Baboon car raids – who is to blame?

The popular Cape Town cycle tour is to be held on Sunday (12 March) and as the participants and visitors arrive in preparation for the event the peninsula is abuzz.   35,000 cyclists are registered to take part.   The lead up on the roads with the mix of cyclists, motorists, heavy vehicles, tour buses and wildlife sometimes result in dangerous situations.   The stretch of road between Millers Point and to the top of the Smitswinkel rise has been particularly challenging especially with it’s blind rises and sharp bends.  A couple of days ago, dodging cyclists and tour buses we came across this scene where a troop of baboons scattered across a section of road and motorists had pulled off to get a close-up viewing.   Generally this troop’s movements are curtailed by appointed rangers, but this day they had given them the slip.   What followed was inevitable,  car windows were open and baboons being opportunistic went to investigate.   A female baboon made off with a backpack, which fortunately she surrendered when chased.  Luckier still is that the adult male baboon following behind did not challenge the man as he retrieved the bag.  It’s doubly disappointing that careless motorists aren’t penalised or fined as this particular troop is being “conditioned” through the use of noise / pain deterence to prevent raiding behaviour.   If motorists abided by the conservation laws and kept their car windows up and doors locked the baboons would have a better chance of not becoming raiders.

Baboons forage at low tide while Caracal lurks nearby

Summer’s _Careless Tourists

Baboon with the fullest cheek pouches.

The action follows on from the previous post where the international windsurfing set had gathered at Platboom, Cape of Good Hope Reserve.  While most spectators’ attention was on the daring windsurfers out in the big seas, a drama unfolded on shore, when a wiley old female baboon staked out the cars waiting for a raiding opportunity.  And she hit the jackpot – a car door was open and she made off with an easy lunch.  Stuffed into those impressively full cheek pouches are a half dozen crispy breadrolls as well as a banana.

When the baboons lose their fear of humans and start raiding for human-derived food they can become overly persistent and even aggressive in their pursuit of an easy meal and land up being euthanased.   “Problem” people are generally the cause of this change in the animals’ behaviour through actions of feeding or teasing the baboons or in this case where the food was too easily ‘available’.

CT Fires: Simon’s Town

The throb of the helicopter rotors cut through the air early on Thursday morning and alerted the anxious residents to news that the fire continued to burn on the mountain slopes above Simon’s Town.  In the clear light of day, the scene of devastation in the immediate vicinity was sobering let alone the full extent of it. The fire is believed to have started over the mountains in Kommetjie and it’s path of destruction has consumed many hectacres across the Southern Peninsula including the Wildland Urban Interface affecting Da Gama Park, Red Hill, Glencairn having reached Simon’s Town on Wednesday afternoon (11 January).

A change in the wind direction was expected and there is a worry that flare-ups will occur.  Up to this point, one house and a garden shed were destroyed while six other homes, partially damaged.  Considering the terrible conditions and the driving force of the wind it is remarkable that more homes weren’t lost and a credit of the City’s Emergency services as well as the volunteer fire-fighting crews for their vigilance and tenacity (see note below).

For more information  –

The following noted in the above link:

“The NSRI also listed the emergency services who were deployed to fight the fires along with the NSRI teams:

  • Community services
  • Neighbourhood watch teams
  • SA National Parks rangers
  • Table Mountain National Park rangers
  • SPCA
  • City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management
  • Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services
  • Working on Fire
  • Volunteer Wild Fire Services
  • Fire helicopters
  • 22 Squadron of the SA Air Force with 2 Oryx helicopters
  • The SA Navy (including the Navy’s ships fire fighting teams)
  • Western Cape Government Health Emergency Medical Services
  • Cape Medical Response
  • Community Medics
  • ER24 ambulance services
  • Law enforcement
  • Cape Town Traffic Services
  • SA Police Services
  • Scores of members of the public who joined in todays effort and the fantastic community response.”


A pall of thick, acrid smoke hangs over the neighbourhood today as a rampant fire engulfs the mountains and threatens homes and wildlife.

