Radical reptiles: Blue-Throated Agama

I was visiting my son on the farm he managed in Pretoria. I was hanging out in the hammock between two trees, simply gazing around, while the Grandies slept. It was absolute bliss, the breeze very gentle, but keeping it from being unbearably hot. As I looked across towards the paddock, I noticed a quick movement and flash of blue on a tree trunk. So I ‘observed’. It was what we call a ‘bloukop’, which translates as ‘bluehead’!


Male Agama


Female Agama

Oh my word! I hadn’t seen one of these since I was a child in Zambia! I was fascinated, but equally terrified of them then! They lived in the trees around the boundaries of the garden. They’d scuttle around, going about their business and I adored watching them. But their quick rush from one place to the next always gave me palpitations!

These South African Agamas were a breeding pair, as I soon discovered. The male resplendant in his mating colours and the female pretty in her Sunday best. They got used to me over the next few days, as I never came too close, but only watched, chatted about them to Gaz and took photos. They stopped running and hiding, and just ignored us, posed for photos, and watched us with as much curiosity.

I was thrilled to see them again!


SWAHILI NAME FOR LIZARD: Mjusi, Mijusi (plural)


The Blue-Throated Agama, Agama atricollis, is a very large agama, reaching a maximum length of 15 inches.

Its head, particularly in males, is large and triangular. The head and body are distinctly separate. The ear openings are larger than the eyes, and the tympanums (eardrums) are visible.

Agamas have strong limbs. Their bodies are compact and spiny. The scales on the body are small and keeled, with those along the back larger and mixed with scattered, enlarged, spiny scales.

Breeding males have a dull blue to bluish back, with bright blue to straw-yellow spines. The head is a coppery-green to brilliant ultramarine on top, blue-green on the sides and peacock-blue on the throat. There is a large black spot on each side above the shoulder, and a broad, blue-green to yellowish vertebral stripe. The tail is dull green to olive-brown.

Females and non-breeding males are olive to green-brown, marbled with black above, with a black shoulder spot. Juveniles have a similar ground color, with dark X-shapes surrounded by white blotches along the sides. The tail is banded with dark brown-black.


These agamas are found in the open savanna, and along the edges of forests in Kenya and Ethiopia, extending through East Africa to Natal.


These beautiful lizards are frequently seen nodding their heads in display while clinging to a tree trunk. Most Agamas are terrestrial, but this species is arboreal. They come to the ground only to cross to another tree, and occasionally to eat.

When threatened, they retreat around the tree trunk, always keeping the trunk between themselves and danger. They will gape the mouth widely, showing the bright orange mouth lining, and will deliver a painful bite if caught. Contrary to popular belief, they are not poisonous.

They sleep at night in a hollow branch or under peeling bark.


Agamas are fond of flying ants and termites, and supplement their diets with grasshoppers and beetles.


The female lays 8-14 oval, soft-shelled eggs in a hole dug in moist soil. They hatch after about 90 days. Hatchlings measure 70-80 mm (about 3 inches). They triple in size in their first year, but growth slows thereafter. They become sexually mature in their second year.


Another Creepy Crawler: Baboon Spider

In South Africa we also have tarantulas.
Ours are brown,
and we call them Baboon Spiders.

This is a lady that was washed out of her burrow next to the kitchen drain after very heavy rain one day. We brought her in to show the grandsons, as part of their ongoing wildlife education and conservation. We spread her legs out from her ‘death curl’ and I managed to get some nice close-ups. You can see her size, her fangs and some eyes and we turned her over to photograph her underside. We left her to one side to add to our Curiousity Collection.

Suddenly she waved gently, and slowly. I thought I was hallucinating! But, no, as she warmed up, she revived! Before she went scuttling off, to inevitably pop up to terrify me, we placed her safely in the garage to recover and choose a new home.

Females stay in their burrows, or close by, while males roam around.


Here is an excerpt from an article about them.

The Baboon Spiders of South Africa by Dr Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman
Baboon spiders or tarantulas, as they are known outside Africa, are the giants of the spider world. The last two leg segments resemble the finger of a baboon hence, the common name, baboon spiders. The first South African spider known from literature was a baboon spider mentioned in 1702 by Petiver. More than a hundred years later in 1832 the first baboon spider Mygale atra was described from South Africa and only in 1871 the first genus Harpactira was established for Southern African baboon spiders.

Southern Africa has a rich fauna of baboon spiders, represented by seven genera and 42 species. They belong to the family Theraphosidae, a very diverse family, represented by 86 genera and about 612 species worldwide. The theraphosids have a pantropical distribution and are known from Africa, the Far East, Australia as well as parts of South, Central and North America.

The baboon spiders are large, with a body size varying from 13-90 mm. They are very hairy and their colour varies between hues of brown, grey, yellow to black. The carapace is frequently decorated with radiating bands while the abdomen has variegated markings.

