🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Kiepersol (Cabbage Tree)

The Kiepersol in my bathroom court-yard flanked by two bamboo poles

The Highveld Cabbage Tree (Cussonia paniculata subspc. sinuata) is an evergreen tree that grows up to 4m tall. The Common Cabbage tree has long grey stems with smooth bark. Flowers from April to May and fruits from June to September.

This evergreen tree makes a beautiful focal point in a garden as it has an unusual shape, interesting gnarled bark and stunning, large, grey-green leaves. Plants show up especially well in a layout where rocks are used. Gardeners growing indigenous South African plants favour them greatly for their unique appearance. The wood is soft and light and was used for the brake-blocks of wagons. The leaves provide good fodder for stock and the Zulu name refers to this tree as goats' food. The roots are succulent and edible, mashed roots have also been used in the treatment of Malaria.

Afrikaans Name:
Berg Kiepersol

Zulu Name :

Cussonia paniculata_sinuata occurs inland at altitudes up to 2 100 m. It is often found in rocky places from the mountains of the Karoo and Eastern Cape through KwaZulu-Natal and Free State into Gauteng and further north. It grows in crevices filled with natural organic humus and compost. It is commonly found near Johannesburg and Pretoria. It is frost-tolerant and drought resistant.

Uses: Leaves are browsed by Kudu and domestic stock. Baboons eat the young shoots. Ripe fruit is eaten by Bulbuls, Louries, Starlings, Barbets and Mousebirds.

Medicinal Uses: Decoctions are used to treat madness, convulsions, amenorrhoea, heart pains, venereal disease and pains of the uterus.

Leaves of the Cabbage Tree (C. paniculata_paniculata)

Growing Cussonia paniculata
The best method of propagation is by means of seed harvested from fresh ripe fruits. Sow seed as soon as possible as it loses much of its viability within 3 months. However, seed sown in summer months will germinate faster (in about 4 weeks) than seed sown in winter (7 weeks to germination). Make sure seed trays are at least 15 cm in depth to allow the small tubers to form. Do not allow seed to become waterlogged or dry out. Keep seed and seedlings in a semi-shaded area. Seedlings can be transplanted at about 4 months, but be very careful not to damage the fleshy roots when transplanting.

One can grow Cussonia paniculata from a cutting, but this is not advisable because it does not make the proper, fleshy, underground rootstock that it forms when grown from seed.
Growing info from http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/cussoniapan.htm

Cussonia spicata (Natal cabbage tree, 5m) is a shapely tree with the same interesting foliage as the Highveld version. In summer, green flowers are borne that look like 20cm long candles.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Africa's Wonder

"Africa's Wonder - Elephant" - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - 12" x 9" - Maree©

Africa's wild animals are a constant source of inspiration and for me elephants symbolise Strength, Solitude, sense of loyalty to the family and Intelligence. Looking into the eye of an elephant, one sees Wisdom beyond our understanding.

I sketched this young elephant on a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary at Hartebeespoort Dam where they provide a “halfway house” for young African elephants in need of a temporary home.

Elephants might be the most well-known and well-loved animal in the line-up of African wildlife. But conservation of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) poses special challenges. While the overall elephant population is half of what it was 40 years ago, some regions of Africa have more elephants than populated areas can support.

African elephants are bigger than Asian Elephants. Males stand 3.6 m (12 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh 5,400 kg (12,000 lb), while females stand 3 m (9.8 ft) and weigh between 3,600 and 4,600 kg (7,900 and 10,000 lb). However, males can get as big as 6,800 kg (15,000 lb!).

Years ago, over-hunting and the ivory trade were the biggest threats to elephants’ survival. Fortunately, ivory bans, hunting regulations, and protected areas safeguard elephants from these pressures today.

The 21st century brings an entirely different challenge to elephant conservation – land-use. Elephants roam over vast territories – across borders and outside parks and other protected areas. Unfortunately, elephants often range directly through human settlements and crops, causing discord between local farmers and these big mammals.

Successful conservation strategies must allow elephants to range freely in their natural habitats while reducing crop-raiding and other conflicts between elephants and local people and encourage peaceful co-existence.

Some interesting info :
Elephants have four molars; each weighs about 5 kg (11 lb) and measures about 30 cm (12 in) long. As the front pair wears down and drops out in pieces, the back pair shifts forward and two new molars emerge in the back of the mouth. Elephants replace their teeth six times. At about 40 to 60 years of age the elephant no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, a common cause of death.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

How do you do your bit?

(Sorry I couldn't find a worse animal abuse pic, couldn't face looking at them! And this chappie looks sort of proud about his lack of feathers!)

I never watch programmes on TV when it's about the suffering of animals, like for example whale hunting or poaching of our wild animals, nor do I read environmental magazines going on about the state the planet is in or articles about animal suffering at the hands of humans, but I came upon an article titled, "I bought her to kill her, so she didn't get a name", and although I knew I was heading for trouble, the title enticed me to click on it and read it - it's about the suffering of one chicken, but also a pointer to the mass suffering of our planet's animals.

