Wildlife in the city – no squirrels


I find it very odd that while some animals have made themselves completely at home in our cities, squirrels have not.  There are no squirrels in Joburg unless they’re very shy or come out in disguise.

When I moved to the US, I was fascinated by all the squirrels, I took hundreds of pictures of squirrels scurrying up and down and the house, peeping through the windows, scrambling out of site with bulging cheeks, until I realised they’re pretty much the equivalent of pigeons.  Nothing to get excited about.

In Joburg a number of animals have made themselves completely at home.  You never saw a hadedah in the city, but now they’re pecking on the sidewalks next to the traffic in their hundreds with not a care in the world. How to describe these birds if you haven’t seen one – hmmm, walks like a duck, looks like a duck if a duck wore a greasy grey leather jacket and carried a switchblade.  A ducktail duck in fact with a cry that could curdle milk.  It’s obvious where the idea for the vuvuzela came from.

A friend of mine, an excellent shot, tried to keep the hadedahs out of her garden tree by firing at their tail feathers with a pellet gun.  The plan worked really well, they learned to avoid her tree completely, but congregated in every other surrounding tree squawking even louder to be heard.


When my sister from Cape Town visited and we walked past one of these birds poking his beak in and out the ground, she asked me if it was tame.  Tame?  They’re all tame.  I suspect that since they don’t make good eating (tough as old boots and taste of snail, says someone who tried) they don’t bother anyone and nobody bothers them.

Plovers used to only be seen where there were large expanses of veld where they could lay their eggs.  The other night I was woken by two cats standing in the middle of the road yowling at each other.  Standing right next to them on the white lines in the road was a huge plover cackling and laughing at them.  They lay their eggs in the playground of the kindergarten next door and woe betide any toddler who toddles too close.  Paaaaark!

But no squirrels.  We have tree squirrels and ground squirrels in the Kalahari and Karoo, but in the city, nothing, nada, nyet.  Must be all the noise from the hadedahs and plovers.



South African writer, crafter and all round animal lover
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