Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Little Bastards

The Giant Striped Mongoose (Galidictis grandidieri) is one of the rarest carnivores in the world and is restricted to an area of 400km2 in the spiny forest of south-western Madagascar. The majority of their range is within the boundary of Tsimanapetsotsa National Park. Where I live. Knowing that carnivores are generally quite elusive, I was highly surprised when on my very first evening of camping at TNP, a number of Galidictis waltzed through. Not only did they traipse through like they owned the place (which they sort of do) but they came right up to me and I am certain that they would have taken a snack from my hand. You’d think these were long habituated and provisioned critters, but they actually weren’t even “discovered” (by Western science) until 1986, and have only been the subject of one scientific study.

And did I mention they were cute? Well they are. Cute as all get out. They only weigh a couple of kilos, have a long pointy nose, round little ears, a long sleek striped body, dainty little feet, and a fluffy white plume of a tail. They make adorable little squeak squeak alien type vocalizations and always seem to have something to say to one another.

Endangered. Endemic. Rare. Adorable. And don't think they'll let you forget it for a second.

Oh look, they even have babies, just to be that much cuter.

Little known fact, Galaditis can be real little bastards. So much so that they have been dubbed the “Little Bastards.” Each evening at dusk they appear out of seemingly nowhere. Though we have not and do not feed the Little Bastards they prance over to my dinner as if they own it too. I have to be constantly vigilant with my food, as they have no problem walking right up and stealing from your dish. In fact, I have to near constantly stomp and yell and shoo and through small rocks just to keep them at bay. For the record, I through the rocks near the wee Bastards, not at them. They have these weird bum-sniffing rituals (they sniff each other, not me), and they screach and scream at all hours, and they fight, and they get into EVERYTHING.

Consider the following:

Exhibit A
They chewed through the food tent (AT 4AM) to get some super rank "smoked" fish. And they made a huge mess and broke dishes. The tent is already stitched up in this pic, but you get the idea. Bastards.

Exhibit B
Digging under my tent at 2am. For no reason. I chase them away repeatedly, but once they get something in their adorable inquisitive little heads, ph, good luck. Bastards.

Exhibit C
Breaking into the food box to steal my precious oatmeal from home. I had oatmeal for about 7 seconds when I first got here. Ald the bastards apparently wanted to try some. They got through a double latched locked metal box to get it. Bastards.

Exhibit D
Tapping on my head and tent disturbance. This one I have so proof of, but they scrape at my tent at night and once even tapped on my head. And no, I am not on Larium. Bastards.

Exhibit E
Remember goat up a tree? Well they made quite a rucus that night and managed to get the mandilble an femur down. The goat was tied up a tree for goodness sake. Bastards.

Exhibit F
Now this one I can't entirely blame them for because they are carnivores. But let me tell you, it is unpleasent to wake up at 3am to the sound of one of your chickens being killed. Bastards (who can't really help their dietary needs).

FYI- Two good things came out of the death of poor Pricilla.

A) I learned what Galitictis inflicted puncture marks look like. I am interested in predator prey interactions and thus who is eating whom in the forest. Knowing what a Galidictis killed critter looks like is very useful, even if it was my poor Pricilla. Bastards.

B) Lunch. I just couldn't do it, but others seemed to enjoy her.

Bastards. Adorable. Endemic. Endangered. Bastards.

1 comment:

  1. They look like the Boky Boky at Kirindy! Must be very closely related.