Last night, Tom was standing at the veranda sliding doors looking out into the garden. He spotted a porcupine, which, the moment he quietly opened the door, dashed into the bush, gone from sight. Of course, the sound of the door scared them away. Tom couldn’t have been more excited, as was I, but sorely disappointed I didn’t see it, even yet, get a photo. The likelihood of taking a photo of a porcupine at night, their preferred foraging time, is rather slim.
In 2018, dear friends Rita and Gerhard, who will soon return to Marloth Park while we’re here, managed to get a photo of a porcupine walking across their veranda late at night. We were so excited for them as they celebrated the unusual sighting. Last night before bed, I must have looked outside 20 times, hoping it would make another appearance. No such safari luck last night.
I went to bed with a smile on my face, thinking sometime down the road, we may be able to see it again. Louise mentioned that holes dug into the ground, porcupine shelters may have been flooded during the massive rainstorms over the past many weeks, bringing them out into the open more frequently than usual.
We’ve had minimal visitors in the past few days with the regular weekend influx of tourists, who often feed the wildlife pellets and leftover human food. There’s no doubt the animals love eating chips, bread, corn, bagged snacks, sweets, and other such foods that may be toxic. This may result in them visiting those tourists as opposed to us. This has been the case over the time we’ve spent in Marloth Park. Weekends are typically quieter than weekdays.
But when unfamiliar and uneducated tourists come to this special area, they may not have the innate desire to keep the wildlife healthy and free from harm, as do those of us who have enjoyed the bush respecting the imperative balance of the wildlife’s diet. They aren’t like us, able to consume unhealthy foods and yet survive. The pellets are made entirely without chemicals and consist of the nutrients and vegetation found in their natural habitat.
When the wildlife doesn’t have access to pellets, they continue to forage on the vegetation the rains have so blissfully provided to ensure a healthy diet for them. We only feed small amounts of pellets to anyone visiting species at a time and often see them revert to their usual sources of vegetation the moment the pellets we’ve tossed are consumed.
Other aspects of impairing the quality of life for the wildlife are loud music, loud talking and partying, teasing the animals, and most horrifying, speeding, and careless driving on the roads. Often during the many annual South African holidays, when usually the park is packed with tourists, an animal will be killed on the road. (Although Covid-19 has reduced the number of tourists during the past year).
Sure, wildlife often darts out into traffic onto a road with little notice of vehicles on the move. After all, they are animals, not humans, who’ve learned to look both ways before they cross. In these infrequent cases, an animal can be hit and fatally injured or killed.
Then, it is up to the rangers to determine if the animal must be euthanized or treated. Most often, the result has been euthanasia. It’s heartbreaking to read about these situations, whether from thoughtless, carelessness, or truly an accident. It’s hard to determine which was the case. If everyone were to drive slowly as posted on the road signs, 90% of these “accidents” would never transpire.
That’s not to say that all tourists fall into this category. There are many, like us, who arrive here with a passion for the care and treatment of wildlife, respecting their way of life and the fact that we humans are intruding upon their habitat, not the other way around.
Also, it’s imperative to respect the many homeowners here, many of whom have used their life savings to own a home in this wildlife paradise and struggle to make ends meet while living on a fixed income as costs rise in the unstable economy in this country.
At times, tourists dump their garbage on the homeowner’s property, leaving for the monkeys to scavenge and litter the mess throughout the property and the bush neighborhood. At other times, we hear of burglaries in which TVs, computers, and other digital equipment, bedding, and household goods are taken. Most homeowners have security systems monitored by security companies located within Marloth Park but making sure it is engaged at all times is the responsibility of the owners and occupants.
We take the house keys in the bedroom at night with the red emergency button connected to a local security company. If there were an invasion or issue during the night, we’d need only push the button to set off the alarm. In minutes, the security people would arrive. But, if the keys are in another room, there would be no immediate recourse.
Another concern in Marloth Park is the risk of fire. Usually, the bush is arid, and it’s particularly susceptible to an outrageous, fast-moving fire. When visitors come, they must be educated on this matter and all of the items mentioned above, that yes, bonfires are fun and traditional in South Africa. Still, extreme care must be taken to ensure they are carefully and adequately observed during use and appropriately doused and put out after use.
Life here in the bush is not as simple as sitting back and enjoying the wildlife. There’s a huge responsibility that goes along with it. We can only hope and pray that this wildlife paradise will still be here in years to come, only possible with the love and support of those who visit and those who live here.
Have a great Tuesday, folks. It’s another hot and humid day here. The mozzies are on a rampage after me, so I may need to spend the better part of the day indoors. They are still biting even when loaded up with repellent. Go figure. Why they like me so much remains.
Photo from one year ago today, February 23, 2020:
|Our first photo of the elusive Bengal Tiger in Kanha National Park in India. There she was. We couldn’t have asked for a better vantage point. For more photos, please click here.|