They are easily recognized by their large size, strong, hairy bodies, and the thick pad of hair present ventrally on the last two leg segments.

A Baboon spider may live up to 25 years and take about 10 years to mature.

Baboon spiders prey on a variety of small animals such as: insects – ants, beetles (e.g. tenebrionids), cicadas, cockroaches, Orthoptera (e.g. grasshoppers, locusts, crickets), Isoptera (termites), Lepidoptera (mostly Saturniidae and Sphingidae, Hymenoptera (driver ants of the family Dorylidae); arachnids – spiders, solifugids and scorpions; millipedes, reptiles, amphibians and snails: frogs and lizards.

Some theraphosids are known to deliver painful bites. Harpactira lightfooti,a baboon spider known from Cape Town and the Paarl region in South Africa are fairly aggressive and people sometimes get bitten. They produce a neurotoxic venom. Bites in humans results in a burning pain at the bite site. The patients, after about two hours, start to vomit; they show marked signs of shock, become pale and have difficulty walking. Bites are however, never fatal.

This one lives in my bathroom

baboon spider


Stock photo to give you an idea of size


Creepy crawlers: Karate-style Spiders

I‘m scared of spiders too, but like any other “tree-hugger” I can’t bring myself to kill them. They really do so much good, like eating the mozzies that threaten to carry us off in the night, etc. (Yeah RIGHT!)

I remember once getting my “brave” on and grabbing a bucket and a magazine to attempt a relocation of a giant of the species that was in the bath. I wanted to use said bath to rediscover my 3 sons under a covering of mud, grass, twigs and assorted grunge.
I slowly moved the bucket closer and sort of swatted the spider towards the gaping opening. This was accompanied by karate-style shrieks (at least that’s what I told the boys they were; actually, pure terror!). The daft creature took a flying leap at the bucket and landed half in and half out! As much as I screamed in “karate”, it did not get the message to get into the bucket and be covered by the magazine, so that it could be safely, humanely and conservationally relocated to the great outdoors!

I threw the bucket into the bath along with the magazine and beat a screeching, leaping retreat. The three muddy mini-mountains went flying and screaming as their mother stomped all over them in order to save her own hide!

I managed to scrape most of the gunk off the boys and they had a sitz-bath in the kitchen sink that night. Daddy had to deal with the monster when he came home that night! I couldn’t watch, I was laid out on my bed, a bottle of “Rescue” in my hand and seriously considering having one of hubby’s beers to soothe my terror.
Spiders! *shudder*


The Scratching Post – Minx

If there were to be a universal sound denoting peace,
I would vote for the purr


We had 6 dogs, including the most beautiful, 3 year old Great Dane lady. Hayley was gentle, playful, protective, a clown, adoring, curious, runner, and darling of the family. 28th September 2009 the dogs killed a little kitten and brought its body to the house! Poor little baby. The Jack Russell Terriers kill cats, squirrels, birds, etc – if it moves and is smaller than them; it’s dead!

Marge and her two “heinz 57” offspring, mongrels with hearts of gold, have been seen to kill and eat chickens and birds, and they chase feral cats. Hayley, got very excited, but never killed anything, or ate it.

Then Hayley brought a tiny little kitten to the house, without hurting it at all. Samuel took it from her and placed it in a hollow tree trunk. A little later that day, Samuel brought me the wet, cold, mewling little kitten with ears and eyes tightly closed. Hayley rushed over and as the kitten mewed, she whined and licked it gently. He was only days old; eyes and ears still closed up. Too sweet. He lives!

I took this little raggamuffin from my beautiful girl and fell in love. I’ve never had a cat before, but we’d always had feral cats around that enchanted me. I named my little bundle Minx, since I didn’t know what to make of its nether-regions! I’ve had lots of baby orphans and knew that it needed help to eliminate waste. We got baby-cat milk from the vet along with a tiny teated bottle and we started our journey. It was the last present my beautiful girl gave me, she died just 4 days later!

Munchkin, has adopted him. She is besotted, and cries outside my window to be let in. She does toilet duty like a good mommy, and plays with the kitten, with a look of utter amazement on her face. My heart melts at the two of them! I introduced Marge to the kitten with Munchy in attendance. Right decision. Marge was fascinated and relatively gentle. Margie and Jackie both invite him to play and yelp at him, bums in the air! However, I’ll not trust them with him yet, I think ‘play’ may turn into something more sinister if unsupervised!

This is going to be a bit of a challenge! Chloe, the fat Jack Russel, is baffled and just rolls over, silly grin on her face and wags from head to tail! Molly, the tree-climber stays far away, and glares suspiciously!

