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?

A quick look around the neighbourhood

It’s been a while since i last posted and since returning home after some months of travel, it is heartening to be back in the rainy season.  And rain we have, buckets of it.  The dams are filling nicely and it looks promising that the harsh drought conditions are behind us.

My travel adventures begin to dim as i hook up again into the language of the familiar, but i’d love to share some of the experiences once i’ve got the photos sorted.  There are so many aspects when travel unfolds, from the hubbub of major cities to the quiet of the backroads.  Nature delivered some drama too, a bruising from the ‘Beast from the East’ to the unfurling of an exuberant Northern Hemisphere spring.  I had a lucky encounter with a Falconer and a Red kestrel working King’s Cross Railway station; stumbled across the Richmond deer herd in a snow storm, met “Cheddar Man” at the Natural history museum; rambled over hill and dale where meadow flowers bloomed in profusion.  All the while discovering new habitats and learning to read the landscape – from bluebell glades, acidic uplands, limestone pavements, salt marshes and water, water, water!  But most intriguing was seeing how nature finds it’s footing within eco-niches in densely populated urban areas.  Who’d have thought that a visit to Tate Modern would also bring a viewing of peregrine falcons nesting high up in the very same building or of foxes roaming boldly through some of the inner London suburbs?

Settling back again into a Cape routine, the dawn chorus comes rustling in with a guttural cacophony of Egyptian geese, hadedah ibis and raucous gulls.  I watch in delight as furry creatures scurry across the lawn (green and verdant now) – a mongoose scampers by with two pintsized, energetic juveniles, the baboons make quick unannounced visits, and so too, the nocturnal porcupine family with it’s gorgeous, prickly little baby.  Further along the road, the penguin nursery is in full swing attending to the raising of young.   This wild bevy of beauties makes my heart soar – here is a natural world right on the doorstep.  The wagtails and sunbirds are searching for nesting places and down below on the rocks the dassies sun themselves after the rain showers.  A single otter comes often, mud-bathing in the wet black soil.  My next door neighbours describe exciting sightings of two caracals, an adult and a youngster, and the opportunity to observe these secretive wild lynx at close quarters.

All in all it’s good to be back!