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Venturesome Overland


Dug out a few of my many poetry books. Going to start each day with a random reading. Let art and literature help keep us whole during these strange, strange days. My reading today is Neruda’s Keeping Quiet. Share something you love. 📚 #poemsforthepandemic #poetryforthepandemic #poetry #poems #literature #librarianlife #librarian #covid_19 #coronavirus #bewell #staywell #read #readinglife
Things are still pretty chilly here in Montana, but Spring has been breaking through from day to day. I found this little adventurer hitching a ride with #totothelandrover just the other day. Spring also means the desert is calling. Toto will get her first taste of Utah in the coming weeks, a place very close to our hearts. #defender #defender110 #best4x4byfar #landroverdefender #landroverphotoalbum #overland #ladybugs #utahoverland #montanaoverland #venturesomemore
Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing women in my life, all over the world. #internationalwomensday #internationalwomensday2020 #feministasfuck #whorulestheworld #womenoverlandingtheworld #womenwhoexplore #sheexplores #kukonje #botswana #overland #overlandafrica #africaoverland
Today is my 111th birthday! Just kidding! I’m only one year old. 🎂 My name is Giada Katsana Tawana Motswana Letiahau. It means the Jade Kitten Lion Cub from Botswana. Letiahau is the name of my caretakers’ favorite place in the CKGR. I was born on the campus of the University of Botswana. When I was a little kitten a gentleman named Peter shared his lunch with me every day and taught me not to be afraid of people. I liked him so much I even let him pick me up. He let me sleep in his office when I was being bullied by bigger cats. An American lady fell in love with me at first sight when she saw me napping in a patch of sun outside her office building. She brought me food and played with me and turned on the water spigot so I could get a drink. She asked Peter if she could take me home and he said yes. She tricked me with some tuna fish one morning and stuffed me into a cat carrier, but don’t worry - I scratched her good. I met a vet who was nice, even though she stuck me with needles. She *did* get the fleas out of my ears, though, so it was ok. I lived at the vet for a month. They said I was very cute and cuddly, which is true, if I say so myself. In one year I have been in four countries and two US states. I took four plane rides, even one all by myself! I miss Peter but I feel happy here. I have a warm little house with big windows and lots of sun. My short caretaker has made up for stuffing me in that carrier by making me comfy nests all over the house. I sleep in the bed and walk on the table, which I’m not supposed to do, but I don’t ever get into trouble because I know how to roll on my back and act extra cute when I’m naughty. I know English and Setswana, but don’t follow orders in either language. My favorite things are my rubber ball and my tall caretaker. I like eating, wrestling with the rug, playing with my toy mice, looking at birds, watching other cats on TV, and “hunting” my caretakers. Sometimes I bite, but not hard (unless it’s the vet, in which case I draw blood). My birthday wish is that all cats everywhere have warm, happy homes and people who love them. ❤ #adoptdontshop #adventurecat #internationalcat #catsofinstagram

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The first time I ever saw a monkey in the wild was in Thailand. Steve and I had been scheduled for a snorkeling trip but somewhere wires got crossed and we ended up going sea kayaking. The day included lunch on a deserted island beach and a rickety wooden boat ride back to shore. We were asked to save our scraps from lunch, which seemed to me at the time to be good pack-it-in/pack-it-out behavior.

What I didn’t realize was that our leftovers were lunch for monkeys.

On the way back to the main island the bright blue boat motored to a stop in a mangrove forest. Our silent floating through the trees came to an abrupt end as we were surrounded by monkeys. They were everywhere – little tiny things, about the size of house cats, in the trees.

And then on the boat.

Clearly accustomed to receiving lunch leftovers, they mobbed us. Let me be clear here: There. Were. Monkeys. Everywhere. They were on the boat. Next to me, on both sides of me, above me. I was eye to eye with one who had a baby clinging to her. I haaaaated it.

“Go on,” the captain urged, trying to hand me a watermelon rind. “Feed them.”

Uh, nope. Nope, nope, nope. No way. I’m usually very game for anything and everything while traveling, but I do not like monkeys. I never have. I certainly didn’t like looking into their uncanny little faces while they were less than a foot away from me on a boat. I mean, I couldn’t even jump off the boat if they got any closer, because some were perched on the side of the boat between me and the safety of the water (which wasn’t even all that safe).

So yeah, me and monkeys. It’s weird because I love nature so much and I can usually find something wonderful in all animals. But monkeys. Ick.


Imagine my surprise then at the monkeys here in Gaborone. We first saw them hanging around campus and from a distance they weren’t too bad. They were bigger than the monkeys we saw in Thailand, which probably helped me be not so freaked out by them.

They also weren’t on a boat with us, which definitely helped.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that they’re not only on campus but in the tree next to our flat, and on the patio of the flat, and sometimes inside the flat. From the barrier of the screen door, I’ve gotten more comfortable with them. In fact, I’ve grown a soft spot for them. I still don’t love them, but I like seeing them.

The monkeys we have here are Vervet Monkeys. They’re generally grey, with white undersides and black faces and amazing long, prehensile tails. They live in troops of about 20 individuals with a single male who displays his blue scrotum and bright red penis as a sign of dominance (so obvious – *insert eye-roll here*).

They’re omnivorous and sleep in the trees, but spend most of their waking time on the ground, which has resulted in some amazing adaptations that, I admit, have gone a long way towards making me respect monkeys more.


For example, they have a variety of vocalizations that they use depending on which predator they encounter. There is an eagle call, which prompts the troop to scan the sky for danger; a snake call, which prompts them to stand on their hind legs and monitor the ground; a leopard call, which directs them to quickly climb to the very tops of trees; and a human call, which signals to the group that they need to make a fast break for it!

But here’s where it gets remarkable, and where it will knock the hubris of being the Great Ape right out of you:

This language, like all languages, is passed on socially. And just like human babies, Vervet Monkey babies need to learn the context of language. A human baby, before she can identify a robin from a raven, will first learn “bird.” Vervet Monkey babies, before they can distinguish an egret from an eagle, will use the “eagle-danger-call” for any bird they see, until they learn enough to differentiate threats. Lonely Planet says that babies often send the troop searching the skies for danger after mistaking a harmless bird for a predator, and that sometimes they even mistake falling leaves for threats from the sky. Researchers have observed babies mistaking far-off antelope for leopards. So they need to be taught not just the language, but the context for language.


If I were a primatologist, I’d want to study whether Vervet Monkey adolescents ever use the danger calls for a joke. My guess, just from the behavior we’ve observed from the patio and the fact that these are clearly extremely intelligent, social animals, is yes. I bet it only happens once, though, before they are brought to their senses by the anger of the adults.

It’s stuff like this that makes me like these monkeys a little bit more. That, and the fact that I’m not trapped on a boat with them.


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