Minx also loves to bring us presents, birds, bats, mice, baby rats, almost always appearing to be uninjured but sometimes terrified and screaming! They need rescuing, for he only brings them as a token, or to boast!  Tables, chairs and all sorts go flying as doors are slammed, to contain him and we start the bribery to get the poor little thing away. It is not a quiet or dignified scene!

My kitten has been well-documented photographically, and has many doting “aunts” among my facebook friends. Minx is just beautiful and sweet, is a clown, has charmed his way into all our hearts, has unbelievable privileges, and completely rules the roost! What a joy!

Matt kidnapped him when I was away for a bit, and then proceeded to keep him captive for weeks! Minx has turned his back on his mum, and is now Matthew’s baby. Minx attacks me, soft-paws, every time he sees me. Silly boy! I’m dreadfully hurt!

Minx Nov 09 019-1

Walking with an African Elephant and a lioness


Matthew and I were privileged to go for a walk with an African elephant and a lioness on a Game Farm in Hoedspruit, South Africa. They were orphans that had been brought up by humans. The elephant was sweet and gentle and totally at ease and friendly. As I walked next to her, her mahout said I should slip my hand under her ear. I was entranced to find the skin as soft as that of a baby! She reached out her trunk and held my other hand, gently swinging it as we walked, exploring my palm with her “opposable thumb” at the end of her trunk. I was in heaven. The mahout said I should gently blow into her nostrils, so I did, she looked straight at me and blew gently and rumbled at me. She draped her trunk around my shoulders for about 2 minutes. Then it was someone else’s turn. I cried.

The lioness was younger than the elephant, who was 2 years old, and a whole other kettle of fish! She was boisterous and playful and full of mischief. The rangers said Matt should try to stay in the middle of the adults, because the lioness would want to play with him, being smaller than everyone else. She’d jump on him, not knowing her own size and strength, and could inadvertently hurt him. She was really fun to watch. Her poor ranger was rough-housing with her the whole way, not because he wanted to, but because she did. Matt did get jumped on; she grabbed him around the leg from behind. The ranger laughed and told him to stand still, and came over and pulled her off him. Matt was thrilled and delighted!

The elephant and lioness were not really friendly to one another, so the animals took it in turns to walk with us, while a ranger took the other one a few meters away. The elephant would glare at the lioness whenever she caught sight of her, but there were no problems or fuss. In fact they got the lioness to lie down on a branch in a tree, with the elephant posing right underneath her! The elephant knew exactly where the lioness was, and kept trying to grab her with her trunk!

It was a magical, beautiful, moving day.

I lost all the photos somewhere along the line, so I have posted a photo of another ellie friend.

By the way:

Instead of giving you the usual facts about elephants, I’ll give you a few surprise ones.

The South African Rock Hyrax, commonly known as a Dassie, is the African Elephant’s closest relative.

Taken from CapeTownMagazine.com

Dassie’s Relation to Elephant Finally Makes Sense

Table Mountain’s Dassies being the closest living relative to the African elephant is finally believable

One of the most unbelievable facts about Table Mountain’s Dassies is that they are the closest related relatives to Elephants. Despite the enormous difference in size between the two, research has claimed the dassie is the African elephant’s closest living relative.

Recent research has revealed that these claims may not be some unfathomable – at least in terms of size. A new discovery has revealed that the oldest ancestors of modern-day elephants were little bigger than a rabbit.

A 60 million-year-old skull dug up in Morocco has been identified as the earliest form of elephant species.

This creature was trunkless, measured less than 50 cm from tip to tail and weighed just 5kg. The mini-jumbo had front incisors which jutted out of its mouth to form the forerunner of the modern tusks.

Analysis of the teeth in the skull proved it was related, however distant, to the modern elephant. It is 10 million years older than other Elephant ancestor fossils discovered.

This is where our beloved dassie steps in. The close evolutionary relationship between the teeny-tiny Dassie and the ginormous African Elephant is deduced from similarities in the structure of their feet and teeth.

Dassies are heavily preyed upon by Eagles, Caracal and Leopard. Besides their treacherous incisors and a moveable membrane in the eye which shields the pupil and allows vision directly into the sun they don’t have much going for them when it comes to protecting themselves from predators.

Although we love our Dassies and hate to be the ones to say it – but it looks like the Dassie got the short end of the genetic stick in this family tree.

Dassies have evolved into somewhat lazy creatures. With a favourite pastime like basking in the sun on large rocks, particularly during mornings and late afternoons, the rock dassie seems to be the small and lazy brother in this family tree.

With Cape Town growing into a bustling metrople, it’s good to know that at least the Dassie still fits into the “Kaapstad – Slaapstad” theory

The Elephant Shrew’s closest relative is the Elephant



The 17 living species of elephant shrew are more closely related to elephants than shrews. They can be found throughout mainland Africa, with the exception of western Africa and the Saraha.

