You know, when I was quite small, I had a couple of micro small pets that you could classify as exotic pets then. One of my brothers also had one that we all loved to bits. But I think it’s fair to say that their untimely deaths or departure all came about through ignorance. While we tried our best to look after the creatures, they didn’t last very long. My brother had a beautiful green and blue-feathered budgie that he bought at a community sale. The child was aptly named Budgie. Come to think of it, in later years he also purchased a pair of geese that he named Donald and Daisy.
My introduction to so-called exotic pets came from the school classroom project. You see, even the class teacher showed signs of ignorance then. There was one chap who had not one but two exotic creatures that I was quite jealous of. More than anything else, I wanted these spiders. They were said to be two of the deadliest creatures on the planet earth. And yet they were so small. One was a fairly large scorpion in comparison to its species size, while the other was small and thin. From a young age I had developed a fetish for poisonous and dangerous creatures, or so we all thought at the time.
While my classmate had his scorpions, I had to settle for what we called my giant baboon spider. When my father discovered it in one of our storerooms at home, I could not believe my eyes. We quickly scooped the creature into a glass jar and punched holes on the lid to allow it to breathe. Over the next few weeks, this gave me pleasure to do; I caught common or garden house flies and carefully fed my baboon spider its dinners. It is not ideal to keep such a creature confined in such a container, but the creature was a tenacious thing and survived thus until one neighbour thought he was doing a good deed by chucking the spider far over our wall into the veld nearby our home.
He was not doing this for the arachnid’s welfare, but rather out of safety for us. But little did he and I know. My brother’s poor budgie, you could say had a fairly long life of just over a year, living fairly freely in our mother’s kitchen. We now know how stressed the poor fellow was, but on the whole, we also know that it made the most of its circumstances. Its cage was left open and it was able to fly from cupboard to cupboard as it felt like doing. It was a small but important member of the family, always highly communicative and always entertaining us into the bargain.
As an adult I now believe that the small exotic bird was trying to tell us something important. But all to no avail. I arrived home from school one afternoon to learn that, young as it still was, it simply flipped on its back and died. I had a small family of much smaller creatures that also died suddenly. These were tadpoles that we had discovered in a muddy stream. Again, I scooped as many as I could and encased it in a glass jar. At home, I created a makeshift garden pond, also to be placed strategically in my mother’s kitchen where we could all watch and hopefully see these tiny creatures grow into little frogs.
What I fed them on, I cannot remember. It was fascinating watching these tadpoles metamorphose into adults. But as they developed into full-fledged frogs, they hopped about for a couple of days and then, one by one, I can’t remember how many there were, each frog flipped on its back in the tepid water and died. The white geese, as brother and sister, white-feathered but muddy most of the time, you could say, had a marvelous life as domesticated farm birds, if you will. They loved the garden and our mother wasn’t always too charmed at how they took advantage of the plants’ delicious petals. They had their makeshift pond to splash in, until one morning; all was ominously quiet in the backyard.
The story was told that a mangy dog had entered our premises and devoured the poor birds viciously, severing their necks quite violently. But our biggest suspicion was that our dim-witted and jealous neighbour had taken his bowie knife and sliced their necks quite open. Sad, but these things happen where ignorance prevails. I dare say that this fool would not venture anywhere close to the scorpion pair, big scorpion and little scorpion, if we had these horrid creatures and he knew that we did. He would be particularly scared of the big one, no doubt.
In reality, and out in the wild where they belong, the physiognomy of scorpions has been largely misunderstood out of our own ignorance and lack of will to read up about these ancient and rather interesting creatures. The big scorpion looks rather fierce at a glance. But it is the much smaller one that you have to be extra careful of. The big scorpion can bully its way in the dust, catch and devour its prey easily and even challenge species rivals. You could almost say that it gets away with murder. But not quite. If you thought that the large scorpion was scary, think and shudder again.
To compensate for its smaller abdomen, or is this a deliberate devious trick of nature, the smaller tail of the scorpion carries a much more venomous and deadly stinger. Beware and handle with care.
You might want to read: Take Your Kids to Museums and Game Farms.