The Green,Green Grass of Home…

¨…The green, green grass of home,
follows me, no matter where I choose to roam.
The blades of grass, weak branches sway upon the breeze,
and the birds singing tunes that to the ear so often please…¨ – Mad Gone

Everyone has their own definition of a ¨happy place¨. Deception Valley Lodge turned into a lush oasis recently with all the blessed rains. At our home, you can close your eyes, smell the fresh green grass and feel the damp,yet cosy Kalahari sand under your feet. When you listen, you can hear the chatting of the birds, the most prominent one being the Cape Turtle Dove with dainty noises from Blue Waxbills in the back. The cicadas remind us that it is summer, even though a lovely, gentle breeze caress your face. When you open your eyes, the sprouts that are disturbed by the breeze, cause a sparkle with the sun on them. Is this what heaven is like?

Not only, did little leaves sprout from everywhere, but everything, tiny and colourful emerged. Too often we take the smaller organisms in nature for granted, and think they are insignificant, but these little creatures, may it be fauna, or flora play an extremely important role in the ecosystem. With this newsletter we will be concentrating more on the significant role Dung Beetles, Dragonflies and Termites play in our complex ecosystem.

Several key ecosystem functions are provided by coprophagous (feeding on dung) beetles in the subfamily Scarabaeinae (Coleoptera:Scarabaeidae), which feed on animal excreta as both adults and larvae. Through manipulating feces during the feeding process, Dung Beetles instigate a series of ecosystem functions ranging from secondary seed dispersal, to nutrient cycling and parasite suppression. Many of these ecological functions provide valuable ecosystem services such as biological pest control and soil fertilization. And they are quite beautiful too, especially the Emerald Dung Beetle!!

Delicate fluttering wings, fascinating hovering motions, dainty, beautiful, yet extremely precious in indicating the health of ecosystems and overall environmental quality…. Dragonflies are an indicator for healthy biophysical environmental conditions and lead to an indication of other species and the general biodiversity. Their survival requires healthy indigenous vegetation to provide oxygen and clean the water, but also helping them to hide, and for their transformation process from nymphs to adult fliers. If Dragonflies are absent from or near a water body, the potential issues may be pesticides and excessive nutrients from agricultural landscapes, siltation from soil and bank erosion, various water contaminants from human settlement and industry or urban landscapes. Dragonflies are also beneficial to potential human health risks ,by consuming mosquitoes and their larvae.

Now, for one of the most important insects in nature!! Termites are ¨green machines¨ – they are hands-down nature´s best recyclers. After the magical rains, the young termites called ¨Allates¨ fly out looking for mates. This behaviour always reminds me of a fairy tale in the middle of the Kalahari, as they do look like little fairies flying into the sunset. We can definitely admire them in the sense of recycling. They burrow tirelessly and aerate the soil, allowing rainwater to trickle in and enable the mixing of nutrients. This also ensures that the ground stays healthy and fertile. Termites feed on the cellulose found in all kinds of dead plants, and their sticky excretions hold the soil together, preventing soil erosion.
These magnificent little creatures, put dead plants back into the soil, and make way for newer ones to grow. Termites also offer themselves (unknowingly and unwillingly) as a source of food for many different kinds of organisms. Even humans!! Apparently, they are rather tasty, almost to the taste of popcorn. These eusocial creatures have been around for almost 200 million years, and their disciplined social behaviour has ensured their successful survival. The Termite mounds are perfect centers for altruistic behaviour. Strict labour devision is a main priority, and they deal with any crisis without panicking. All organisms, complex to simple, approach these recyclers without fail. Termites and the ecosystem CANNOT be separated from each another!!!

One of the most exquisite flowers prevail as soon there was at least an inch of rain. This romantic looking flower, is called the Sand Lilly. But do not be fooled! Even though its beauty lures you in, the Bushmen advised me that this flower is highly poisonous. According to them, if, for example a sheep eats it, and then goes to quench its thirst, it will ¨drop dead¨ soon after. Let us rather just admire it from a distance….

Birdlife is teeming at the moment. Not to mention their beautiful colours!!! The palette that the Kalahari presents at the moment, will make any artist jealous. From bright Blues, Reds, and Purples to Bronze and warm colours. Put that against the bright green background, and you have the feeling of happiness and joy!! The Swallows are flying around everywhere and some days the Black Cuckoo calls non-stop.

On this high note, I will become one with my happy place, oasis and home. Since it has been raining non-stop for two hours now, I have just been summoned to go and make crepes with cinnamon sugar, and a lovely steaming cup of strong coffee. Where is your happy place this festive season? We are privileged enough that a lot of our guests calls Deception Valley Lodge, a home away from home.

Come home!!! We are waiting for you!!!

Janie Swart
Lodge Manager