One year in Nigeria, Chris and I discovered the books of Gerald Durrell, and the wonderful world contained therein.
It didn't take long for the two of us to decide that Mr. Durrell probably needed assistance in his acquisition of animals for his zoo, so we decided to capture local species and send them to him.
Before I go any further, I should inform the Gentle Reader that at the time this took place, the national sport of Nigeria seemed to be revolution.
Anyhoo, after several days of chasing things through jungle and swamp, Mom had decided that the active route to animal capture was a bit too ... strenuous:
Mom (slightly big-eyed, and stiff): "Is that a green mamba in that jar?"
Dad (tapping on jar with forefinger): "I don't think so. Looks like a green vine snake. Harmless."
Mom: "Thank God."
Kids: "Are you sure it's not a mamba?"
Dad: "Yes. Small gripping teeth only. No fangs."
Kids (with feeling): "Bugger!"
Confined to the back-yard it didn't take too long for us to realize that sneaking up on animals was a wee bit difficult if every animal within nine square miles is actively avoiding getting anywhere near our back-yard.
I have suspicions that the surviving astro-lizards had been spreading malicious propaganda regarding our activities, but however word spread we couldn't find anything bigger than a bug in the yard.
After much pondering on the extensive cowardice of the daylight species, we decided to see if the lack of moral fiber extended to the nocturnal varieties. Since Mom would never allow us to lurk in the back-yard until dawn, obviously we needed to build a trap of some kind.
Out came the shovels.
As a point of pride I would like to inform the Gentle Reader that -- by God! -- Chris and I dug that hole down shoulder-deep before the gardner came out, contemplated our engineering thus far, shrugged, grabbed his shovel and laid to with a will. Shortly to be joined by the estate gardner, whom, upon seeing his compatriot excavating, apparently figured, "Mine not to reason why," grabbed his shovel and 'round about twilight we had one heck of a tiger pit. Required ladders for the grown-ups to get out. Beautemous.
Dad, of course, was brought out to inspect the work of his progeny. He made the proper parental noises, then mentioned, absent-mindedly, that as narrow as the pit was, bigger species might be able to scramble out. The traditional solution, he went on to say, was to place stakes near the top of the pit angled down.
Stunned by the simplicity and beauty of this, we immediately chopped some bamboo stakes and added them to the pit.
So. Before we go any further, I wish the Gentle Reader to fix firmly in his, or her, mind a pit. Measuring about six feet long, by about six feet wide. Eight to ten feet deep. At the top of which are not one, but two rows of downward angled bamboo stakes. Which, given the nature of bamboo, are wickedly sharp.
Call it a double-wide grave from hell.
Across the top of this, picture two misanthropic little hellions happily spreading a thick layer of palm leaves and a little dirt, for realism.
Next morning, Chris and I go sprinting out to our trap to discover what the night had wrought. And -- oh joyous day! -- the palm fronds which had been laid to disguise the trap had been disturbed. Matter-of-fact, most of them were gone. This boded quite well, and (quivering with excitement) we snuck up on the trap to discover ...
For those in the audience who are not familiar with African fauna, 'ratel' is an Afrikaans word meaning 'Psychopathic Buzzsaw From Hell'.
Also called a 'honey badger', a ratel is best described as 500 pounds of pure distilled pissed-off crammed into a 25 pound body.
To get a proper perspective, understand that wildebeasts and buffalo have been found dead after a ratel attack, and that lions and hyenas will give an irritated ratel a wide berth.
And we had one of the little darlings in our trap. The day was looking good.
Continued in part II.
Same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.