NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

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

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MOTHER-IN-LAW’S TONGUE

Odd isn’t it … there are so many objections to various perceptions of relationships and gender in today’s society, yet no-one has given a thought to the much maligned – butt of many jokes – general name for the Sanseviera plants: mother-in-law’s tongue!

Let us leave that to the activists and focus on these tough plants that are true survivors of the drought. I think the plants in my garden are Sansevieria hyacinthoides as they look very similar to the plants I have seen growing in the shade of trees in the Addo Elephant National Park, and which are common all over the eastern part of South Africa.

Blooming in the natural thicket at Spekboom Hide in the Addo Elephant National Park

According to http://pza.sanbi.org/sansevieria-hyacinthoides, the genus Sansevieria is named after Pietro Sanseverino (1724-1771), Prince of Bisignano, who grew these plants, among other rare and exotic specimens, in his garden near Naples. Further information found at http://growwild.co.za/trees/sansevieria-hyacinthoides reveals that the discoverer of this plant, Vincenzo Petanga, wanted this plant named after Pietro Antonio Sansevierino, but Carl Thunberg named it after Raimondo di Sangro (1710-1771) an Italian nobleman, inventor, soldier, writer and scientist. The mystery of plant naming continues.

The specific name hyacinthoides means resembling a hyacinth – referring to the large creamy-white flowers with their recurved, thread-like flower segments.

In my garden

What is most striking about these plants are their long, linear leaves, often mottled with light green contrasting horizontal markings. Their flowers do not last for very long. It is nonetheless interesting watching them develop. The following pictures were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park:

Still green and tightly bound

 

Opening up

THREE ADDO BIRDS

A visit to the Addo Elephant National Park is incomplete without observing some of the many birds in the area. Here are three we encountered recently:

A Grey Heron contemplating the prospects of food in the Ghwarrie Waterhole.

This Rednecked Spurfowl eyed us curiously as we drove past along one of the many dirt roads.

One of three Cape Wagtails bobbing across the lawn at Jack’s Picnic Site while searching for insects.

A NEW YEAR WISH

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!

THE LIGHTER SIDE OF JACK’S

We were at Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park in the company of some little people. What an interesting place it was for them to explore while the rest of us got a delicious picnic ready: a large dung beetle obligingly made its way across the gravel; two songololos (millipedes) explored the logs and crossed in front of several pairs of fascinated feet.

Other delights included a quick witted Boubou that stole a strip of ham from the picnic table in a flash before anyone else had even had a chance to partake of their own salad buns.

We were serenaded by several Cape Bulbuls – you can tell from the background that this was a dull day weather-wise.

A Sombre Bulbul came to see what could be scrounged from both the ground and the table – it was at this point that one of the little ones pointed out a sign warning visitors not to feed the animals [SO low down and completely overgrown that it was rendered invisible to adult eyes].

The visit from a Cape Robin was a fleeting one.

Perhaps because it had not seen one of these before!

GOOD INTENTIONS GO AWRY

Since it was opened in about 2011, Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park has proved to be a popular spot for picnics at any time of the day – and especially over lunch time, which could be anytime between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon. It is situated inside a 500 hectare Botanical Reserve which is a protected area put aside to monitor the impact of mega-herbivores, particularly elephants, on the subtropical ticket vegetation.

As you can see from the image below, the site is named after a black rhino called Jack:

It is a fenced off area with beautifully constructed picnic sites surrounded by natural vegetation to ensure one’s privacy.

What has always been striking about this site is the deliberate absence of rubbish bins – working on the principle that what visitors bring in they should be prepared to take out. Over the past year in particular I have been struck by the number of visitors asking the caretaker where the bins are – despite the signs explaining why there are no bins.

Of even more concern is that on more occasion I have seen the caretaker actually producing a large black bin bag for visitors to deposit their rubbish in. Why couldn’t they take it home? Yesterday I saw the disturbing sight of a black bin bag tied to the Spekboom hedge outside the ablution block.

Not only was it filled with rubbish, but there was another one filled with rubbish behind the hedge.

The caretaker told me that this is done because tourists keep asking for rubbish bins/bags or – and this is the really shocking part – they dispose of their picnic rubbish by hiding it in the bushes and shrubs surrounding their picnic site “and this makes it difficult for us to clean”, he said.

This is a fine example of how good intentions on the part of the National Parks Board go awry because of the self-centredness and laziness of the public. It is a shame that tourists should flout what is a good idea simply because they do not wish to deal with the rubbish of their own making.