The protective role of ‘big sister’

It is interesting to watch young baboons act out gender roles.  The juvenile males rough and tumble and play fight while the young females practise an infant-protective role in their play.

While mum is foraging baby scampers off to explore. But he is not left on his own for long before ‘big sister’ comes to supervise his activities.

Chacma Baboons: babies


Note the very young baby baboon in the shot above – it’s flesh is still very pink and it’s ears remain pressed to it’s head.


Baboons are born with deciduous/milk teeth which are replaced by age 2 – 3 years with their adult set.  From about two months their fur starts thickening and changing colour; and just as you see here with this trio of youngsters play is all a part of developing agility, co-ordination and strength.  Oposable thumbs on hands and feet give them added dexterity plus additional strength to their hands.

Springtime: Chacma baboons amongst the daisies

Yesterday’s scenes of playful baboons rolling through the daisies and generally romping about set an upbeat mood for the day.   The veld offers a good choice of food after the winter rain and the troop looks healthy with a number of new babies.  The animals still have their thick winter ‘coats’ which as it warms up, will gradually be shed.   In the second photograph is a most impressive sight – a female baboon with a set of bulging cheek pouches – you can see how her jawline pops.   What has she been storing, one wonders?

Cape Dwarf Chameleon

A quest to find these masters of disguise, the little Cape dwarf chameleons turned out to be more challenging than anticipated.  A friend tipped me off to a location out in the country – bearing in mind that they are rarely seen, a threatened species – I was excited to see if I could locate any.  Their camouflage  makes them hard to spot and sure enough they were well hidden.  Eventually after a concerted effort peering intently – there they were, blending in magnificently with the foliage.   The species is restricted to the Western Cape area and inhabits a range of different habitats and vegetation types, from fynbos and renosterveld, to indigenous Afrotemperate forests and wetlands.


WPC: Quest

Chacma baboons: Gentle mothers

Chacma_baoons_mothers_and babies

Chacma_baboons_mothers_with babies

Chacma_baboons_digging_for_bulbs It was cool in the early morning,  9*C when a passing rain shower caught this baboon troop out in the open.   The mothers sheltered together paying attention to their babies gently cuddling them to keep them warm.  The rain passed and they were soon back into the veld digging for corms and other succulent roots.









Subantarctic Skua

Subantarctic-skua_01 Subantarctic-skua-02 Subantarctic-skua-03

With it’s murderous looking beak, my thoughts went back to my first encounter of an Arctic skua when we were visiting Iceland.  My impression then was to stay well clear of these predatory looking birds.  We were at Jokulsarlon Glacier and the Arctic terns were having a tough time vigorously defending their newly hatched chicks against these oportunistic feeders.

It was a unexpected surprise to see this unusual visitor – though of the southern hemisphere variety, Subantartica skua – Catharacta antarctica.  There it was nonchalantly paddling in one of the ponds in the Cape of Good Hope reserve.  I suspect that the recent strong gales had blown it onshore but soon it will be lured back out to sea to return to it’s marine diet.  It feeds mainly on fish, squid and crustaceans.  Impressive though – that fully extended wingspan had powerful muscle lift.


A retrospective journey

I reached a milestone just the other day – five years of blogging!  Although initially i was a reluctant blogger and got off to a slow start i’m now hooked by the WordPress community spirit.

Thank you to my fellow bloggers who’ve followed, commented, liked, engaged in topics and made it all worthwhile. I enjoy the connection to this virtual world where i can pop over to the far corners of the globe, discover all manner of information; get involved in ‘conversations’ and be inspired so that my bucket list of destinations grows ever longer.

Those who follow my posts will know that my interest is documenting the activity on the urban edge, the overlap between humans and wildlife.

My story really started with Fred and this is the shot which kicked it off –


It was during the summer season of 2008 that Fred, the alpha-male of the Smitswinkel baboon troop came to the attention of residents and motorists in the area for his emboldened raiding of houses and cars.  He was to become quite an urban legend and even has an entry in Wikipedia.

