Life on Mars – an exotic menagerie

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Feral Sheep

The crabs are one of several strange species which exist on the land but are most probably endemic and evolved from a sister species being washed up from the oceans. The others were all introduced.  I’ve mentioned sparrows and mynah birds; the only other land bird species is a curious partridge like creature called a francolin. These are common enough fowl in southern Africa but somebody must have brought a breeding community here. Possibly the navy officers shot them and ate them.  Anything to increase the variety of food.  They tend to hang around Donkey Plain and similar flattish ground with enough cover. They neither thrive nor wither in this environment and it is rare on a drive or walk in the right areas when you do not see them.

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Donkey Fest

The larger creatures were introduced as work or farm animals.  Up until a few years ago there was a small herd of semi wild cattle up near the water catchments – the remnants of the farm herd from years back.  The sheep fare better and there are a number of wild ones that you can still spook up the back of Cricket Valley and some make their way in to Georgetown from time to time to see what they can grab from people’s gardens.

 

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Feral Donkey!

And then there are the feral donkeys. Yes, feral donkeys.  Originally pack animals, they were released when more mechanised transport became available, and there has been enough of a breeding population to keep going on.  They cause a lot of controversy amongst the residents.  To be honest  they are quite manky creatures, inbred with the occasional malformity on the outside, and not so clever on the inside.  But donkeys despite their stubborn natures are part of childhood stories and sentimentality has taken over amongst some of the residents.  Suggestions to have a cull of them  once and for all, in a similar way that goats were eradicated years back, cause uproar. I was asked by Stedson to do some analysis to propose a fenced off area on , yes, Donkey Plain, to allow them a place where they could be alone and stop pestering other features.

They occasionally would get themselves blown up by ordinance on the firing range, or be subjected to near lethal doses of  radiation near the BBC transmitters or, worse, damage the infrastructure and cause a water leak or power out.  And they did like to hang around the settlements.  One US Base commander had enough and ordered a fence to be put up all round and cattle grids laid at every entrance.  At first people thought it might be a reaction to the 9/11 terrorist acts, but then they saw the cattle grids.  I remember working away one day on a table on the little shaded terrace in front of Hayes House.  When I looked up from my laptop I was confronted by one of the donkeys staring me full in the face barely a metre away.  It was unnerving how silently he had turned up and how he just vacantly stared for a full five minutes before heading off to upset someone else.

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