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Footprints in the dust
February 4, 2012, 10:29 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

A disturbance before dawn one morning this week led to the search for who or what had made the noise on the roof. Running footsteps, a thump and a thud and then the eerie quiet. Following an invisible scent, the dogs showed the route taken by the intruder. Running with increasing frenzy, noses millimetres off the ground, they stormed under hedges and thick bushes, ran backwards and forwards across the lawn before coming to a stop with tails wagging stiffly and tongues dripping, under a big Musasa tree. There, high up in a fork of the tree, sitting completely still was the pre dawn intruder. A Small-spotted Genet stared unblinking into the beam of the torch, momentarily mesmerised, paralysed at having been discovered. A beautiful creature with creamy brown fur covered with dark spots on its body and black rings all the way down its very long tail.  For the briefest of moments we stared at each other by torch light. As soon as the beam of light moved away, the cat disappeared silently into the tree, perfectly camouflaged amongst the dark, lichen covered branches.

Just this brief encounter with the Genet explained all those soggy little fruit pips lying in the sand a few days ago. It explained the shredded remains of a birds nest lying on the ground and answered the question about who owned those  little footprints left in the dust on a windowsill.

The Genet is one of the growing number of wild creatures looking for somewhere new to live  this year as their habitat is destroyed in the frenzied cultivation of every open space around and in urban areas. Cobras, mambas and other snakes are becoming far more frequent in urban gardens, while Storks, Egrets, Ibises Plovers and Nightjars are retreating and disappearing, along with their natural habitat.  After eleven years of farm seizures which were claimed to be making land available to ‘the masses,’ there is no sign that the revolution eased the pressure for ordinary people, quite the contrary in fact. This season the uncontrolled cultivation of urban and peri-urban areas, by anyone and everyone, wherever they want, is worse than it has ever been.  As trees are cut down , undergrowth cleared and woodland turned into self apportioned maize and sweet potato plots, ground nesting birds, small carnivores and  reptiles have been forced to run for cover.  The very sights and sounds of Zimbabwe, so sought after and attractive to tourists, is melting away like the cat in the night, while our leaders continue their never ending fight over power and politics.

The latest horror, if ever we needed something new  to scare away tourists, is typhoid. Fifteen hundred people now affected in some parts of Harare. White quarantine tents, polyclinics they call them, have been erected in the grounds of health facilities to isolate and treat infected people. The Minister of Health described it as a “stone age” disease while a Zanu PF Harare spokesman said it was yet another imperialist western plot. “We suspect biological warfare by imperialists,” Claudius Mutero said, describing this disease as “sanctions-induced typhoid.”

Oh dear, oh dear, there’s more sanity in looking up trees for cats in the night. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.



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