This scene is a classic “Fred” shot  but one which is overlaid with much pathos.   While we laugh at the situation, it smacks of a sense of  failed ‘conservation awareness’.   Why would baboons want to raid cars, what was the attractant?   Was this learned behaviour and who are the real culprits in these scenarios?

Hope you’ll watch out for further posts as i dig through the archives on my”Retrospective Journey”.



Cape Grey Mongoose

Cape grey mongoose

Happily I recently spotted one of the young mongooses crossing the garden patio.  It’s old enough to be independent now and to forage on it’s own. The family has been skittish, laying low as a caracal (lynx) has moved into the area.   Put a predator in the mix and there’s a palpable sense of alertness.  The dassie (rock Hyrax) colony which live below along the rocky shore are hyper-vigilant, doubling sentry duty.  Their urgent alarm calls ring through the air and send everthing diving for cover of safety.   A caracal’s range may extend to a large area, but with the recent fires, there is scant vegetation cover and perhaps meager pickings for a lean hungry predator.  Meanwhile gardening chores are undertaken with a degree of caution.

April: Macros in the Garden

I’m up for Jude’s challenge this month, getting closer to subject matter in the garden.

It’s a dynamic time here in the Western Cape, South Africa where autumn has an array of tricks up her sleeve.  Take a peek at what’s happening in my garden: a budding blushing bride; hot pink portulaca sporting a sexy stigmas and stamens, and the pest in the plot – a green shield stink bug.

Serruria florida_Blushing Bride Portulaca stigma and stamens Southern Green Shield _ Stinkbug

March: Wildlife in the garden

A sunny spot in the late afternoon.
Enjoying a sunny spot in the late afternoon just over the edge of the garden is a Cape Clawless otter.

This month I’ve joined Jude’s photography challenge.  The subject is wildlife in the garden, which is ‘right up my street’.   The urban/wildlife interface here between mountain and sea is pretty active with a range of wildlife visitors – from the smallest of critters such as baby field mice to baboon, otter and porcupine … dassies, mongoose, genet.



Through the mist

It was a lucky sighting: in the cool mist of the early morning, my path crossed again with a troop of baboons. They were on a mission, moving towards a favoured foraging ground and came padding by as I was out cycling in the Cape Point reserve.  It’s a thrill to observe such a big troop, 65 plus animals.   The alpha male is a magnificent animal heading up the front of the troop.  It’s interesting to note the comparative size between the males and females.   The females are smaller with shorter jaws.  The juveniles make up the bulk of the numbers and there they were clowning around, romping and jostling while the adults set the pace going forward.   Fortunately I could keep a good distance using an 80 – 400mm telephoto lens.

Chacma baboons_01 Chacma baboons_02 Chacma baboons_03 Chacma baboons_04

Chacma baboons subjected to “Selfie” portraits

Picture the scene: the Smitswinkel baboon troop (23 individuals) going about their daily routine.  There they are minding their own business, foraging for food along the scenic route to Cape Point when along come some eager tourists looking for photo opportunities.  Granted, generally the baboons are protected by the Human Wildlife Solutions rangers who are contracted to manage their movements but today the animals give them the slip and they roam freely.   Usually the rangers successfully keep them off the road.  In the past this troop has suffered badly through the negative impact of visitors encroaching into their space and through motorists feeding them.  I have blogged in previous posts here and here and in December last year.

So what is it about this narcissistic obsession of taking “Selfies”?   The visitors in this scene are Spanish speaking and are obviously not familiar with keeping a respectful distance from wild creatures.

Baboons: foraging on pinenuts

A baboon troop forages along Plateau Road near the Cape Point Nature reserve.

The otters came calling

Night noises can sometimes be quite unsettling.  A high-pitched wailing sounded eerie and threatening:  the Cape clawless otters had arrived in dynamic form.   Their squealing sounded full of quest.  We’re guessing that they are the young adults from the family group which range this section of the coast.  What a rumpus as they called through the night, but it bodes well to know that they are back as the vegetation sheltering their holt was partially destroyed in the recent fire.