My whole heart and soul cringed, even as it is just thinking about it and writing this article, and my body immediately went hot and then cold, leaving me feeling sick in the pit of my stomach.

The thing is, when you take the problems of the world on your shoulders, your body doesn’t feel good. It’s just that simple. The emotion you feel is always about the vibrational variance between where you want to be and where you are. If you're out of balance, there are only two ways to bring yourself into alignment: Either raise your expectation to match your desire—or lower your desire to match your expectation. This discomfort that I felt was nothing more than my own awareness of resistance (if you understand the concept of resistance, it means that, the more you resist something, the more of it you'll get) - and by giving my attention to it, I was joining in the mass consciousness of promoting more of the same.

The more you push against something, the more of the same you are creating. The more you discuss the "current world-wide economic crisis", the larger that truth becomes for you and the masses. Green Peace, with all their activism against whale hunting, are causing more of the same. Sure, they get some results by getting whale hunting banned in some countries (it's a drop in the ocean of resistance), but that still does not stop any illegal activities, and they've got their job cut out for them, ad infinitum. They dream, eat, sleep and live their cause, ensuring a never-ending supply of the same. If they, instead, turned their attention to a feeling of well-being for the whales, and everybody on earth joined in, what a wonderful whale abuse-free world we would have!

How do you feel when you watch the Green Peace programmes or come upon a site about animal cruelty in the chicken industry or the article I mentioned above? Do you also immediately feel ill and carry a feeling of dis-ease around with you for days? Why do you think you feel like that? Is it because you think you're supposed to do something about it?

How do you ever get the truth to be more the way you want it to be? To get the world to stop abusing animals? You’ve just got to start beating the drums of truth the way you want it to be—and when you do, you will immediately feel good. And there are those who might say, “Oh, you’re not facing the facts.” And I say, we should never face any fact that was taking us to a place we don’t want to be.

There are those who believe that the world is getting more and more desperate. I am here to tell you that the world is getting better and better, and better, and that every experience you have causes you to launch rockets of desires, and Source comes in response to those rockets. And the best thing about our birth and death is that the resistant ones die and the allowing ones are born. And with this combination of contrast that keeps us launching new and new desires, it’s no wonder that the Universe is expanding in this marvelous way and that life is getting better, in every day—and in this moment—for everyone who insists on focusing there.

Leave the problems of the world to the individual problem-makers of the world, and all you can do is be the joy-seeker that you are!


Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sassy didn't make it - R.I.P.

Sassy on her last day in the nest

If you've seen the previous posts on Phoebe, the Allen's Hummingbird, rearing her babies in her nest in a rose bush in a garden in Orange County, California, you'll know that I've been posting up-dates about the progress of the little chicks, whom I've been viewing via live cam.

They were born on the 2nd and 4th January respectively, and named Stormy and Sassy. Then on the 25th January, little Stormy died, possibly due to hatching prematurely and being very weak.

I posted on the 19th that Sassy was taken to rehab, but I've just found out that she didn't make it and died yesterday.

R.I.P. Sassy.

"Quick as a humming bird is my love, Dipping into the hearts of flowers-- She darts so eagerly, swiftly, sweetly Dipping into the flowers of my heart."
Author: James Oppenheim

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sassy taken to rehab

Phoebe and Sassy (you can see Sassy's beak peeking out under Phoebe's wing)

If you've seen the previous posts on Phoebe, the Allen's Hummingbird, rearing her babies in her nest in a rose bush in a garden in Orange County, California, you'll know that I've been posting up-dates about the progress of the little chicks, whom I've been viewing via live cam.

They were born on the 2nd and 4th January respectively, and named Stormy and Sassy. Then on the 25th January, little Stormy died, possibly due to hatching prematurely and being very weak.

The screen shot above is of Sassy yesterday morning, at almost two months old but with very poor feather development, at a time when she should have fledged already. Phoebe was also getting restless, knowing that Sassy is well behind in her development. Speculation is that Phoebe has not been able to provide proper nutrition due to the lack of insects.

Yesterday afternoon, the moderators of the live cam decided to step in and whisked Sassy off to a Hummingbird rehab centre, where she will be properly fed and cared for until she is ready to be released into the wild. Phoebe is none the wiser, thinking that Sassy has actually naturally left the nest, and is already preparing her nest for a new family. Isn't nature wonderful? No time wasted on unnecessary and useless pain and worry.

Phoebe's - now empty - nest.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hemachatus haemachatus - Rinkhals

One of the sketches I did of our blue gum forest in my Moleskine watercolour Sketch-book

In the past couple of weeks I've had to temporarily give up my sojourns into our Blue gum forest at the bottom of our property where I go to sketch and paint, due to all the rain we've had, which has resulted in a larger than normal number of snakes that I encounter while trying to settle in to sketch.

