The dassie has a sense of balance a monkey would envy.
One of its favourite foods is the leaves of our pittosporum trees and it will climb very high to get at them. We have watched, entranced, as a dassie climbs up the main stem of a pittosporum as casually as strolling then moves out on a branch four or five metres above the ground to reach leaves. When it has cleaned out a bunch it moves further out, balancing like a tightrope walker, to where the branch becomes as thin as my finger.
Yet the dassie keeps going. Under its several kilos the branch bends lower and lower until it hangs almost straight down. Still the dassie moves on, chewing vigorously with a far gone look on its face.
Eventually something has to give and it’s the dassie. It lets go and lands on the ground with a soft thump like a bag of wet sand.
It is unhurt. It picks itself up and goes right back.
This couldn’t go on. Some of our pittosporums were becoming so skeletal they looked like the fossil trees in the Namib desert. So we decided if we can’t lick the animals we better join them. Make them part of the family but, as in any good family, subject to discipline.
The objective was to keep them out of the garden by fencing it with the compensation of giving them a good feed outside the fence.
Easier said than done. It meant fencing over a hundred metres. Luckily part was already closed with rusty wire mesh so at great expense I bought enough two-metre chicken-wire to cover the rest.
“You raising chickens in town?” the hardware man asked. “Can’t do that, you know.”
“No. I’m fighting bloody dassies.” He stared at me as if I was weird. Ask a stupid question.
With much sweating and cursing and hard work by the hired gardener we got the fence up. Then we saw that an adult dassie can get over a two-metre fence as easily as a cat up a curtain. More fencing was attached on top, loosely so a dassie getting that high would flop over backwards with no option but to let go.
It worked. Frustrated dassies jumped, flopped, fell and glared at us. How could you! Some of the more enterprising found ways in: up a neighbour’s tree then into a tree on our side, over the garage roof, shoving through a rusted patch of old fence. Several dear little babies simply pushed their dear little faces and dear little bodies right through the 50mm holes in the chicken-wire, but they didn’t eat very much and they were sooo sweet . . .
To be continued _ 15 August …