The otter holt

We had a lucky to sighting in the morning as they made they way back to the water.

_DSC0010 _DSC0020 _DSC7244 _DSC9994

More otter accounts can be found here.

Baboons climb trees

_DSC8670 _DSC8828 _DSC8832

It’s quite a sight to see baboons perched up high looking more like birds  on a roost. But what goes up must come down: even though they are adept at climbing trees they spend most of their time on the ground. They belong to family of Old World monkeys and in fact do not have prehensile tails.   For the adults it’s a useful way to scope out the scene while the juveniles will clamber about testing strength and climbing coordination.  Here gravity dictates that they will drop to the ground.

Ben’s subject this week for the  WP photo challenge is:  Weight (less)    Why not pop over to the site to have a look at other responses to the challenge?

Mountain dahlia: Liparia splendens

Today I was lucky to discover a plant I’ve been keeping an eye out for years: a mountain dahlia and it lives up to it’s description ‘splendens’.  It’s a showy flower, pollinated by sunbirds especially the little Orange breasted.   Found on a mountain slope in the Silvermine reserve, it grows in an area which was ravaged by fire in March. It’s interesting to see that there are young plants around the more mature shrubs.

Mountain dahlia_APR4566

The striking colours and size make a gorgeous ‘ornate’ species.

Fire flower series: Trachyandra

My early morning  cycle ride in the Cape Point reserve came to a halt as I came across a large family of ostriches.   Pa flapped his wings at me so I backed off to watch at a distance.  The adults are protective of their young and there were at least 12 chicks.


Pa returned to foraging and I noticed that he was feeding on the showy Trachyandra hirsutiflora, a plant which generally flowers after fire.  The tall flower spikes bear multiple white flowers on a headlike raceme and the hairy fruits are bunched below.



The young are well camouflaged against the sandy background and have the same graceful gait of the adults.

Trachyandra hirsutiflora

A close-up of the flowers, Trachyandra hirsutiflora (Veldkool).

Ostrich chick

The chick is eating one of the fruits from the Trachyandra hirsutiflora.

The parting shot shows the comparative size between adult and chick as the last chick follows the female over the rise.


The Cape wagtails: a nesting saga

In a previous post “Mid-winter Chat”, a pair of wagtails started nesting and six weeks later a single chick fledged from the nest :

The rotund little chick on 13 September.
The rotund little chick on 13 September.

It became self sufficient quickly with the full attention from both the parent birds and within ten days it had flown the backyard coop.

The parents were soon back in the nest with a second batch of eggs when disaster struck.  After a bout of galeforce winds, the nest came adrift from it’s position on a broad aloe leaf and collapsed to the ground spilling the four beautifully formed eggs.

Wagtail eggs

A costly disaster for the pair; but a couple of days on the resilient pair were building a new nest from scratch higher up in the aloe plant:

New nest 9 October

It’s a little over two weeks now and soon I expect to hear the first cheeps.  The nest is too high for a glimpse to check out the numbers, but I’m eager to know whether they aimed high with four again.


Ready for take-off

Moth_01 Moth_02 Caterpillar

Solving the riddle of matching up moths and their larvae is always a nice little challenge.  I haven’t yet got a positive identification on this moth which fluttered through the open kitchen window a couple of nights ago.  I was chuffed to see it’s rather elegant markings and aimed to take photos the next day.  It looked very sluggish in the morning and I didn’t think it would revive.  Yet once outside I managed to take a couple of shots when it’s antennae started vibrating and with a revving up of the wings it was off, winging it’s way over the garden hedge.   Meanwhile I’m taking a guess that this is the larva.  I think the species belongs to the Tussock’s and that the colours and design cross match rather nicely.  During autumn the caterpillars were pretty active devouring a patch of statice plants situated quite close to the kitchen  so the odds are good that this could be a positive match.

