Leafy beast

Although I have never met this extraordinary creature, I have been to the forest and national park mentioned below. The rock formations (Tsingy) are quite incredible (and if you lose your footing, quite deadly…as in, they would slice you in half!)

The Antsingy Leaf Chameleon is listed as Vulnerable. This ornate chameleon species occurs in dry, deciduous forest in Madagascar, where it is only known from the Tsindy de Bemaraha National Park. Although smaller than most chameleons, this species is the largest of the Brookesia (dwarf) chameleons.

The Antsingy Leaf Chameleon lives amongst leaf litter and primarily requires relatively untouched forest habitat. Therefore, deforestation caused by expanding agriculture, bush fires and overgrazing threatens this species, especially at the periphery of the national park. Although the Antsingy Leaf Chameleon is listed on Appendix I of CITES, making it illegal to trade this species internationally, illicit collection continues to occur.

The conservation status of this chameleon needs to be updated. A number of other reptiles are endemic to the Tsindy de Bemaraha National Park, and conservation efforts in this area need to be continued. This should be supported by more effective control of the illegal exportation of reptiles from Madagascar’s airports and ports.
Source: IUCN

Malayan Tapir

The gorgeous and unusual Malayan Tapir is Endangered. It has the distinction of being the largest of the four tapir species, as well as being the only tapir native to the Old World. The Malayan Tapir is unmistakable with its bold black and white markings.

Once widely abundant, over recent decades Malayan Tapir population numbers have rapidly declined, and the species now survives only as isolated populations in remote or protected areas in Indonesia, Myanmar, Peninsular Malaysia, and Thailand. Habitat destruction poses the predominant threat, as a result of forests being cleared for human settlement, agriculture and, more recently, palm oil plantations. This species is also hunted for its meat and for sale in the Asian zoo trade, and often becomes road-kill.
International trade in the Malayan Tapir is prohibited under its listing on Appendix I of CITES. It is also legally protected in all countries in which it occurs, and is found in a number of protected areas, including some of the most secure reserves in Southeast Asia.
Source: IUCN

On the dhole

I am on a doggy roll this week! Today’s elegant canine is sadly not doing as well as my two big Ridgies.

The Dhole is Endangered. This large, social canid, also called the Asiatic Wild Dog, once ranged throughout the Indian subcontinent, north into Korea, China and eastern Russia, and south through Malaysia and Indonesia, reaching as far as Java. However, its current range is greatly reduced and highly fragmented.
There are estimated to be fewer than 2,500 Dholes left in the wild. While hunting the species is legally prohibited, Dholes are viewed as a menace to humans and their livestock, so are persecuted by trapping, shooting, and poisoning. The most prominent threats facing the species are the widespread loss of habitat and the depletion of its main prey base (deer) due to excessive hunting.
Dholes have been reported to occur in a number of protected areas throughout their disjunct distribution. The Dhole Conservation Project is working to gather more data on the species’ distribution and population status. Additional work is needed to understand the potential threat posed by domestic or feral dogs as vectors of pathogens and disease.
Source: IUCN

Canis familiaris

Allow me to introduce these two beautiful creatures. They are nowhere near the IUCN Red Data list (though this morning when they misbehaved up in Silvermine, I really wished they were)….!

“Rhodesian ridgeback, also called African lion hound, South African hound dog breed characterized by a narrow band of hair that grows forward along its back, against the direction of the rest of the coat. This ridge is inherited from a half-wild native hunting dog that, by breeding with various European dogs, formed the stock that gave rise to the Rhodesian ridgeback. Typically strong, active, and of great endurance, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a trim, shorthaired dog, with hanging ears and a glossy, yellowish brown to reddish brown coat…..”
Troy (left) and Sammy…my companions, protectors and trail playmates.

Could not ask for better friends…


This one tugs at the heart strings so much!

We are taking my young son up to the Kgalagadi in January 2011. I really hope we get to see some of these beautiful creatures roaming ‘free’.
For how much longer though, I wonder?

The Cheetah is Vulnerable. The world’s fastest land mammal, the Cheetah once occurred throughout much of Africa and Asia, but has now disappeared from large parts of its former range. Two subspecies, the Northwest African Cheetah and the Asiatic Cheetah, are listed as Critically Endangered.

The main threats to the Cheetah are habitat loss, a reduction in its wild prey, and direct persecution by humans, with Cheetahs often being wrongly perceived as threats to livestock. Competition with other large predators such as Lions can also reduce Cheetah numbers.

This charismatic big cat is legally protected throughout its range and occurs in several reserves, although many are too small to ensure its long-term survival. In some areas, limited trophy hunting is permitted as an economic incentive to conserve the species. A number of action plans are also in place, and measures such as using guard dogs to protect livestock are helping to reduce the number of Cheetahs being trapped and killed.
Source: IUCN

Our wild neighbours

My wonderfully talented friend Belinda Ashton (artist, writer and naturalist) has produced the most wonderful little publication called ‘Our wild neighbours’.
Her work is always beautiful and done with care and love, and this little book is no exception.

In her book, Belinda explores a great passion of mine…that is how we can all learn to respect, understand and live alongside the many wild creatures that pass through our gardens and increasingly crowded suburbs here in the Cape Peninsula.

I always feel enormously privileged to spot a caracal on my walks, to see mongoose scuttling away on the path ahead or find shell-speckled otter scat on rocks near a river. On my runs, I often see delicate genet spoor etched in the sand and freshly dug holes with little juicy bulbs scattered by a ravenous porcupine. This is often all right on my doorstep. How lucky we are to still have these creatures around!?

It breaks my heart when I see how many ‘pest control’ sprays, potions and powders are available in the shops. The other day I came across a snake deterrent spray…for your home or when you are camping! Whatever next?

As a species, we tend to fear the unknown. We have lost the ‘nature connection’ that Belinda talks about and we react with loathing or disgust to the wriggly, the warty and the scaly. If we just took the time to sit, watch and wonder, we would appreciate the inherent gentleness of wild creatures and their value in the natural system.

If we did more of that, we would probably spend less energy trying to get rid of or banish them…
Belinda’s book gives us some lovely suggestions for living peacefully alongside our wild neighbours from dealing sensitively with domestic cats, managing our waste better, creating a haven in our garden, what to do when bigger creatures come visiting (baboons, for example) and how to drive with caution and care..

(I am not the world’s greatest driver, and over the years I have become even worse as my eyes are glued to the tarmac – on the lookout for snakes, chameleons or toads crossing! I frequently come to a screeching halt to usher creatures to the relative safety of the verge – and once waved down fast-flowing traffic to allow a cobra to cross).

I hope many people read it, learn from it, and that it leads to a much needed shift in mindset.
I received my copy in this month’s Africa Geographic, but I think you can order copies directly from her website: http://www.thenatureconnection.co.za/wild-neighbours/