Tuesday 20th Aug 2019

David Biggs - Cape Argus - 

Baby chameleons are moved by the KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation organisation from land in Ballito where a new shopping centre is to be built. Pictures: Nick Evans/African News Agency (ANA) Archives -

All over the world animal populations are changing, often because of things such as climate change, but mostly because of human activity. Foresters destroyed the natural homes of many animals over the years, fences have been erected across the old migration routes of previously free-ranging game herds, and in some cases birds and small animals have simply spread to areas they didn’t inhabit before.

In his delightful book ""Wild Sports of Southern Africa", William Cornwallis Harris described vast herds of springboks migrating across the veld in a river of animals that took a week to pass the point from which he watched.

That was in the early 1800s. As soon as the first farm fence was erected that spectacular migration changed forever. Keith Gottschalk wrote commenting on the fact that he had not seen a chameleon in his garden for about 20 years.

At one time they were common and welcome visitors.

Gottschalk suspects their disappearance may have been related to increasing crime. When neighbours’ gardens were surrounded by fences and hedges small creatures like chameleons could move freely from one property to the next, and often find shelter among the foliage of the hedge.

Today we build walls around ourselves to keep out criminals and there’s not much place to hide on a wall.

If a chameleon were to climb to the top it would be very exposed and probably be caught by a bird or a cat.

On the Karoo farm where I grew up we never saw hadedas. I remember being fascinated by the first ones I encountered when I arrived in Grahamstown, to start my boarding school career.
Today hadedas are a common sight on the farm, poking their long beaks into the lawn in search of food. There has been a real diaspora among the hadeda population, and I’ve often wondered what caused it. Could improved farming methods in the country’s interior have resulted in tastier earthworms in the soil? Maybe the chameleon population has also headed inland.
It would be a long journey for a chameleon. They’re not noted for their speed. I believe there are still plenty of chameleons in the vineyards of the Western Cape.
Maybe they’ve discovered the delights of good Cape wine.

Being chameleons would give them the added advantage of being able to change from red wine to white whenever the mood takes them.

I received a very practical new year message from Wendy Sidler, who wrote: “I wish that all your troubles and problems last as long as your new year’s resolutions.”
I wish the same for you.

Last Laugh
A farmer took a bucket to pick some fruit and as he approached the orchard, he heard female voices giggling and saw three pretty young women, skinny dipping in his farm dam.
When he approached they retreated into deep water and shouted.

“We are not coming out until you go away.”

“I’m not wanting to stare at you or to persuade you to come out,” he said, and held up the bucket. “I’ve just come down to the dam to feed the crocodile, then I’ll leave.”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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