Elephant shrews are not related to shrews, rabbits, hedgehogs or llamas, as was thought at different times. Scientists finally figured out that these fuzzy, long-trunked creatures are in an order all their own. Not only that, but all 18 species are found exclusively in Africa, just like sea cows, aardvarks, hyraxes and elephants, to which they are related. To eliminate some of the confusion caused by their name – for, as stated, they’re not actually shrews at all – they are sometimes called sengis.

  • A Lioness weighs between 120-150 kg (260-330 lb)
  • Female lions usually hunt at night or dawn and in packs.
  • An adult female lion needs about 5 kg (11 lbs) of meat per day
  • In prides the females do most of the hunting and cub rearing.
  • Many of the females in the pride give birth at about the same time. A cub may nurse other females as well as its mother.
  • Lionesses aren’t the most successful of hunters, because they usually score only one kill out of several tries. After the kill the males usually eat first, lionesses next-and the cubs get what’s left.
  • Males and females fiercely defend against any outside lions that attempt to join their pride. Maybe in this case the family that preys together stays together!
  • The lion is the only member of the cat family with a tasseled tail, which serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. It’s often used to signal to other members of the pride, with messages ranging from directional, “this way” commands to flirtatious, “come hither” invitations!
  • Baby lions
  • Baby lion in the wild are born in a den which can be a cave, a thick bush, a very secretive spot in the forest.
  • Baby lions in the wild are only protected by the lioness, the female and male lions, the dominant lion and the whole lion pride.
  • Baby lions in the wild feed on milk and meat, eat lizards, birds, insects.
  • Baby lions in the wild will drink river, lake spring water which is sometimes mucky and infested with crocodiles.
  • Cleaning of the lion cubs is the duty of the lioness; by licking the lion cubs with its tongue from head to toe. Washing the baby lion’s face to the ears, eyes and nose.
  • Baby lion in the wild are born in a den which can be a cave, a thick bush, a very secretive spot in the forest.
  • Baby lions in the wild are only protected by the lioness, the female and male lions, the dominant lion and the whole lion pride.
  • Baby lions in the wild feed on milk and meat, eat lizards, birds, insects.
  • Baby lions in the wild will drink river, lake spring water which is sometimes mucky and infested with crocodiles.
  • Cleaning of the lion cubs is the duty of the lioness; by licking the lion cubs with its tongue from head to toe. Washing the baby lion’s face to the ears, eyes and nose.

Magic in the African Bush

7 Oct 08 048

When I was a young teenager living in Zambia, we went camping in the bush with my uncle. It was amazing! We packed up the Land Rovers with all our camping gear, food, clothes, games and cards, and bush-stuff (cameras, binoculars, bird and animal books, oh and guns!). The rifles and ammunition all went in a big chest, with a BIG lock, onto my uncle’s Landy. Another of the Landys towed Dad’s boat, a Hamilton Jet V8, which was packed with petrol, water skis and life-jackets. We youngsters chose which Landy to travel in, depending on ages, and friendships. It was far to go, so we left very early in the morning after an excited and sleepless night.

Setting up camp was huge fun. The Landys parked to form a laager, or circle. The campfires were readied in the middle, one for cooking, and one for sitting around. Actually one big pit, but the smaller cooking fire was at the edge, on one side. Beds for the women and us youngsters were made up in the Landys. The men slept around the fire, while one or two took guard shifts. We were in Big 5 territory after all, and close to a river. Predators and hippos go walkabout at night as they hunt or forage. The culled carcasses were hung high up in a tree, some distance from camp for our safety. There were hungry predators and scavengers that sometimes managed to enjoy a free meal! A lion left large, scary paw prints and no carcass tied in the branches the first night!

The adults and older youngsters water skied on the croc and hippo infested river! But you had to be good, and not scared! The boat was driven up and down the river a few times, to encourage the submerged “dears” to vacate the area. Then you strapped on the skis and stood on the edge of the riverbank. The boat roared off and as the ski rope started to tighten, you took a flying leap into the water, hoping your timing was right and balance was good! It was beyond thrilling or exhilarating as you went for a relatively short ski on the river. Landing was done as close to the bank as possible, some clever ones could leap out of the ski’s and run wildly up the bank with arms wheeling, screaming and yelling, as their legs pumped! It usually ended badly with thorns in feet, skinned knees and bruises from falling; due to acceleration winning out! But it was hysterical to watch! The rest of us prayed as we dropped the rope and skied in, “Don’t hit the bank! Don’t hit a hiding croc! Don’t do the splits in the reeds!” It was the best skiing ever! There wasn’t an accident, but I honestly don’t understand why!