Fire flowers

Circular Drive, Cape Point

Slowly the fire-scarred land is transforming into a wonderland with a vigorous blooming of lesser known flower species.  Fire cleared out the overgrown vegetation where the taller plants had cut off the light to those which grow near the ground. Given the light and the space, geophytes are taking centre stage.   The colours are gorgeous and like fire come in vivid hue.

Moraea ochroleuca

As if born of fire, a design of orangey-red flames contrast against yellow.

Here’s another, the yellow Ixia dubia.  A nuance of fire glows like embers through the petals.

Ixia dubia

Ixia dubia

Macaques in fine detail

Monochrome_01 Monochrome_02 Monochrome_03 Monochrome_04

An item breaking news this week is the discovery of 15 partial skeletons found in a burial chamber deep in a cave system here in South Africa’s “Cradle of Mankind”.   Scientists believe they may have discovered a new human-like species.   They claim that the discovery will change ideas about our human ancestors.

Named “Homo Naledi” they are at pains to avoid the term “missing link”, but they use the phrase “a bridge between more primitive bipedal primates and humans.    Excitement stems from the fact that the skeleton bones are in good condition, and  the smaller bones are still intact.  Laid out and photographed is a complete skeleton,.  What i find intriguing is the comparison between the structure of the bones of a modern human hand and this ancient “Naledi” group.  If you’re interested in reading more here’s the link to an article from the BBC detailing the find.

With those images on my mind, I’m inspired to post primate photos showing the close-up details of macaques.     I’m linking to Jen’s “Monochromatic” – the theme for this week’s photo challenge.


The links to nature’s fragile networks are connected through a fine balance of dependence. Plants need polinators, predators and prey pit their skills of survival, and we humans depend on nature for her bounteous services for our very existence.

Though some relationships are a little more complex than others.  Take this beautiful inkblom flower (Harveya Capensis) it’s a cheat, a parasite feeding off other plant hosts by latching onto the roots or stems to absorb ready-made food.

Inkblom White Harveya

The erica plant below is one of the host species associated with inkbloom.


The dreaded Witches Tresses  (Cuscuta) is an invasive vine, wrapping tendrils round it’s host.  It produces haustoria which penetrate into the host’s vascular system and sucks out it’s lifeblood.

Witches Tresses Cuscuta

While parasitism harms the host,  a commensal, or a mutually cooperative relationship benefits one without detriment to the other.   As shown here through the compatibility of this ‘odd couple’, the Spoonbill stirs up the mud in the river bed with a ‘built-for-purpose’ broad bill, while the Sacred Ibis is on standby to pick up any crustaceans on the move.

The spoonbill and the ibis.

Inspired by this week’s  WordPress photo challenge topic “Connected”.

The Companions: From Every Angle

Shane challenges us this week to play with angles: “Once I place my subject, I shoot him or her from every angle I can think of: high, low, wide, tight, left and right. By altering your angle, and not your subject’s, you begin to see the power in the story that you are aiming to capture.”  Click on the link to see more examples of this week’s WP challenge

The wildflowers of Namaqualand

This week’s photo challenge,”Beneath Your Feet” coincides with a wonderland of early spring wildflowers in spectacular display in Namaqualand, an area 500 kms north of Cape Town. There is a rich heritage of some 3,800 plant species and an extravagance of colour.  It’s a paradise for a photographer and Cheri’s suggestion of capturing the world beneath one’s feet fits the bill for me this week 🙂

Chewing gum – a human habit?

A couple of weeks ago after returning from a beach hike, I came across this young male baboon ‘hanging out’ in the car park.   As he was on his own, I guess he has just reached maturity and is pushing new boundaries, rather like the adolescent teenager ranging further and further from home.  Baboons have a natural curiosity and will investigate and pick up discarded litter … risky business this, living alongside humans.

In Memory of Merlin

Now deceased.
Now deceased.

