11 December 2010 by Julienne du Toit

The Ground Squirrels of Nossob

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of Africa’s great reserves. You’ll see lions, you’ll see eagles, you’ll see the noble oryx, you’ll see cheetah.

But if you’re like me, it’s the little animals you’ll remember.

Sit outside at Nossob camp for more than ten minutes and a white-rumped starling may land on your toe, twist its head and regard you with bright eyes. What’s for supper, chef? A yellow mongoose may trot briskly past on mouse patrol.

Never mind the waterholes. You could just sit and watch the birdbath.

A pink-billed lark will have itself a little shower and come and preen its feathers back into place on your tent. A crimson-breasted shrike brightens up your day. A few red-headed finches may flutter down and check the precinct for stray crumbs.

But when I think of Nossob, I’ll always think of the ground squirrels. Their burrows are all over the camping area. In the heat of the day, when every other creature is hiding from the heat and napping, they simply spread their parasol tails and carry on hunting for food in their own portable shade.

They’ve got the campers wrapped around their cute little fingers. I had some raw peanuts and offered a few to one of the squirrels. It sat upright, eating the peanuts one at a time, twirling them round like a human eating a corncob.

The others came and beseeched me for more, all whiffling noses and hopeful black eyes. They even leaned on my outstretched fingers with their clawed hands, looking for more peanuts. And they’re ever so obedient.

Near sunset, my husband Chris pointed at one of their burrows and said “Now go to bed.” And they did…

Category: Wildlife

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