“Well that’s got rid of them,” I said to my wife with satisfaction, knowing how shy dassies are in the wild.
Half an hour later we looked out the kitchen window and there they were, on the lawn, in the flower beds, in the trees, munching …
We could not harm them, they are far too amusing and attractive, chubby fellows of about three to five kilos with smooth brown coats who, when not eating our garden, perch on the boulders or bound across the rocky “beach”. Their tiny dark babies, up to six at a time, are cuter than Disney’s dreams.
We have been in a state of Cold War for over fourteen years now. It’s not painful (except when one of us gets bitten). It is a titanic clash of wills: their skill and cunning versus our cunning and skill, gardeners’ dedication versus insatiable appetites. Nobody will win but there is no way we can outlast a fast-breeding colony like this one. They will be part of the kids’ inheritance.
So far we’re about even. My wife buys new plants, curses reflexively when she finds them eaten and goes off to buy more. To the dassies we are now an accepted part of the supply chain, a human supermarket. We are a constant source of food, as elephants are to dung beetles.
We know them all so well now some have become distinct individuals and we give them names. Not that they answer but it’s nice to know who’s eating the geraniums today.
The small enclave where we and our few neighbours live is perfectly sited for animal access from both sea and landward sides, a storm water tunnel under the road providing a route for those from the mountains. In the belt of raw territory between houses and sea there is a host of wild creatures. Some function by night, some by day and others around the clock.
They have largely replaced the creatures who were so important a part of our wilderness life. They are much smaller but their vivacity, their personalities, their tastes and their extraordinary lifestyles are endlessly fascinating. They have revived our spirits by bringing back to us much of the purity of the wilderness we lived for.
Between us we and our neighbours keep a pretty constant watch on all this activity. Hawk-Eye Kathy watches them like a hawk with her binoculars from the north and to the south Liz the Lens gathers an impressive record with her formidable Nikon battery of three cameras and ten lenses ranging from macro to 800mm.
After the dassies we met the fascinating, full-of-fun Cape clawless otters, the agile Cape grey mongoose families, the sleek large-spotted genets, the once shy and now bold porcupines, pretty striped mice, rare pygmy mice, penguins, seals, geckos and as for birds … well that’s another whole story.
To be continued, Friday 1 August ….
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