South African Adventure #23 – Wildlife in the Wiring

 

Excuse me, I smell a rat

nyala officer checking the bonnet

One of the challenges of living in the bush is keeping wildlife out of your electrical equipment. This includes your car. Because you work for long stints at a time in one place, you can often go for weeks without having to move your car. Given that real estate for wildlife is at an ever-higher premium these days, animals use any and all space they can find to build a home. That can sometimes mean under your car’s hood (or bonnet, as we say in SA). One of the guides I know had a family of rats take up residency within the wires of his Golf Polo, and this unlucky couple got hijacked by a hitchhiking python in Kruger.

This isn’t unique to South Africa, or to the bush for that matter. Nope, this happens all over the world. In Australia, people find massive king brown snakes wrapped around their car’s internal organs like giant, venomous rubber bands. The snakes, like all creatures, are attracted to warmth, and the car’s engine gives off lots of it. They crawl up underneath the carriage and make themselves at home. And, like a giant, scaly tapeworm in the car’s guts, they aren’t easy to get out.

However, with any wildlife that decides your personal mode of transportation should double as their penthouse, situational awareness is paramount. Starting your engine and frying a 3-meter snake should be mutually exclusive, but if you aren’t careful, that stuff happens. You end up frying the snake TO the engine and blowing out the engine in the meantime. So, with that in mind, it’s always a good idea to move your car periodically, even if it’s only to drive twenty meters, turn around and come back.

Also, checking under the car is very important. Most wildlife ensures its survival by staying hidden, and what better place to hide than in dark, hard-to-reach places like under your car? In Simon’s Town, a suburb of Cape Town, there are even signs warning people to look under their vehicles before they drive away, lest they run over a penguin. No joke. I’ll see if I can rustle up a photo of one of the signs.

Leaving windows even slightly ajar is a definite no-no. Myriad little creatures – spiders, scorpions, geckos, etc – can crawl up 90-degree angles and wiggle their way into even a minuscule crack. When it’s winter and the sun-warmed inside of your car is accessible, they will beeline for it, I promise you. And they don’t appreciate it when you, not realising you have company in your car, sit on them.

Computers are no less vulnerable. I have to keep mine sealed up in bag, lest a colony of ants march their way into my motherboard. And considering I’ve inadvertently transported more than a few refugees out of the reserves (a toad in a shoe, several geckos (a few of which even hatched in my bag), a mouse snuggling in a shirt, among other things), I’d go as far as to say that you should just keep everything closed in the bush. Zip up the bags, roll up the windows, seal off the computers. Even my bed is on lock-down – I have a giant mosquito net that hangs from the ceiling, covering every inch of my sleep space and tucked underneath the edges of the mattress to form an impenetrable seal for even the most clever of creatures. Thus far, I have remained unscathed in my sleep. No unwelcome malaria-carrying mozzies buzzing me in my sleep, no bats cuddling up next to me, no snakes under my pillow.

animals_hitching_rides2

Moral of the story? If you value things like your car, you computer, your clothes or your immune system, create a bubble around those things. And remember, as soon as you leave that bubble, you are likely to get ambushed. Which means be on alert at all times – in the bush, you are always at risk of a stowaway escaping to the bright lights of the big cities.

 

Penguins Passing

Please be advised – stylish birds about

 

I haven’t been doing these in a while, so I thought it was time to bring it back. Today’s song of the day is an oldie but a goodie – Come Go With Me, by the Dell Vikings

 

All rights reserved. ©2014 Jennifer Vitanzo

 

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