living the wildlife

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

My parents have a house in Marloth Park I can actually hear the eye rolls whenever I say this to people but it’s really not an attempt to brag – I’m proud of my parents & share in their joy that they get to retire in the bush & live their best life. The thing about Marloth Park that people don’t realise is that it’s not a fancy estate where the streets are lined with manicured lawns, 7 bedroom houses surrounding a golf course & a Range Rover in every garage. It’s actually really rustic, true bush living in a community with like minded individuals who also enjoy the outdoors.

soft kitty, warm kitty...

there’s a lion on my stoep There is a myriad of wildlife living among the humans here &, being situated on the fence of southern Kruger National Park, you are always within close proximity to the wild. Predators like lions, leopards, wild dogs & hyenas frequent the neighbouring Crocodile River but are usually not residents of Marloth Park itself. There is of course folklore around spoor being found & big cats being spotted from time to time “roaming the suburbs” but we’re yet to personally experience such a sighting. When my folks first bought their place & started staying there on weekends, Dad was rather paranoid about the predators that may be lurking in the shadows after dark. So much so that he would never braai downstairs in the open & at dusk everything moved to the patio upstairs. Just in case.

tread lightly While it's completely amazing living in the wild, there are some cautions that need to be taken that city folk wouldn’t ordinarily have to be concerned about. Ever gone out into your yard barefoot at night without a torch? You can’t do that in the bush because, aside from hazardous thorns on the ground, there are some formidable creepy crawlies out & about & quality medical assistance is 90 minutes away. Snakes are also regular in-home visitors so windows & doors need to remain shut from dusk to dawn to avoid unwelcome bed buddies. Large grazers like Kudu, Wildebeest, Impala, Zebra & Giraffe roam freely among the houses & open spaces here as well. (They may not look that big from the comfort of your 4x4 but let me tell you, when you’re standing on a deck & that Kudu’s head is still higher than yours… respect)

this is not a petting zoo - human interactions with wild animals in any environment is a big no-no

getting a bit touchy-feely Unfortunately, when wildlife & humans live side-by-side without constant supervision, lines quickly become blurred. We’ve witnessed many occasions where people have bought lucerne & pellets from the feed store & then proceed to feed the animals by hand. The perception is that they are tame because people feed them but the reality is that they have lost their natural weariness of humans & now associate the two-legged beast with munchies. It’s gotten to the point where some of them actually harass people & get aggressive with each other.

This is exceptionally sad & it just goes to show the negative impact that long term human contact can have on wild animals. There was a child injured not so long ago because of hand-feeding & a lack of respect for the animal’s space. Of course, this was an accidental & isolated incident but now the bokkie in question has been labelled a problem animal & I'm left wondering where the problem actually lies.

respect the beast If humans are to continue living in such close proximity to the wildlife of Marloth Park - some serious boundaries need to be set & a thorough educational campaign needs to be implemented. Knowledge is power & I’m pretty confident that everyone will stop feeding by hand if they are fully aware of the true ramifications of this practice & are aware of alternate options. You can still enjoy the grazers in your garden without putting them or yourself in danger by installing a simple & cost effective trough or tray.

dammit, Janet! Going back to the beginning of this story, predator-paranoia has worn off for the most part but whenever we’re at the Marloth house the party still gets moved upstairs at dusk. This is no longer for fear of being pounced by a big cat but for a completely different reason – a Genet. This curious little visitor comes around almost every night to sample the bananas that are put out for the bush babies, (in a feeding tray), & she always creates a buzz of excitement as Dad sits there in silence, waiting for the perfect photo opportunity. A few weekends ago he set up his camera trap & some amazing shots of Janet the Genet* as he’s lovingly dubbed her.

love thy neighbour While there are some cases of careless behaviour, it’s important to note that the majority of Marloth Park’s residents are nature lovers first & foremost - the safety & well being of their four- six- and eight legged neighbours is of utmost importance to them. If you’d ever like to see it for yourself, there are some great accommodation options ranging from camping to guest houses to your own private home in the bush.

Chantelle Browne is a wildlife lover extraordinaire who hopes to one day gaze on the spectacle of big cats on main street. *To follow Janet’s antics, subscribe to our Instagram page or Twitter feed.

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