While you're concentrating on a specific tree, it's rather disconcerting hearing the leaves rustle and then seeing a Rinkhals (Spitting Cobra) nonchalantly sailing in your direction. It means either sitting dead still, hoping he's not going to notice you, or it's a mad scramble trying to get out of the way (and then alerting him to your presence), sending easel or sketchbooks and water flying through the air!

In the past 2 weeks I have already rescued and evicted two Rankhalses from my garden (the pleasure of my garden only to be enjoyed by Mollie, my resident Mole Snake or the Brown House Snake - all others like the Rinkhals and the various Adders are summarily evicted!). Chrissie, my gardener, immediately takes a short-cut home when she sees I'm busy catching a snake for safe delivery to a dam nearby us.

Rinkhals - Hemachatus haemachatus

The Rinkhals is a member of the Cobra family and is also a spitting cobra. It is the smallest of the cobras reaching only about 1.2m or about 4 ft in length. It is a venomous elapid species found in parts of southern Africa. It is one of a group of cobras that has developed the ability to spit venom as a defense mechanism. Rinkhals are unique amongst African cobras in being ovoviviparous. They give birth to 20-35 young, but as many as 65 babies have been recorded. The Rinkhals is unique also, compared to cobras, as it has keeled scales.

The spitting range is up to 2,5 m. If venom enters the eye it should be washed out immediately, to prevent damage to the eye. The venom of the Rinkhals is neurotoxic - causing nervous dysfunction - and it can cause death from respiratory paralysis, although this is rare. Anti-venom is an effective antidote against the toxin.

Rinkhals feigning death

If cornered, a Rinkhals will feign death and will roll over on it's back melodramatically, open it's mouth and let the tongue hang out, all this to discourage whoever may be hovering over it - heaven forbid you touch it then! It will either make a sudden getaway or give a nasty bite. I have witnessed this behaviour personally and I must tell you, it's utterly convincing!

Although sometimes seen on cloudy days, it is mainly nocturnal and feeds mostly on small vertebrates, especially toads. It is closely related to cobras, but its scales have a prominent central ridge or keel, and are not smooth.

Rinkhals can be variable in colour but most specimens are olive, brown or black in colour with a creamish, yellowish or white cross bands on the ventral side of the neck. The belly is mostly greyish or dark coloured. Some specimens are brownish or blackish from colour with on the back white, creamy or yellow-orange cross-bands the ventral side is still dark coloured and these individuals still have the white cross bands on the throat. The body is short and strongly build, the Rinkhals cobras scales are keeled which makes him the only African Elapid with keeled scales.

The uniform brown colour resembles the mole snake, which does not, however, rear up and spread a hood. However, it will lift itself slightly off the ground to get a better view, as you can see from my photograph of Mollie below.

Mollie, my resident Mole Snake at the pond while it is being cleaned, wondering what all the ballyhoo is about!

Mollie dropped her skin a couple of weeks ago, 1.7m! which now takes pride of place in front of the TV. Unnecessary to say, Lydia refuses to even dust this area, a job which is now left up to me.

Rinkhals rearing up

This species is only known from Southern Africa. It occurs in isolated populations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In South Africa is this snake known from the south cape through Swaziland, Orange Free State, Natal, Transkei, Lesotho and Southern Transvaal.

This snake is mostly found in grassland and moist savanna. But will also live in rocky areas and near humans. They are also known to live close to permanent water holes and scrub.

In the wild do Rinkhals mostly eat toads but also small rodents, birds, lizards and even snakes. In captivity can Rinkhals been fed on dead or live rodents which they often take without a problem. Also chicks and eggs are known to be accepted in a captive situation.

The Rinkhals, the Mozambican Spitting Cobra and the black necked spitting cobra, are the only snake species in southern Africa that 'spit' venom. The Rinkhals is the least effective of the three, even although it seems to hurl the poison forwards, the reared part of its body often hitting the ground with an audible thud during the exercise.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Up-date on Phoebe & Sassy

Since my last up-date on the 26th January on Phoebe, the Allen's Hummingbird, (who lives in a Rose bush in a garden in Orange County California), when Phoebe lost one of her babies, Stormy, I am happy to report that Sassy, the surviving little Hummer, seems to be in good shape. That's her in the nest above, at 25days old today. It seems she's a little behind in her feather development and it's not quite what it should be, but otherwise she seems healthy.

Did you know that the Hummingbird's nest is the size of a golf ball?! That's totally amazing...

You can follow the progress of Phoebe and Sassy at http://cam.dellwo.com/

Phoebe feeding Sassy yesterday morning

The Wolf Ceremony

I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed.

In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be lifelong.

I sang.
In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat.
I sang.
In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers.
I sang.
In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed-- the link to creation.
I sang.
In my eyes sparkled love.
I sang.

And the song floated on the sun's rays from tree to tree.
When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf's reply. We waited a long time but none came.

Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.

At last I could whisper to him: " It is finished!"

"Can I go home now?" He asked, checking his watch to see if he would still be in time to catch his favourite program on TV.

I watched him disappear and wept in silence. All is finished!
- Chief Dan George


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