Merlin, the old warrior, battle scarred, arthritic and possibly the oldest baboon on the Peninsula.  He was earmarked for culling two years ago but was given a stay of execution until some weeks ago.  Sad.  He may not have been in the best of health, but one wonders if he could not have passed away quietly up on the mountain somewhere rather than be put down by a vet. His crime –  being a “raider” or should we say a savvy forager?  There are many legends about him, mostly his daring strategies in taking dining opportunities at the Black Marlin Restaurant. He’d always spot the gap, sometimes just walk in with the patrons.  I enjoy the tale of the kitchen staff having to keep the kitchen door locked and responding to a knock one lunch time, to find Mr Merlin looking all polite and may I come in please?  Another of his ploys was to sit on top of cars, and wait until the desperate motorists would throw out ‘decoy’ food to get him off.  Generally he’d get the goods.  Observing him with his troop, he was a gentle old soul.  The one who would fetch errant juveniles, or wait for the straying older females to catch up.  He had endless patience with the junior members and juveniles would always be around him.  And then he raised Little Grace after her mother mysteriously disappeared. How uncommon to see a male baboon with a small baboon riding below his tummy, her little hands locked into his fur or jockey style on top.  The photo was taken at Miller’s Point, and for me it’s a poignant scene.  I found Merlin on his own, staring out to sea into the far distance. He stayed for ages, not moving.  Was there some call to those yonder distant mountains?  He held the troop together through the distressing times of losing one adult male after another – Fred, Rudeboy, Crowbar, Jimmy, Manuel, Force…   We recognise that elephant pay heed to their dead; perhaps if you read this you may give some thought and tribute to the effect of loss on non-human primates.

Otters 1 – Wotta Lotta Otters

In this post Wilf describe’s our otters … ” otters are handsome creatures … blunt faces like a jovial innkeeper’s , they radiate intelligence and they are inquisitive.” Read on to discover the charm of these urban-edge visitors.

Our Urban Wild

The face peering at her was hairy and disapproving. Two small, baleful eyes set wide in a large furry head round as a ball. Ridiculous button ears. A broad black nose above stiff whiskers. The mouth curled down at the corners left no doubt she was intruding. And the face was sodden with sea water, compounding the impression of irritation.

Leaving was not a bad idea. What Liz had bumped into was pretty intimidating close up, however amicable it may have seemed from a distance.

... and who are you? … and who are you?

It was a Cape clawless otter. They are all over Southern Africa except in the arid regions, and a sizeable number are right here in the surrounds of the city of Cape Town – a good many of them often in our backyard.

Liz was clambering round the rocks and came around a truck-size boulder to find herself almost face…

View original post 824 more words

Iceland Series: Waterfowl

Lake Mývatn, in the north of Iceland has a reputation as the best place to see wild ducks in northern Europe.  They congregate in their thousands, and here you can spot at least 18 different species.  Their beautifully coiffed plumage comes in an array of colours, and patterns  – harlequin duck, Barrow’s golden eye, tufted and longtailed and scaup, mallards, pochards, gadwall, teals; such exotic water birds.

Iceland Series: Birds, Birds, Birds.

Iceland has some three hundred recorded bird species.  It’s extraordinary – some areas teem with birds – thousands of them.  Whenever we stopped the car, the rush of bird calls were indicative of the high activity, the haste in getting through the breeding season.  As we travelled the ring road we noticed the varying stages of nesting, and chick rearing.  The seabird colonies were the most impressive, guillemots, fulls, fulmars,  puffins, arctic terns.

Here are some of the stars of the show:

A dispersing male

Ready for the roadOn the move?  Being a dispersing male comes with it’s challenges; particularly for a baboon.  They get the itch to wander when the testosterone kicks in:  it’s blueprinted in their genes to set off to find a new troop and mate with females of a different group.  So what happens when there’s urban sprawl to negotiate?   When the landscape is rife with food opportunities?  It’s not so easy for the remaining wild baboons living on the edge of the Cape Peninsula, many of the males fail to make the transition into a new troop and land up being euthanised.  How’s this for a mode of transport?

This post is in response to this week’s photo challenge: “On the Move”.