One day a bunch of moms and us youngsters went for a slow boat ride upriver to spot game. They don’t seem to mind a boat, and are as curious as we are. It was great seeing what was there. We were almost back at the campsite when the inboard engine caught fire! We had some towels, so used them to try to smother the flames. One caught fire and was thrown into the water. We managed to fish it out and threw it on top of the ones doing the smothering, and smoldering! The fire wouldn’t go out fast enough! It was crazy! Hippos and crocs watched with fascination, and we paddled like mad! The only man aboard, my dad, had decided to jump overboard and try to swim for help when we got the fire under control. All caution had been thrown to the wind and water was being poured onto the engine. A smallish branch came serendipitously floating by, and was grabbed and used to try to paddle to shore. Our shouts and the smoke had alerted the rest of the group and they brought a Landy, fortunately one with a winch, to investigate. We were winched to shore and the boat dragged out of the water. Nobody was hurt and we were all hugely excited at our adventure! It made for great campfire stories that night!

During the day the youngsters were taken game viewing in the Landys. It was fantastic. We saw everything from aardvarks to zebras! We saw births, hunting, kills, and babies learning and playing. Insects doing the busy thing, birds building nests and learning to fly. We learnt behavioural patterns, territorial displays, courtship and mating rituals, identified tracks and calls, and had the most incredible experiences. Nothing was left out, or not investigated or watched avidly. Pure magic!

Wild, exciting days and beautiful, shared nights made for some incredibly wonderful memories.

My Book: There’s an Emu in the Garden

 ” to hold a living creature,
to learn its loveliness,
to feel its heart beat in your hands,
to know its trust, is to rejoice in life”

 These are stories of my encounters with animals, domestic and wild.
It has been a wonderful adventure.

March 2011 download 242 (640x428)

I was lazing in the hammock in the garden, when I heard a sound behind me … there it was, the title of my book!

I started writing the stories for friends, and decided to compile them into a little book for my Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and young cousins. I never realized there were so many stories! I’m so glad I’ve done this. Some stories are old, and to the best of my recollection; and others are new, from my life living at Buckingham.

When Noel and Allison Badrian, my dad’s brother and sister-in-law, worked in the Congo with Bonobo’s, or pygmy chimpanzees, I remember begging dad to let me go and join them. I wish, in some ways, I’d been more bratty or insistent!

So, here are some of the stories in my book, I hope you enjoy them. They may stay forever on my blog, but, I may, one day, decide to publish them. I’d love to know how you like them.

Please go and check them out

Spotted Eagle Owls come to stay!

May 16th, 2010

My son had a breeding pair of Spotted Eagle Owls on the patio roof. They ‘talked’ to the owls nightly as the sun went down. Whooo who! One night, their doggie Marge, was wandering around the garden while they waited for sunset on the patio. The owl gave a warning sound – a series of clicks and “whoooo who” – and swooped down on top of her! She got such a fright, and fortunately ran fast enough to get away! Wow! I knew then that the babies had hatched. My son is going to try to see.

Just after that, they decided to take Lola to their new home. Gaz opened the door, and Lola ran out. The same thing happened! A warning sound and swoop! Poor kitteh-cat managed to get under the car just in time. He’s very wary of going out. Poor boy! In fact he arrived at the farm, 7 kilometers away, at around midnight! Poor boy was yowling in dismay!

My son climbed onto the patio roof and took a peek when mom and dad were away. There is one chick, as big as his forearm!! Yay!!!!

We still have them at our farm, but we haven’t had another close encounter. We hear their calls at night and I love it.

I took these as he started flying short distances to practice. He was quite used to seeing us and hearing us, and wasn’t at all fussed with me being so close. He snapped his beak at me when I took the last photo, as it was a bit too close he thought.


Common Duiker: Zakumi and Bigwig

Common Duiker – (Sylvicapra Grimmia)
July 5th, 2010

Mike brought me a present on this morning. A little baby; it still had a dry piece of cord attached to its belly, so was only days old. The baby was running along the roadside screaming its head off, so it was either scared out of hiding by a predator, or mommy had been gone a long time. These babies stay put and hidden until mom comes back, so it was rescue the little thing or let it be eaten. I wish his mom had rescued him. But she was nowhere to be found. It’s so hard to “let nature take its course”, but predators are also two-legged here, and if mum has been taken by one of them, we have to try to save baby. They can make great “pets”, and live up to 12 years! He’s so cute. Once he grows, he will be free to come and go as he pleases. He will probably stay close, as they have fairly small ranges of about 2kms square. So Mike brought it home to mum!

