Sunday, 4 March 2012

Special Places, Special Experiences

The Kalahari is undeniably a very special place.  And watching meerkats go about their daily business of surviving in this environment has to be right up there with the most absorbing experiences one can find in the natural world. 

Yes, I finally managed to spend some quality time with the Gosa meerkat gang and they are indeed a very special group of individuals.  Being at the burrow at first light and seeing the first little face pop out from below the red Kalahari sand is a rare privilege.  With a sense of caution, but seemingly free of fear, the gang will make their way out onto the mounds of excavated dirt and sun their bellies right next to us.  Sitting no more than a metre from them as they take in the sights, sounds and smells of the new day, it is impossible not to feel a magical connection to them and this little patch of Africa they call home. 

On Friday afternoon we found the Gosa gang taking in the view from the wall of Gosa dam.  The younger members of the gang were most entertaining as they scrambled up and down the dam wall, tackling each other with mock aggression. All the while, Cleopatra sat serenely with her paws resting on her pregnant belly.   A sizeable herd of Wildebeest made an appearance at the dam as the meerkats looked on with a mixture of curiosity and indifference.  As the day began to fade away, the relative calm was replaced by a sense of urgency as the gang of 10 hastily zigzagged their way back to their Camel Thorn burrow.

Friday also saw the arrival of our third crew member, Paul.  It is always fun being with someone experiencing the African bush for the very first time.  It is as though you are seeing the animals for the first time again. As we drove through this pristine wilderness, pointing out the different antelope species with their elaborately shaped horns, marvelling at the wonder that is a giraffe, I was reminded once again that there is no such thing as seeing these magnificent beasts too many times.  Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune in 3 months’ time…., but I doubt it.

Paul really showed his value on his first night, cooking up a very tasty spaghetti bolognaise that went down a treat with the hungry crew.  He can definitely stay, as long as he doesn’t talk about the All Blacks again. With us having perfected the art of braaing (again) over the course of the first 4 nights, and with Paul’s flair for Italian cuisine and Rob’s excellent French toast, it seems hunger is not something we will be worrying about over the next three months.

Spending large chunks of time with the Gosa gang allows one to pick up on the subtle social dynamics of this family of meerkats.  One particular Beta female, Delilah, seems to be something of a nervous loner and is certainly more wary of our presence than the others.  I have not seen her associate much with Cleopatra at the burrows and I would describe their relationship as being somewhat frosty.  It will be very interesting to see how their relationship develops over the course of the next few weeks, especially once Cleopatra has given birth to her pups.  I suspect we may be in for a bit of drama.

I look forward to chatting with you again soon.


Lil_Earthwoman said...

Love the wonderful names for your kats. The subordinate female Delilah most likely is very much afraid to get evicted by the pregnant female Cleopatra, which is the dominant I assume. Pregnant dominants do this to secure the surviving of their litter as often infanticide is occurring in the hours minutes after birth, especially if the subordinate female is pregnant as well. Been evicted will be a very hardship for Delilah though, living all on her own that time could bear the risk to get predated. If you can, please observe her as human presence might keep predators away. Mostly after the first day or two the dominant females let the subordinates in again, to babysit and lactate for her pups :)
Anyway, thanks for the great blog entry, Jeanette

perchporch3 said...

Wow I'm new to all this but felt like I was there with you as you described the day. You lost me on the food stuff but glad you enjoyed, I am looking forward to following you and your crew while you observe this gang, your a good writer so it's like reading an on line mystery/comedy ty for letting me follow this <3