Meerkatting in the Karoo
The Innkeeper leads an expedition into the wilds of Africa....
Not exactly well known as an intrepid explorer, the Innkeeper allowed himself to be led astray, nay, to be seduced by three females into venturing forth into wildest Africa. As the leader of an expedition to track down and observe that most fearsome of wild animals, the meerkat.
Ok, perhaps not wildest Africa as in WILDEST, but there would be walking involved. And bushes. In my book, that is wild enough.
Ok, perhaps not quite that fearsome, but the question one should always ask is this: "Has it got sharp teeth?". If yes, in my book, that is fearsome.
Ok, perhaps not seduced as such. Perhaps pressured is a better term.
This is a meerkat:
Note the teeth. Note the anger, the naked aggression...
Ok. Apparently it was just yawning......
The Klein Karoo around Oudtshoorn is prime meerkat territory. ShyfiveMeerkats (www.shyfivemeerkats.co.za) lead tours to a Meerkat burrow. Once there, we were told, one sits down in a folding chair and wait for the meerkats to emerge from their burrow and start on their daily routine. Anna, Christine and Monika perforce had to go and observe this. Why, heaven alone knows. One has to be in position around sunrise. This means a departure from Wilderness at 4am. Egad! They caught me in a weak moment and I agreed to go with them.
The getting up at 03:15 was not good, but the drive to the meerkat meeting point outside Oudtshoorn was far more pleasant than expected. We were met by our tour leader in a desolate spot in the Karoo. Not that this specific spot was any more desolate that any other spot in the Karoo. In fact, the Karoo is actually nothing more than a collection of desolate spots.
The person on the right is the tour leader. The persons on the left are not tour leaders.
The sun was rising over the Karoo when we set off into the bush, each bearing a folding meerkat watching chair. Maybe not exactly the bush:- more like the shrubs.
The tour leader person, Rudolph regaled us with meerkatty tales and facts, and parked us on our chairs near to a sandy patch of bare Karoo earth. This was, Rudolph assured us, where the meerkat family would emerge to start their daily activities. And so they did. First a solitary one to check for lurking predators..
Apparently we did not qualify as a threat, because the rest of the family followed soon thereafter.
They turned to the rising sun, exposing their bellies and warmed up. And sort of hung around, revelling in their cuteness.
Eat your heart out, Donald Trump; this guy has bigger ones than you.
Here are some meerkat facts. As told to us by the inimitable Rudolph:
Meerkats sleep in a pile in their burrow. As in on top of each other. When they need to pee (meerkats pee, humans urinate), they do so right in the pile, onto the meerkats below them. Or, I suppose, if one happens to be on its back, on the meerkat above it. As a result of this, meerkats stink to high heaven. This smell identifies family members. They cannot distinguish other meerkats by look, only by smell. Thus, if a family member gets caught in a sudden rain storm, and the smell is washed off, the meerkat will be ejected from the family. And even killed. Makes you look at the cute pics in a different light, does it not?
Warmed up, the troop trundled off into the shrubbery, looking for food. And we departed for Mes Amis. A thoroughly enjoyable morning. We four are now officially Meerkatters. At least as far as the Karoo meerkats are concerned. Their more sophisticated cousins in Johannesburg are a whole different ballgame: