There’s an old joke in South Africa that foreigners think we have wild animals roaming the city streets. Of course there aren’t any; our cities and towns are very built-up and wild animals have all been relegated to reserves and national parks, far from cities. Or have they?
Last year a jogger caught sight of a very large Cape cobra slithering along the sand into the sea on Hout Bay Beach. He took a few photos and they went viral, causing people to think all our beaches are full of snakes. Yes we do have snakes, but no, they’re not often on the beaches.
Table Mountain sits in the middle of a city and residential areas but there are wild animals living on the mountain. Notably caracal who are often spotted as they cross the road to get from the mountain into the Glen, a nearby forested area. Unfortunately, cars speed along that road and several caracal have been run over. Read about the Urban Caracal Project here or follow their activities on Facebook.
Last month a three year old lion escaped from the Karoo National Park. Despite an expert tracker’s attempts to find him, Sylvester managed to roam free throughout local farmlands for three weeks. He was finally caught by being darted from a helicopter whilst napping on a rock, and has been returned to the reserve. During his time on the run he apparently consumed 19 sheep, a donkey and one kudu. Even for a growing lion, that’s a lot of food.
Not quite roaming the streets but on the slopes of Devil’s Peak abutting the highway and within minutes of the Cape Town city centre, is the Groote Schuur Estate. Commuters stuck in traffic can alleviate the boredom by looking up to see zebras and quagga, a sub-species of the zebra. The quagga is South Africa’s very own Jurassic Park, one could say, since they were extinct and have been reproduced from DNA. Read about it here.
Office workers in the Cape Town city centre have long become accustomed to the view they have of Table Bay. I wonder how many have binoculars on hand to get a closer look at the dolphins, seals, and sometimes whales, that come very close to the harbour? A few weeks ago an enormous pod of several hundred dolphins thrilled boaters, watch the video below.
In Simon’s Town the roads have warning signs for motorists to be careful of penguins crossing, and if you park your car at Boulders Beach you may find a penguin underneath it. The homeowners nearby have all placed mesh fencing across their front gates to stop penguins coming into their properties and making a mess everywhere.
The residents of Kommetjie, Simon’s Town and other suburbs far down the southern end of the peninsula have been forced to barricade their homes and garbage bins to prevent baboons from coming in and raiding everything. The mess a baboon leaves behind in a kitchen after looting the fridge and grocery cupboard is something no-one wants to come home to.
There are countless stories about hippos wandering far from home, causing much consternation wherever they go. A Nelspruit man found a large hippo in his swimming pool one morning. SanParks were called. The hippo had got into the pool but now could not get out. Sandbags were placed in the shallow end to create a ramp so the hippo could walk out. They also brought a big game transportation truck, and a dart gun. When the ramp was ready, and the truck in place, they beat the water at the deep end to scare the hippo to walk up the ramp into the waiting truck. At precisely the right moment, the ranger with the dart gun squeezed the trigger so the hippo sank into an anaesthetised sleep. It was then returned to the Park. This was a happy ending – many hippos who turn up in suburban pools don’t always exit safely.
Then there’s Hubert/Huberta. This hippo originated somewhere near St. Lucia and wandered via Durban all the way to the Eastern Cape – that’s a very long roadtrip! He became something of a national hero and there was much sadness when he was accidentally shot – at which stage they discovered it was a female thus Hubert became Huberta.
Right here in Cape Town, two years ago one youngster went walkabout from Rondevlei Nature Reserve and was seen grazing in people’s gardens. It was days before it could be darted and returned to the vlei. I could recount many more similar stories, all of them true, but you get the picture – hippos are the most difficult to keep in place.