal animals are seldom seen during the day as they mostly feed at night. Many campers in the Addo Elephant National Park can probably attest to the fact that a porcupine that used to be resident near the campsite would wander through the tents at night – woe betide any potato salad or apples one might inadvertently have left uncovered, for porcupines are largely vegetarian.

The natural diet of the porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) consists of tubers, bulbs, roots and even bark. Below is an example of the damage to a tree caused by porcupines in the Mountain Zebra National Park. The tree now has a fence around it for protection.

The white and black crest of spines and quills can be erected at will to increase the apparent size of the porcupine in a threatening manner. Some spines on the tail are hollow and make a rattling sound when shaken. These very sharp spines and quills of the porcupine come off when touched by a predator or can be shaken off, but grow back rapidly. Here are two examples of porcupine quills becoming embedded in animals that have come too close. The first is a leopard in the Kruger National Park.

The second example is a Cape buffalo in the Addo Elephant National Park.

ON THE HOOF

Having seen cattle grazing in various places in town this morning, I was rather surprised to see this section of the Urban Herd hoofing it up a steep street, urged on by a municipal truck! The man on the back was wielding a stout stick which he banged on the side of the truck from time to time.

Only the first section of the herd is visible: at least another fifteen cows, bulls and calves were behind the truck – several straying onto an open field – doubtless they too were going to be sent on their way before long. Destination: unknown, for they are bound to be on the hoof again tomorrow!

NO COWS TODAY

I didn’t see any cows in the suburbs today, but did come across a donkey nibbling on the short grass outside someone’s gate:

And a horse looking at me rather quizzically from nibbling short grass inside someone’s gate!

THAT URBAN HERD AGAIN

As the drought continues to bite into the countryside, the ever expanding Urban Herd fan out through the suburbs in search of anything worthwhile to eat. Their usual grazing on the commonage on the other side of town has long been grazed to the quick.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS

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

Tortoises abound

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!