Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Animal of the Week -- October 15, 2007


I tell you what, I am sorely tempted to revisit an old animal of the week http://animal-of-the-week.blogspot.com/2005/03/animal-of-week-march-21-2005.html. Great quantities of harlequin ladybirds hang in the air outside and off the external walls of the flat looking for a way in. A cluster of the blighters having formed around the curtain-pole fitting in my landlady's room, her application of brief squirt of insecticide spray quickly had a shower of these pernicious beetles clattering to the floor. Don't feel too bad about this, they are a non-native species (unless you live in the far east) and, well, even though it won't make a difference to their inexorable march across Europe or North America, it's one in the eye for the native ladybirds. Obviously, if you choose to annihilate the plagueybirds, be careful that you are killing the harlequins and not native species of ladybirds, which need all the help we can give them.

But why should I give such a creature two weeks? So, this week's animal is Antidorcas marsupialis (springbok). Their name is a conflation of the Afrikaans words for jump and antelope, and springboks are graceful gazelle like creatures from south and southwest Africa. With a dramatic black stripe along either flank and sweeping lyre-shaped horns springboks are instantly recognisable. And if in any doubt about whether you are looking at a springbok or not, scare it. When agitated, springboks jump stiff leggedly into the air with their heads pointed to the ground, taking off again as soon as they land, they also raise a flap of skin along their back that splays long white hairs coated in a floral scent. This activity known as pronking might be a signal to predators that they have been spotted and that the springbok can outrun them, or it might be an indication that the pronking springbok is in excellent health and that the predator would be better off going for a non-pronker.

And what are the predators of springboks that induce such pronking in the wild? Yeah, that's right, lions... If only I could make this topical in some way...

If I had a pet springbok, ok, I would probably have to have a licence, but most importantly I would call him Rodney, I'd take him for a walk down the road to Peckham, I'd stand him outside one of those butchers that sell every kind of meat imaginable, most with the heads still on with their glassy clouded eyes staring accusingly at the pedestrians, until he became nervy and started his display. I'd then stand there and point at him loudly exclaiming "Oh Rodney, you pronker". I'd then run away giggling, a disdainful and slightly hurt springbok trailing behind me on a string.

Thanks chaps,

Peter Hayward
Head Keeper
Animal of the Week

ps, having struggled this far through AOTW, you will be shocked to learn that I am both an editor and a writer. Now that my MSc is over and before I have to return to selling what god gave me for £20 a pop above a Soho hairdressers, I am looking for freelance/temporary/permanent work. Do you know anyone who needs any editing and/or writing done? If so, please let me know.

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