He has long, slim, pointy ears, and a dark stripe from his nose to his eyes, with the cutest little tuft curl between the ears. His coat is reddish/fawn on the longer outside coat, but grey inside. Underneath from chest to tail, is creamy white. His ankles and hoofs are dark brown, top of his tail is also dark and he has a beautiful black, soft, wet, nose with a blaze of black up to his eyes. The fur is very soft, especially around his face, and longish, like cat’s fur rather than a dog’s. The dark lines near his eyes are scent glands, they also have them on hooves and some on the chest, but I can’t remember if the Common duiker has a chest gland.
I can’t describe his scent, it’s not a strong scent, but it is pleasant and subtle. His tongue is dark on top and pink underneath. He only has bottom front teeth like sheep, and will get molars top and bottom soon. I can’t believe how strident his alarm-call is, really piercing! He took to lamb’s milk enthusiastically!1st feed 40mls, 2nd feed 60mls, 3rd feed 80mls.
Duikers bond by nibbling, licking and sucking around the head – mom and fawn, as well as mom and dad when courting. He’s kissed me all over my throat, face, nose, cheeks and ears, and I have obligingly responded with kisses, nibbles from my nails and little strokes with a damp tissue all over his head. I hope it’s enough loving. The reason for them doing this that rubbing their faces together transfers the scent. The licking is both grooming, which bonds the two strongly, and it is also mother and baby learning and locking in one anothers scent.
The dogs love him too, and Munchie took over “toilet-duty” immediately. Baby animals usually have to be encouraged to “go” by mum. She will lick their bottoms to encourage them to eliminate waste which she eats to hide all evidence of her baby. Munchkin did the same with Minx, my tiny kitten. She’s a born mommy. The fawn also poops and pees on my command (a damp tissue patted softly under his tail).
Gaz has claimed the fawn as his own lamb. My lamb (sheep) is weaning now and would rather be with the other lambs, so Gaz is looking for a new friend. The dogs are fascinated and smell and lick and invite him to play. Minx is jealous, and gives him piercing looks when he wakes and calls softly for milk. I think I am going to be rather busy in the next 3 months! I’m training him to use the cat litter box, as Minx has abandoned his box for the great outdoors, and I have lots of cat litter. It keeps things clean and odourless. Daytime he goes outside.
July 7th, 2010 well, the little guy has been fussy about his milk today, it’s taken lots of encouragement to get him to drink. Duikers are extremely shy and quiet and I think losing mum may be too much for him. Munchkin is doing “toilet duty” and licking his face and ears and grooming him. He cuddles up to her, so I’m putting them together in an enclosed courtyard with grass and shrubs tomorrow. He may need some special “mommying”. Munchy was the same with Minx, and “mommyed” him for the first few months. She also did it with the lamb. What a sweet doggie.
July 9th, 2010 Munchkin is a wonderful mommy! She keeps him spotlessly clean, even though his tummy is runny, and he is drinking loads of milk! He seems to love being in the courtyard. There’s lots of grass and shrubs to hide under and keep cool or warm depending on what he needs. The dogs can also get in and out as they like, and Munchkin is happy as a lark with her “baby”. It is so cute! He’s hanging in, still holding thumbs.
July 10th, 2010 The little guy is doing well. He loves it in the courtyard it seems, when I got out to feed him, he comes out of his bushy corner when called, drinks enthusiastically and then actually gambols around when I spoke to him. Too cute! He bucks and jumps and runs in a little circle, He’s lovely and seems to be happier and responsive. I am hopeful all will be right. He’s been with me a week tomorrow! Bless him.
July 19th, 2010 He now has an official name, Zakumi – it is the name of the World Cup 2010 Mascot – and we thought it appropriate. His name comes from “ZA”, the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code for South Africa, and “kumi”, a word that means ten in several African languages, referencing the year 2010.
He is thriving in the courtyard, but Minx just slinks out of reach when he sees the fawn! Munchkin is still dedicated to toilet duty, although Zakumi is doing well in that department on his own. He still has the runs now and then, but that’s because the milk is not quite right. It’s the best we can do though. He has become a fantastic high-jumper and clears the cozy corner barriers I erected to contain him in my office. He now sleeps in the flat’s kitchen as it has a door to close! He hurls himself at the door to indicate that it’s time to eat or play. He is incredibly inquisitive, and when let into the house to explore, went into every nook and cranny to sniff and investigate. Then he decided to curl up with me on the couch, not encouraged because of his runny tummy. He was very put out and insistent when told no! I had to resort to banishing him to the kitchen again! He is just gorgeous and Gaz adores him. It seems he will be fine, as long as the milk keeps him satisfied. It is mid-winter here, so there’s nothing new, tender and juicy to eat for him. However, I’m not worried, his mom would have had the same problem. It’ll be Spring soon enough and he will be able to browse on lots of new, tasty greenery.
August 15th, 2010 The little guy is growing in leaps and bounds, doing really well. He leapt out of the waist-high gates of the courtyard about a week ago! He sleeps indoors at night, as it is still very cold, AND there are feral dogs and jackals around that will eat him if he goes walkabout. Now he spends his days in our huge garden, which is in early Spring. There are buds and new, green, tender growth all over. He is enthusiastically sampling everything, but oddly, seems to enjoy the brown, curled-in, expired leaves more! Ah well.
The “geezers” as Gaz calls the geese, are also inhabiting and feasting on the garden. There are 7 adults and 7 goslings. They are great fun to watch as they grumble and squabble and forage and take their daily constitutionals around and about. A rooster and his two hens are also regulars at the wanna-be smorgasbord of our garden. I hope spring really arrives in earnest, because there are lots of hungry mouths to feed. I hope and trust that the garden is not too hard pressed, and produces lots of lusciousness. I intend throwing lots of seeds for me and them, hoping to balance out the demand! I love my garden, but I love having these inhabitants too. Minx and the dogs, especially Munchie also love the interaction of the other animals. They all squabble and chase with intent, but are generally wary of crossing into personal space, and have decided to live and let live. Good babies! It is not peaceful really, but is vibrant, loud, entertaining and wonderful for my soul! I wouldn’t swap this raggedy-edged, inhabited garden for any other!
August 22nd, 2010 my little buckie-boy has gone to a new home. There is a Game lodge fairly close by, where hand-reared animals seem to find their long-term homes. We went for lunch one day and were entertained by two “brothers”, a 7 week old zebra and 3 week old warthog. They were adorable. Now there are a few buck around, different species, but also a female of the same species as my little boy! I took him through on Friday and it was a difficult, tearful bye-bye. However, I’m positive he’ll be better off there. I could not get the picture of him going off to feed and explore and getting attacked by jackals or feral dogs out of my head. I feel so much better this way, although I am missing him so much! Poor Gaz cried so much when we said goodbye, but he knows it is better for Zakumi.

