Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Would you let your daughter sit on a giant seal?

I have a certain fear of wild animals, after a frightening encounter with an enraged baboon a few years back.

So why, I ask myself with terror in my heart, did I allow my daughter to sit on, and hug, a vast, bloated lump of fur, teeth and claw? And why did I allow my darling six-year-old niece to do the same? Looking at the nasty yellow teeth in my snapshots, I can't believe that I allowed these girls to cuddle a wild beast. But this was no ordinary seal - this is Pietie, the corpulent Cape fur seal who is the toast of tourists visiting the harbour of Hout Bay, and a persistent thorn in the side of the authorities. Read Pietie's story here.

Well, if it's any excuse, my daughter is no ordinary girl - she is a dinkum Dr Doolittle; a reincarnated Gerald Durrell. She is a born lover of animals: she's obsessed and enchanted by any creature with fur, feathers, scales or shell.

Melting eyes and soft ears turn her legs to jelly. If it has a face, she loves it. If it has whiskers, she wants to hug it to death and keep it in her room as a pet. And animals love her back - they drape themselves all over her, slobber on her pyjamas and try to lick her face to the bone.

This has to be a genetic thing. I am befuddled by her obsession with animals. Readers of this blog will know I am not crazy about domestic animals. I don't mind looking at wild ones, as long as they are far away, and preferably behind a tall fence. The only animals I ever feel sentimental about are the noble, clever ones: horses, owls, dolphins - and, of course, a certain dog. I also have an affinity with our close cousins the great apes, but don't get me started on the subject of chimps, gorillas and orangutans held in captivity, like second-class humans.

Okay, so those are my excuses for letting this girl sit on this big, fishy, foul-smelling old fatty-puff.

Also: Pietie's custodian, trainer and feeder, Danny Abrahams [see pic], was persuasive. I gagged at the sight of him feeding reeking sardines to Pietie, mouth-to-mouth, but heck, I had to hand it to him for his spirit of entrepreneurship.

Abrahams draws a large crowd of appreciative tourists, which is more than can be said for the other stalls at the harbour, which peddle the usual made-in-Chafrica tat. He claims to spend thousands every month on buying tons of stinky old fish for Pietie, and, judging by the number of fish he fed the bloated one while we were there, he is probably telling the truth. Whatever the case, my little Ms Doolittle was in heaven for ten minutes.

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1 comment:

Audrey said...

Good lord. I had much the same reservations as you when I saw the pics. And then when I clicked the link to read Pietie's story, I thought it must be a Hayibo article in disguise or something. But it isn't, it it. It's for real. He throws the signs in the sea? I like him a lot. He has old fashioned gumption. Will try hardest to go see it for self when next in CT.