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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

House, n.  A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of human, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus, and microbe.  ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Life is all around!

Life is all around!

Ah … tropical island life! So green and lush and moist and warm, so full of life.

Unlike other parts of Africa we have no giraffes loping gracefully over open plains, nor do we have open plains. You won’t find lions lounging in prides in the shade under acacias, even though we do have acacias. The huge saltwater crocodiles that once inhabited this island have been extinct for two centuries, so the only predator species filling the top spot is Homo sapiens and we’re far from indigenous.

Still, everywhere your eye might rest there are critters, some of which are autochthonous like our fruit bats that have become their own unique version of chiroptera. The list of endemic reptiles includes thirteen types of lizard, two snake species, and of course the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, which visitors are far more likely to see than either our wolf snake or house snake. (In my twenty-plus years here I have seen ONE live snake. A few dead ones, unfortunately, since although the animals are completely harmless and could, if allowed, take a toll on the rat population, Seychellois are terribly ophiophobic.)

Every house has geckos; entertaining little critters that chirp like birds and scamper over seemingly impossible surfaces as they

Sweet little baby gecko!

Sweet little baby gecko!

munch on bugs. Tourists not accustomed to sharing space with lizards sometimes freak out and no few have alerted hotel staff to the “baby crocodiles on the ceiling” … really.

Birds are everywhere: mynas, fodies, doves, blue pigeons, bulbuls and such are common and spend time on verandas. Beautiful kestrels are rarer, but can be seen if you’re lucky.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs' water bowl.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs’ water bowl.

Sea birds are less common on Mahé, but legion on some of the islands. A trip to Bird Island delivers just what the name promises with over 700,000 pairs of sooty terns nesting. (For diehard birders … “another phenomena especially in October to December, arises from the geographical location of Bird Island on the northern edge of the Seychelles Bank. This means it is the first landfall for migratory Euarasian birds …” )

And like everywhere else in the world, we have a lot of bugs.

It is estimated that at any given moment, Earth is home to a billion billion insects. Spread out evenly over the land surface, this would be nearly 8,000 insects per square meter!

Yep. Creepy crawlies abound, although if you try to learn what’s here through Wikipedia you’ll come up short. Some, like bees, are helpful. Some (centipedes come to mind) are horrible. Spiders the size of a kid’s hand aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. We have ants that are yellow and crazy, mean sand flies and … sigh … mosquitos. Not the type that vector malaria, thankfully, but bite and itch and can transmit dengue fever, a miserable illness I can personally attest to the misery of … twice. I’m so not a fan of these asshole insects that global eradication would be just fine with me. And I’m not alone in this …

“it’s difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage”, says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

On the bug front, however, we also have a very cool Rhinoceros Beetle, and since coconut plantations no longer support the country I’m okay with them. They’re big enough to be considered more like a dog than a bug, as is evidenced by their presence in the pet trade. Thankfully I get to play with them for free.

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About as dangerous as wildlife gets ...

About as dangerous as wildlife gets ...

Although I live in what is technically Africa, and there are many trés African elements ici, wildlife on the continent takes far different forms than on this rock.

Across the thousand miles of Indian Ocean to the west, lions, leopards and hyenas hunt, venomous snakes are legion, rhinos stamp out fires and elephants munch bouquets of wildflowers at the end of the rainy season. Caution is vital under all conditions, and lone random wanderings by the novice in city or wilderness are rarely a good idea.

Thankfully, it takes no special vigilance on the part of the tourist to successfully navigate Seychelles … on land. The sea is rife with dangers, and even more so now that pirates have joined the list of maritime threats, but terra firma? Nah.

We have no poisonous reptiles or insects, and although mosquitos may be annoying there are none of the family anopheles, so no malaria.

My visitors get a very quick orientation before I send them out exploring. If they’re not British and driving, they get an X marked on the back of the right hand to reference on which side of the car the middle of the road should be positioned. If swimming or snorkeling is part of the agenda, I warn about sunburn, stonefish and the need to rehydrate.

If deciding to walk in what passes for jungle here, this is what they hear:

1) This is a fairly small island, so getting lost isn’t easy. You can see the sea from just about anywhere, so if in doubt either walk toward it or away from it, depending on where you’re heading.

2) You can run into people just about anywhere, so if you come upon folks in the bush, assume they are either, a) out for a stroll like you, b) collecting fruit, or c) looking for a place for a quick bang out from under the gaze of significant others.

3) When walking through the forest, if you hear a rustling in the undergrowth it can only be, a) a chicken, 2) a lizard, 3) a hedgehog tenrec, or d) the above mentioned tryst seekers

.

Of course, there are dangers and bad things do happen … bags get stolen from the beach, people drown, car wrecks do great damage … but far too often the disasters occur because folks tend to think they’re in some Disney version of the world where the very fact that it’s a holiday somehow protects and makes common sense unnecessary.

It may be possible to leave a backpack full of money, passports and camera unattended while on the Jungle Cruise through Adventure Land, but on a public beach for two hours while snorkeling happens? Getting soaked sitting in the front of Thunder Mountain Railroad is not the the same as taking on the Indian Ocean. And anyone thinking Somali pirates are anything like Johnny Depp needs to give yacht rental a second thought.

Duh.

Thankfully, my friends are, for the most part, sensible. Sure, they come to Seychelles to swim, hike, dive and partake of all things island, but so far they’ve all managed to make it safely back to my veranda where cocktails and conversation are the biggest dangers.

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