Down on the Beach

The element of surprise is the part i look forward to most when walking on our favourite beach.  Yesterday I set off hoping to get some better photographs than the one below of some of the European swallows which like to inhabit an area near the coastal pathway.  I admire these hardy little visitors who cover a long distance to spend summers on our shores.

European SwallowsIt was a heavenly day, but the wind picked up and the wise little birds were sheltering in a different area.   Meanwhile the surfers, fishermen, and kite boarders looked to be revelling in the freshning spindrift.

Surf angling is popular when the yellowtail run.
Surf angling is popular when the yellowtail run.
The surf was up with a good curl for the local surfers to ride.
The surf was up with a good curl.
The baboons were happily foraging on the dune vegetation while family hike along the dunes.
A lone baboon passes a family hiking in the dunes.
A small family of baboon are peacefully enjoying their habitat.
While the baboon family are peacefully moving along a foraging route.

The swallows are forgotten as the antics of the baboons catch my attention.  The three juveniles and baby can’t resist sliping and sliding down the dune and in their indulgence of the rough and tumble of everyday play :

Pa, the Alpha male comes padding by on a mission to get across the sand to the car park.

_DSC2571The family follow, romping along.

_DSC2580Meanwhile one of the sub-adult males is engaging in a reconnaisance of a different kind.

As soon as the alpha male arrives, he beats it and leaves the scene.

_DSC2689Savvy baboons: they have learned that where there are people and cars, there is a possible source of easy food.   Leaving bags on car seats and in sight through the windows will certainly attract their attention.   Lay out a picnic or light a barbeque in their domain and they will come to investigate and even make off with food that’s laid out for the taking.   We could take better care not to tempt them with human food when we come into the areas which overlap with their homerange.

In support of an Anti-poaching Campaign: Elephant Tusks!

At year end, the WordPress Team puts out a review for each blogger on their year’s blogging statistics.  It reveals some surprising information, who visits the blog, which posts were most liked etc.   I was pleasantly surprised by the ‘crunchy numbers’ and the statistics which revealed my blog had been viewed about 16,000 times.  I was more surprised by the information on which posts were the most popular:  Culture and Love ; and which post attracted the most comments  “Penguin Chicks:  From Fluff to Tuxedo”.

During the year i’d not really paid too much attention to the ‘backroom’ details, although i’d noticed that “elephant tusks” came up regularly via search engine queries.   I wrote a post about the odd relationship between three of the most unlikeliest mammals,  The Dassie, Dugong and Elephant  .  They have a fascinatingly evolutionary history which ties them back to a common ancestor.  They share various, if disproportionate, physiological similarities in teeth, leg and foot bones, testes, and other more obscure details.  In the post I assigned ‘elephant tusks’ as a tag to this photo.Elephant-tusks

How sad, (and devastating) it is to realise that there is a sinister connotation to the fact that this tag had the most hits on my blog via search engines.  Here in Africa, the poaching of elephants for their ivory and rhino for their horn remain the biggest and most devastating scourge in wildlife conservation.  Much is written in the press and across the international wildlife community in raising awareness on the diminishing numbers of these majestic animals through this wholesale slaughter of illegal poaching. The elephant tusks mostly land up in China, and i do believe that there is a possibility that the stats on my blog for visitor traffic from that country, could well tie into this issue.

I would like to share this following article, reblogged from Africa Geographic, as a reminder to all who do land up on my blog searching with bad intent, that all animals, no matter whether they are pandas, snow leopards, tigers, elephant or rhino, all deserve our respect for their continued existence.

Anti-elephant poaching story goes viral in China

Original Source: Mongabay

A newspaper story about the impact of the ivory trade has gone viral in China, raising awareness among millions of Chinese, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The story, published on November 15 2013 in Southern Weekly, has been shared widely across Chinese web sites and social media, according to the conservation group. ”The total views of the original Southern Weekly Tweets and Retweets on Weibo (China’s Twitter/Facebook hybrid) exceeded 10 million. Most of these “netizens,” or members of the Chinese online public, were from Tier 1 Chinese cities (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong), the most significant consumers of ivory,” said WCS in a statement.

