While this chap looks like the sweetest little predator you’ll ever see, there could be a simple explanation for this strange sighting. Pictures and text by Romi Boom
Of all the Kgalagadi wilderness camps, Urikaruus is without a doubt my favourite. Judging from the difficulty getting a reservation, many others feel the same. So it was a highlight of my recent trip to spend a delightful afternoon and night there, enjoying the facilities of the comfortable cabin in the Auob river bed, and the activity at the waterhole, directly across from number three.
Great was our surprise when the mercury registered minus 5 the next morning. Camp attendant Jacques Moss had kept a close watch on the temperature and decided to shut down the water supply to prevent burst pipes. Lo and behold, icicles were suspended from the shower head and there was no chance of a hot shower until much later in the day. We decided to get warm in the car and postpone our ablutions until we reached Nossob rest camp.
The campsite at Nossob was fairly quiet when we arrived later that morning. As usual the ground squirrels were all over the show. Imagine my delight when a game of wrestle and tussle, dash and scuffle developed between two playful youngsters – right next to me, and in the shade! No photographer could ask for more. Since they are used to people around them, my camera was not a threat and I was allowed to share in the fun and games.
A third ground squirrel was watching the antics from the sidelines, sitting on its haunches and happily munching on something. At first glance, I thought it was holding a piece of thin boerewors in its clawed hands.
I was just getting angry at the folks who persist in feeding the campsite regulars, when I noticed that it was in fact enjoying a legitimate snack: a lizard!
Ground squirrels, unlike meerkats, are mostly vegetarian – but not always. They eat seeds, soft leaves, flowers, tsamma melons and occasionally a termite. This lizard may have been killed in cold blood by a very hungry ground squirrel, or it may have been killed by something else, allowing the ground squirrel to nibble on the “easy pickings”.
Did you know?
These up-front “little people” will entertain you for hours in the Kgalagadi rest camps with their bustling activity. Their burrows will also drive you crazy if you are looking for a spot to park in the campsites. They are highly photogenic with their fluffy tails and cinnamon-coloured flanks adorned with a racing stripe.