Diary of a Cape ground squirrel (in pictures)

Hello there, human-kind! I am a young, bushy-tailed Cape ground squirrel living in the wild in a South African National Park in the Eastern Cape. I think I am classified as a ‘rodent’ and I know our species is endemic / native to South Africa. My fur is cinnamon-colured, although I do have a white underbelly. I also have a white stripe down the side of my body. My eyes are large and have white lines around them. When I am a fully grown adult, I many be about 45cm long and weigh up to 1kg. My favourite part of my body is my long fluffy tail. This isn’t just for decoration. In the summer we use them during the heat of the day as parasols to shade us from the hot sun! I think that is rather clever!

Our small family group spent the cold winter’s night in our burrow, which we happily share with meerkats and yellow mongoose. We came out of our burrow after sunrise as we feed during the day. My sibling and I are foraging in the arid, open veld looking for seeds, soft leaves and flowers to eat – we spend most of the day foraging because we don’t hoard food or hibernate! Sometimes we socialise and play, sometimes we take a dust bath to rid ourselves of parasites, sometimes we watch out for predators who like to eat us (jackal, snakes and monitor lizards), but mostly we eat!

The winter sun is not very strong and the air is still chilly, so we are feeling a little high-spirited – its a good way to keep warm. In between our eating and watching, we chase each other around, flicking up our tails as we do. Soon, our mother comes back and we rush to greet her. I put my mouth up to hers in recognition. Glad to have her back with us, we run around together for a short while.

Within seconds though, our mother stops as she senses a giant creature on the road.

Unsure as to what it is, she stands up on her hind legs to sniff it. She leaves us (and we stay a safe distance away) and runs towards the giant. Then she stops and sniffs again. She runs closer to the giant and eventually is sitting right next to it. The giant doesn’t move, but it does make some unfamiliar noises and it smells very bad. Bravely, our mother runs in front of the giant creature to investigate further. Once she is sure that it doesn’t seem to be threatening, so she runs back to join us and we continue with our day – eating of course!

PS: the ‘giant creature’ referred to is of course us in our car 😉

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