“The article was reposted on 24 online discussion forums or Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) including Mop and Tianya, two of the most popular in China. Thousands of comments were generated on the Tianya BBS forum alone. Overall over 5 000 comments on the article were posted on Weibo, BBS fora, and other websites.” The story received wide play outside environmental news, being picked up on finance sites, according to WCS. ”This represents an important shift for the topic of ivory from the specialist environmental pages to the mainstream debate,” said the group.

The poster reads: Protect the pandas of Africa - elephants. When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

The poster reads: Protect the pandas of Africa – elephants. When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

The article, titled “The Blood Ivory: Behind the Largest Ivory Smuggling Cases in China”, identified Chinese consumption as the main driver of elephant poaching. It noted links between the ivory trade and terror and rebel groups in Africa.

The ivory trade has exploded in recent years due to surging demand from middle class consumers in China. Conservationists estimate that up to 35 000 elephants may have been killed in 2012 alone. The carnage has spurred several NGO’s, including WCS, to step up campaigns targeting both the supply and demand sides of the trade. In September, the Clinton Global Initiative gave these efforts a boost when it launched a massive push to catalyze support for stopping “blood ivory”.

The poster reads: Do you want to own ivory dripping with blood? When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

The poster reads: Do you want to own ivory dripping with blood? When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

But reaching Chinese buyers has remained a challenge. Therefore WCS welcomed the news that elephant ivory is now garnering attention in China. “To have the influential mainstream media make the link between the elephant crisis and the Chinese demand for ivory is hugely significant,” Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, said in a statement.

“In China, it’s not just what is said but who says it,” added Joe Walston, Executive Director of WCS’s Asia Program.“To have the Southern Weekly give its front page to an article highlighting China’s role in the ivory trade is monumental. This is no longer a fringe topic.”

Photo Credits – Posters are the work of Asher Jay.
For more information on WildAid and their anti-poaching campaign visit

Dassies: Safety in Numbers

A six-pack of baby dassies, huddled together.
A six-pack of baby dassies, huddled together.
Rooikat, West Coast Park
Rooikat, West Coast Park

The prey and predator – the dassie brood are skittish at the moment; they make a very tasty snack for the caracal.  Our neighbours have sighted a caracal (rooikat or lynx) in their garden.  At the slightest of disturbance our resident dassies are quick to take cover between the rocks.  The rooikat likes to hunt at dawn or dusk, but occasionally we get glimpses during the day.  Probably 50% or last year’s dassie brood have survived; this year at this point there are about 15 babies in the colony.   The Rooikat (Caracal caracal) is a well-built animal with strong legs, remarkably large paws and a relatively short tail.   It is elusive and shy and not easily spotted.  The photo above was taken by a friend on a hike in the West Coast Coastal Park.

Green Point Urban Park

Celebrating Earth Day with a beautiful scene from Green Point Urban Park, in the heart of Cape Town.

It also ticks the boxes for this year’s theme – ‘environmental and climate change literacy’.

There are three imaginatively designed areas – People & Plants, Wetlands, and Discovering Biodiversity – that, along with educational information boards, act as the best kind of outdoor museum. This carefully curated garden is composed of a rich variety of flora indigenous to the Cape, and offers the only Biodiversity Showcase Garden of its kind, featuring 25 000 indigenous plants, trees, shrubs, bulbs and groundcovers consisting of 300 different plant species.

Residents, fitness fanatics, school groups all come to enjoy the facilities while being encouraged to become environmentally aware.

WPC: Earth


A Nocturnal Visitor

One tends to think of porcupine roaming in the wild but they are quite common here in the neighbourhood, though they  not always welcome.  For the keen gardener who prizes the display of flowering bulbs they can become pests.   Being herbivores they are partial to a diet of juicy geophytes and digging up corms / bulbs is a nightly escapade.