Walking with vervet monkeys

Here’s the scene: In lush contrast to the desert regions of Namibia, the Zambezi Region (Caprivi) is a tropical wetlands area.  Namushasha River Lodge is set on the banks of the Kwando river on the curve of an oxbow lake, where pods of hippos wallow in muddy grandeur.   It’s rich riverine ecology extends beyond the dense stands of Jackalberry and Mangosteen trees over extensive reedbeds to the distant game-spattered floodplains.

It’s bounded on all side by wild game parks and it’s up there in the rank of ‘coolness’ not just for its shady campsites but for it’s splendid setting and gorgeous lodge facilities, swimming pool and watering hole.

A popular wallowing spot for hippos.

A walk along the path at the edge of the river revealed an unexpected encounter (there are warning signs to watch out for crocodiles and hippos, though fortunately avoided).   The sound of leaves rustling gave them away……

Little faces peeked down at me as a gathering of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) came to assess this other primate intruder: friend or foe?  The alpha male bared his teeth, signalling his status.   Averting eye contact, i sat quietly wondering what would happen next.

Their curiosity won out and soon they had descended from their leafy domain to forage in the leaf litter below.  Keeping a discreet distance my presence appeared not to bother them and i was able to keenly observe their long limbed grace and agility.  Predominantly they’re found in savannah woodland, but here they’ve settled in this paradise alongside the fruit trees and breakfast options at the lodge.

 

 

 

Grape-scented condoms, abalone poachers and baboons

How do these three aspects connect you may wonder?  Strewn about condom wrappers could perhaps conjure up images of hot sex orgies in the bush?  The scene is set in a secluded picnic area in Buffels Bay in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve so one might have anticipated a bit of hanky-panky.  But there’s a far more sinister reason for the empty wrappers and that’s where the abalone poachers come in.  Diving for abalone is prohibited, but there are all the tell-tale signs of illegal poaching activities – shucked abalone shells, evidence of overnight campsites, even at times wetsuits stashed in the bush.  The condoms are used as an outer waterproof covering for cell phones which are set to vibrate in case of warning signals when the divers are ready to exit the water.  How sad it is that the stocks of this edible delicacy are being wiped out.  No guesses needed as to where the end product (cured and smoked) ends up – yes China!

Being curious creatures, the baboons are attracted to litter and will often taste test the various discarded items particularly if there are lingering food scents.  To discover them sucking on these grape-scented wrappers was totally disconcerting.  On closer inspection the condom packs turned out to be the government issued “freebies”, never mind that they are supplied as part of the drive to curb the HIV/Aids pandemic.

A quick tango on the beach

The early morning scene at Boulder’s Beach hums with activity as the African penguins rouse for the day.   On the domestic front, the nesting sites are vigorously dug over, sand flying out the deeper holes.  Often there is a squabble or two with loud protestation – these little creatures relative to their size have voice projection in volumes. Down at the waters edge groups preen and stretch preparing to go out to sea leaving the chicks huddled together in the creche area.   The adults have a straight backed posture and though they waddle, it is with intent.   Down to the sea they go – just for some though, there’s the odd dalliance –

Res Nullius

Two separate encounters with different baboon troops this week left me wryly thinking about the strange anomaly in their conservation management.  They are a protected species here on the Peninsula but the job of conserving the troops falls under the management of different authorities.  There’s a certain irony even trying to curtail the movement of wild, agile creatures yet the troops living between the suburbs are assigned rangers to move them along and keep them out of the residential areas.  Broadly defined as “res nullius” – a thing belonging to no one whether because never appropriated (as a wild animal) – allows  certain wildlife authorities to conveniently pass the buck.  The main responsibility of the rangers is to prevent them from developing raiding patterns for seeking out human-derived food.

Pictured below are scenes of the Smitswinkel troop (which roam on the outside beyond the boundaries of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve) visiting the Reserve and raiding the facilities at the entrance, while the City’s contracted conservation rangers aren’t allowed in to chase them out!!

Juvenile baboons raiding a refuse bin at the entrance to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
Juvenile baboon lifting window to widen the gap to get in.

Displaying his agility, a young baboon jumps clear after exiting a window.

Deeper into the CoGH park, here’s the scene where a local park troop rouses and warms in the rays of the early morning sun before setting off for the day’s foraging in the fynbos where for the most part, they roam freely without being tagged or monitored by full time rangers.

Baboons in the early morning light, gathering before moving on for the day.
Sheltering out of the cold wind, baboons warm in the sun, limbs tucked in tight to their bodies.
Enjoying the warmth of the early morning sunshine.

 

The Rustle of Spring

Spring is rolling in here on the Cape Peninsula after late winter rain, the wild flowers are abloom in swathes of rich tones.  It makes the heart sing; the senses washed wild by the earthy scent of rain – petrichor, a counterpoint to all that sensuous colour.

The osteospermums were the first to make an appearance with the felicias and senecias opening close behind and now the vibrant vygies are splashing out in a voluptuous spread.

Namaqualand spring daisies.

We celebrate the floral abundance here in the heart of one of Nature’s jewels: the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the six floral kingdoms in the world.  It may be the smallest, but it has an astonishing variety of over 8578 plant species and spring is a showcase season.  Though there is always some delight to be discovered as different species flower throughout the year.

While writing this post I watch as a tiny fledgling – a Southern Double-collared sunbird flies hesitantly round the backyard as the parents hover, coaxing and calling.  The nest was built high up in the Cape honeysuckle which grows up a trellis with long trailing tendrils.  The sunbirds and the Cape Sugarbird  serve as useful pollinators along with a fascinating array of insects.

The male sunbird showing off the richly iridescent chest feathers.

To finish off, perhaps some inspiration from Sinding?