Saturday, 27 July 2013

Patience, Vicky and the Dassies

Hunger brought them to us, but what an honour it is to have earned
the trust of completely wild animals
These two wild kudu cows, Patience and Vicky, are struggling to support their dependent calves, so we’ve taken to giving them extra feed in a secluded spot behind the house, out of sight of the others.   Originally, I gave them dishes on the ground, but now, they feed from the top of drums.  
And the dassies are the reason why....

The dassie (Heterohyrax) can
balance on the thinnest of twigs to
reach those last leaves.
Hundreds of dassies (hyrax) live on the hill behind the house: around three-quarters of them are Procavia, with a black spot on the back, and the rest are the smaller Heterohyrax, with a yellow-spot. To the inexperienced eye, both are fluffy, endearing little creatures with ironic smiles, who would look equally at home alongside the teddy bears on a nursery shelf, as they do sunning themselves on the rocks of Dibe Hill.

Teddy, an orphaned yellow-spot whom we raised seven years ago at his insistence, comes to my call every afternoon if he is within earshot, then jumps down from the trees to sit on my lap for his bowl of chopped apple.  

Chumley, another yellow-spot, is a recent addition to our house-guests.   He has a crooked back leg, probably from a fall, and has taken to sitting on the dividing wall in the dining room, awaiting a handful of greens from the kitchen.   Both are relatively well behaved.

Dibe Hill, however, is ruled by the far larger and more adaptable dassie, Procavia – in particular some pretty tough-looking individuals like Popeye the Pirate – who was leading the crowd of dassies which began circling the feeding kudu a few days ago, like a pack of wolves.  Before I could stop him, Popeye darted in and instead of taking a bite of food, fastened himself to the end of Vicky’s nose.

What a shock - Poor timorous Vicky, who wouldn’t say boo to a legless lizard, being savaged by an apparently pumped-up guinea pig* with a set of teeth like miniature ice picks!  Well, she threw her head up into the air with an agonized roar -  Popeye still grimly swinging from the end of it – and then flung him skywards, where he executed a couple of graceful somersaults before landing with a thump in the dust.   I rushed over to deliver a swift boot to that fat little bum, but it was already disappearing through the fence.

And now I’m wondering what to do when the cunning devils start swarming up the kudu’s legs and onto the top of the barrels.  Knowing them, when they’ve finished the cubes, they’ll start eating the kudu.

Learn more about how we are helping Patience, Vicky, the dassies and all the animals at Stone Hills during the drought... [Read More]


*Although they resemble large guinea pigs, hyrax are not rodents.  They are in fact related to elephant…(and, I imagine, the sabre-toothed tiger).