Scientific Facts: Duiker is an Afrikaans word for “diver” and that is how this little buck dashes away, diving and jumping into the grass… and how he gets his name. Duikers are the smallest of our Antelopes. The Grey Duiker is the smallest, and our little boy is a Common Duiker. Common Duiker (Sylvicapra Grimmia)

General Characteristics
Body Length: 80-115 cm / 2.6-3.8 ft.
Shoulder Height: 45-60 cm / 1.5-2 ft.
Tail Length: 10-20 cm / 4-8 in.
Weight: 10-20 kg / 22-44 lb

Feeding & Nutrition Duiker are equally active during the day and night. They feed mostly during dusk and dawn in the cooler daytime hours and up to 3 hours after sunset. They usually spend the hot midday hours resting under the cover of thick vegetation. Duiker like browsing the top four centimeters of young, actively growing shoots and twigs. The diet also consists of pods and seeds, roots, bark, flowers, fungi, berries, fruit, young grass leaves, mushrooms, caterpillars, nestling birds, insects, small reptiles. Nibbling on fresh animal carcasses has also been recorded. Bulbs and nutritious plant roots are frequently dug up. Duiker are independent of surface water and are rarely attracted to drinking points, their daily water needs being fulfilled mainly by the moisture content of their dietary intake. In arid areas wild melons are eaten for their water content. They may be a problem in crops, orchards, vineyards and plantations.

Description Their coat is generally pale reddish-brown to grizzled gray. Undersides are whitish, while the muzzle, nose bridge, and forelegs are black.  The short tail is black on the top, contrasting sharply with the fluffy white underside.  The long, pointed ears are separated by a tuft of hair on the forehead.  Females are usually larger than males.  The sharply pointed horns are usually found only in males and grow 7-18 cm / 3-7 inches long.  The horns are more vertically oriented than in other duiker species, due to the more open habitat. Duiker avoid predators by lying quietly, or freezing motionless and dashing away at the last moment if approached closely. Its horns and sharp back hooves are used as defensive weapons. The alarm call is a nasal snort, if caught he bleats loudly, a sound that attracts other Duikers, and calls mothers to assist lambs. Lambs can run within a day of birth, but remain hidden in heavy cover, with the mother returning to suckle and clean them. Their main predators are Eagles, Leopard, Jackal and Python. Some are taken by Crocodile.


She came along in July 2013. Really tiny and delicate. Just beautiful. Her and Mavis the cat were best friends, along with ever faithful, adoptive mum Munchie. She grew up in the same way as Zakumi did, and was also released back into a safe environment once weaned.

Puff Adder – Bitis Arietans

Out and about on the farm today, we saw this big puffy.


Puffy’s are seen fairly often on our farm. but are not a problem. They much prefer to keep to the quieter spots with no interference from man nor beast. So we live in harmony for the most part. If we find one too close for comfort, middle son catches and releases them away from harm. He’s a trained Field Guide (Game Ranger) who knows exactly how to do this.

