On a crisp winter’s morning, I find myself driving a quiet road in the Swartland en route to a farm where my great-grandfather started farming fruit and harvesting buchu in the mountains above Piketberg.
Everything is beautiful with blue skies, green fields and flashes of colour emerging from the roadside daisies. I’ve seen a stately Lanner Falcon perched and surveying her hunting domain; a shy Steenbok antelope tip-toeing through the fields as well as shocking red flocks of bishop birds. Everything seems perfect.
There’s something ahead on the road and I slow down, only to find that it is not moving and most certainly dead. A once energetic and playful Bat-eared Fox has met its end on the R44. Two Bokmakieries duet on the fencepost and graceful Blue Cranes give me goose-bumps as they call from across the lush farmland. I grab my camera – the fox is still dead, but there is work to be done…
Time to focus; the purpose of writing this was to share that even in death there is value. There is a fantastic initiative called MammalMap , where anyone and everyone can make a contribution to the understanding of mammal distribution in Africa. All you need is your camera and a good idea of where you are! Ideally living mammals should be photographed, but evidence from dead ones can be just as valuable in determining the current range of any particular species. You’ll be surprised too about what you can learn and experience up close to mammals that you’ll probably only ever see a few times in your life if you’re lucky – and that at a glimpse. Claws, hairs, textures, teeth and subtle colours are some of the things that are not visible in field guides. Your record will help scientists, ecologists and environmental planners detect changes in mammal distribution as human and climatic factors change the habitat in which they live. As a guide this is probably one of your best learning opportunities and you are contributing!
In the case of the Bat-eared Fox, I assume that they were around in the time of my great-grandfather, but who knows if that will be the case when that is my family title!
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