Clem Sunter

All creatures great and small

2014-01-15 11:30

Clem Sunter and David Stulpner

During our holidays in Simon's Town, my grandson David and I had many adventures with animals - just like the vet James Herriot. These adventures include a fight with baboons, penguins nesting in our garden, watching baby guinea-fowl playing "follow the leader" with their brooding parents, finding the traces of a porcupine in a most unexpected place and catching a scorpion in our doorway.

The first story comes from the nature reserve at Cape Point. Our family went to one of the beaches on the Atlantic side for a picnic lunch. Most of the family went down to the beach after packing away the remains of the meal but left grandpa, one of the wives plus her 1 year old son at the picnic site guarding the picnic box and umbrella. After a few moments, grandpa was left holding the fort as the other two went to rest in their car.

Meanwhile the rest of the family spotted a large male baboon - soon to be followed by another one - approaching them. The family headed down to the water in case the baboon got too close while my son waved a bodyboard in their direction to scare them away. Luckily for my son and the others, the baboons moved on but unluckily for grandpa they chose the picnic site as their next destination. I pointed the umbrella at them while opening and closing it. Little did I realise that this action would merely deflect them towards the cars one of which had my daughter-in-law and grandson inside.

One of the baboons climbed up on the driver's door with an open window which could not be closed because my son had the key. My daughter-in-law who was sitting in the driver's seat wacked the baboon with a magazine and it promptly fell off. It climbed up again, this time baring its teeth and snarling at her. She wacked it a second time, grabbed her son and jumped out of the car just as the baboon headed in the rear window which was also open.

In the car, the baboon snaffled some biscuits and, to use a polite expression, downloaded not once, not twice but three times on the baby-seat, the rear seat and next to the window. By this time, my son had arrived and shooed the baboon out of the car onto our other car along with its mate. Thank heavens, it had closed windows and other cars arrived to take photographs. One of them opened their doors, disgorged their occupants and, guess what, the baboons  jumped in! At this juncture, we exited the scene with some rapidity praising our daughter-in-law for her bravery and swift action.

By comparison, the penguins and the guinea-fowl were much cuter than the baboons and we never saw the porcupine which left its quill on the steps of our house. As far as the scorpion was concerned, it was a rainy day and we had builders in the house. One of them discovered it trapped behind a door. David, my co-columnist for this week, was summoned by the builder to look at it and report the presence of this creature to the rest of the family. My wife put a glass bowl over it with a piece of cardboard underneath. We all admired the way it opened and closed its pincers before yours truly, the other co-columnist, released the scorpion into the shrubbery down the road.

Despite the experiences with the baboons and the scorpion, David and I both agree Simon's Town is a beautiful holiday destination. We have thoroughly enjoyed writing this article together over lunch at The Meeting Place in the middle of the town. Finally, it is our firm belief that humans and animals should co-exist with one another no matter in what circumstances and how often they meet.

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