3 articles about this beautiful, deadly snake

One of the Deadliest Snakes in the World

* Puff Adder Bites Are Deadly Serious

When most people think of deadly snakes in Africa, the black mamba, cobras and various other snakes come to mind. Ironically, the puff adder and the Egyptian cobra kill more people in Africa than any other snakes. Puff adders often are not even mentioned in a list of dangerous African snakes and that is a huge oversight. The black mamba is certainly the fancy pick, but the puff adder is the more functional one. They bite more people and therefore kill more. Here are some great facts about the puff adder you may not have known:

Puff Adder Habitat

The puff adder can be found over the vast majority of Africa with exception to the north. Unlike many other venomous reptiles, they are not usually found amongst the woodlands. They prefer to hang out in the grasslands. They are right at home in the dry grass and use their camouflage to ambush their prey.

Puff Adder Venom and Danger to Humans

Puff adder snake venom is a cytotoxin. This means that the venom breaks down tissue and spreads slowly to the rest of the body. The bite of a puff adder is usually a long and slow break down of the body if you have no medical attention. This can take up to 24 hours for the effects to take hold, and once they do they are hard to reverse. Puff adders are not the most venomous snakes in the world, but they are highly aggressive biters and are around people more than some of their brethren. The slightest thing will cause a puff adder to strike, whereas many other snakes are simply likely to slither away if they are close by.

Puff Adder Identification

The puff adder is a fat snake but relatively short at only 3 feet or so. It has a sandy base color with dark chevron patterns up and down its body. The pattern is very good at blending in to their surroundings and a great many people never see the puff adder until they are upon it. Females are larger than males due to the fact that they have huge numbers of live babies when they breed.

Puff Adder Feeding

The puff adder is an ambush hunter that will strike out from nowhere to secure their food. They do this by striking from cover. Once the bite is delivered, they track the prey and swallow it whole. Puff adders are fond of any small mammal that they can swallow.

Puff Adder Breeding

One fascinating fact about puff adders is that they produce more live young than any other snake. The males often fight over a female that is ready to breed. Once bred, the female may bear as many as 40 little puff adders in one batch. Many more have been recorded as well.

Published by Rodney Southern

* Habits

A slow-moving, bad-tempered and excitable snake that may hiss or puff when disturbed.When annoyed, it strikes vigorously in all directions and has the capability of a lightning-fast sideways strike without withdrawing the head. Fortunately it often gives warning of its intentions by hissing noisily.It relies on its perfect camouflage to escape detection and will rather freeze than move off. Moves in caterpillar fashion leaving straight deep track in the sand.

Puff adders make splendid rat-traps.  A veld-rat was observed scurrying along a grass track; within seconds there was a thud, followed by anguished squeaks which soon ended. On investigation, it was noticed that the rat’s tail was protruding from the mouth of the puff adder, which had cunningly parked on the rodent track to snap up the ones that never look where they are going. The snake deposited the rat and inspected it, possibly wondering if the speedy catch was palatable. A second puff-adder appeared on the path and seized the rear-end of the rat and started swallowing, much to the chagrin of the first puff adder which quickly grabbed the rat’s head and commenced gulping towards its competitor. As internasal distance narrowed and neither snake was prepared to yield, their respective snouts soon met at mid-body. Number one gave an enormous gulp, encompassing most of his opponent’s head. An intense struggle followed but gradually the challenger was painfully persuaded to follow the rat down a very different path.


Rats, mice, small mammals, ground birds.


Bears 20-40 young in Summer, 150-200mm long


Man, honey badgers, warthogs, birds-of-prey and other snakes.


The name ‘puff adder’ stems from the snake’s habit of inflating itself and hissing when threatened. The noise produced is a menacing hissing sound and should be construed as a strong warning! The snake itself is rather sluggish and generally moves in a rectilinear motion, or straight line (like a caterpillar), as opposed to the serpentine motion exhibited by most other snakes. It does however possess one of the fastest strikes of all snakes and should be respected at all times! It is easily recognised by its stumpy appearance, only growing to a maximum of about 1 meter in length, the chevron-like markings on its back and a large, triangular shaped head.

The puff adder is responsible for more bites (and therefore fatalities) in South Africa than any other snake, even though other snakes have higher venom yields. The reasons for this are simple: it is very adaptable, is found in multiple, varied habitats and it is one of the few lazy snakes. Snakes do not have ears but they are able to sense the vibrations caused by footsteps and will quickly disappear before their presence is even detected. The puff adder however, is a slow moving snake and prefers to rely on its brilliant camouflage to remain unseen. It is possible therefore, to find yourself in close proximity to the snake and should you accidentally surprise it by treading on it for example, or put it in a position where it feels the need to defend itself, the rest is self-explanatory