26 August 2014

The Trouble Maker

Something caught the corner of my eye.
I turned my head and tried to get as close to the ground as possible.
Then my heart skipped a beat. What could this be?

This is clearly a weird miniature land based Sea-Cucumber-Thingy

The great thing about camera trapping is that you often stumble upon weird and wonderful things. Things you would never have stumbled upon normally. Very often these amazing new finds can be the most ordinary and everyday of things.

I wanted to find out more about this strange object and scoured the area for clues. It didn't take long to find a whole herd of these strange little contraptions living on the wet sand.

This creature must be dang cute if it's bodily waste can morph into tiny fairy beasts

As it turns out these are not tiny magical creatures, but the droppings of some small mammal. The amazing fungus grows out of the droppings as they decay on the damp sand of the reed bed.

At closer inspection I found lots more of these droppings in the general area, in various stages of decay, so I concluded that the owner of these little works of art might drop by for a visit sooner or later.

Now, I have as much respect for another creature's private bodily functions as the next guy, but these things intrigued me just too much. I'm sure the local critters at Koeberg already think of me as "that bloody guy that keeps on putting those invasive cameras throughout our respectable neighbourhood", and now here I was thinking of intruding even more on their privacy.

I told myself that any artist that creates masterpieces like these is bound to start attracting unwanted fame and fortune. Surely it is only reasonable, dare I say natural, to expect that the dreaded Paparazzi will appear on the scene sooner or later? I definitely don't want to be called a Wildlife Paparazzi (the idea of which I don't like at all), but how could I resist this opportunity to photograph the master at work?

To my shame I took the plunge and dropped a camera trap smack in the middle of the poor creature's toilet... I'm not proud of, but I did it. I told myself it was "in the name of Science", but it didn't help much to ease my conscience.

The scene of the crime

Well, as it turns out I paid for my crimes... The local law enforcement was quick on my case.

For such an act of blatant disrespect of personal privacy none other than Honorary Special Agent Senior Colonel S.E. Mongoose was assigned to handle the case.

Small Grey Mongoose (Kleingrysmuishond - Galerella pulverulenta)
"Yo, Buster! You got a permit for this here camera trap?"

Most of you would know by now that the Wildlife Police Service operates independently from their more humanoid colleagues. In this day and age the Wildlife Police Service might be dwindling in number, but they still take their jobs seriously. Over the years many have fallen victim to all sorts of evils (mostly traps, guns and poison), but to this day none have ever fallen victim to corruption.

Thus it was that the Honorary Special Agent Senior Colonel promptly arrived on the scene to investigate the serious matter of domestic disturbance that was filed against me.

He might weigh in at less than 1 kg, but that doesn't detract from his ability to dish out a heavy dose of the Stink Eye to each and every law breaking citizen that crosses his path. (I feel like turning myself in every time I look at that intimidating glare in the photo above...)

What is more, in a feat that has become almost unheard off in some parts of the broader police service, this civil servant promptly started investigating the scene of the crime. Thoroughly.

As all good police officers know getting on top of the situation is the first step to solving any crime

He only left when he managed to adjust the camera trap enough to give the traumatised landlord the privacy any non-taxpaying citizen of this country deserves.

As a result the best shot I got was this photograph below (cropped).

Can this be the mysterious creator, and I believe possibly copyright holder, of the fantastical droppings I discovered?

It is common knowledge that most mongooses are members of the Royal Mobile Foot Patrol Unit And Outdoor Monitoring Outfit (or RMFPUAOMO for short). However, very few people are aware that some individuals excel at tasks that fall outside the jurisdiction of the RMFPUAOMO. These elite member are usually transferred to other Wildlife Law Enforcement Units that best suit their unique skills. There they receive further specialist training to unlock their full potential.

It is thus not surprisingly that some mongooses master the art of flying.

Being born under an exactly 42% full moon on a misty morning helped this mongoose to master its flying ability at a young age

These flight specialists usually join the Fearsome Fowls Tactical Force (aka. the Secret Police). At Koeberg I'm particularly familiar with their Francolin Division...

The regular members of the RMFPUAOMO take their position seriously, as illustrated by this officer checking to make sure I'm not using any illegal bait to attract animals to my camera traps. Look at that dedication, and focus. You can't fool a professional!

"Oi, punk! I better not find any illegal substances or contraband hidden around here or I'll have to confiscate it immediately."

Below another officer is making sure that the camera trap is not positioned too close to the Bush Karoo Rat's family home. According to the officer if the flash is too close to the building the pups living inside might get epileptic seizures or the camera trap might cause structural damage to the building.

"Listen here buster, you better hope I don't find any broken twigs in here. Mmmmm...."

They are a diligent bunch, constantly patrolling their beat. Sure, they also eat some of the citizens they protect, but I have been assured that they (usually) only eat the trouble makers or the citizens that disobey the public safety protocols. They are also proud to point out that they perform a vital civil service by helping take care of the sick and elderly.

"32, 33, 34... Listen here, twerp! The field of view of this camera trap has been sanctioned to cover 53 paces. If it doesn't comply one of the Eland will come to make the necessary adjustments, at your expense..."

They even go under cover in their efforts to keep me honest.

"There have been several reports of a possible 283c in this neighbourhood. Is this flash 283c compliant?"

The next time you are hiking or enjoying a walk around Cape Town, don't be surprised if you see one of these Grey Coats popping up in front of you. They like to scurry on ahead of you to make sure the civilians have enough time to clear the area and to keep an eye on you to make sure you are there to appreciate nature and not to cause any trouble!