Falanouc

Eupleres goudotii

By Aaron Harrison

A fallen tree branch obscures most of the sunset, allowing just a glimpse of purple-orange glow. Two eastern falanoucs slowly rouse themselves. Baby twists his head and looks up at the darkening sky. “Ma, hey ma, let me tell you about this dream I had. I wasn’t in it, or maybe I was watching, but I don’t think so, but anyway there was this civet, and he was climbing a pandanus, but the pandanus was also a earthworm, like a really big one, or maybe it was a few worms, and the worms were the different branches, and the civet was high in the branches but I was watching the soil, oh, so maybe I was in it, but anyway I was watching the soil at the base of the tree and how the worm was wriggling out of the soil and little bits of dirt were falling over each other as the worm sort of really slowly fidgeted. I think it was always coming out the soil but the tree never got any taller.”

"Honey", Ma Falanouc mumbles, blinks. She wrinkles her nose, opens and closes her mouth, and forces her eyelids closed again. Baby Falanouc tries to squirm but his mother catches him in a tight embrace, burying his snout into her armpit. "The civet looked at me,” he continues, muffled, “it was in the leaves but I could see it, like it was just …"

Ma Falanouc places one her paw gently to the back of Baby’s head, “Honey, shoosh, please, I just woke up. Gimme a minute alright”. Baby buries himself deeper - snout, head, neck and shoulder - into Ma’s armpit.

"Ma, I’m hungry. That dream made me hungry."

Ma squeezes her eyelids tighter. Baby turns again, yawns and snaps his mouth closed. He is wide awake now, staring at the sharp puzzle of pandanus leaves. Earlier that morning, before they went to sleep, Ma and Baby found a nicely wooded spot, with dense low shrubs, fallen branches, and uneven terrain to obscure their prone bodies. Not a metre away a giant pandanus leaned, its leaves shaking and cutting the breeze. Ma listens to the growing clamour of the jungle, taking comfort in the distant call of chattering birds and the occasional howl of small mammals. “Baby will be getting impatient soon” she tells herself. She lets the thought come and go, until she stretches out her back paws and shakes the sleep from her head. She pushes Baby away, and gets to her feet.

"Okay honey, tell me about your dream."

"So then the civet was looking at me, and it wasn’t like Cousin Mal or Cousin Gus, I mean, it was and it wasn’t, it was one of the other ones, y’know the other ones that you see sometimes?"

"Yes," Ma said gravely, as she disturbed some leaves on the ground with her paw. The new civets, strange but now familiar, were spreading further every year, crowding out Ma and her family. Everything they touched smelled sour, unsavory. Their success had effected an invisible change in the jungle. Everything was the same, but with a new purpose, it was for someone else.

Baby continues, unconcerned with Ma’s tone, lost in the leaves of the great pandanus. “And it was in the leaves, but not in the leaves, more like on them, or not touching them, like it was floating next to the tree, but it was looking at me, and I was just looking at the dirt where the roots of the pandanus were, and the roots were wriggling and the dirt was falling but it wasn’t going anywhere, but I knew the weird civet was looking at me.”

A few metres away now, clawing at another patch of wet leaves, Ma lets out a gentle mew, a nickname, “Baby, come over here, watch what I’m doing”. Baby, aware that he’d let Ma walk some distance away, bounds towards her, quick and graceless.

The sun has disappeared. Its dark and noisy. Ma is alert now too. She is no longer moving leaves back and forth, she’s digging, slowly, but effectively, so that it is not too long before she finds a different, familiar texture with her claws. She looks closely: two writhing earthworms, tangled in each other, translucent pink-grey where her claws have lightly scratched them. She nuzzles into the dirt, slurping up one of the worms, feeling it uncoil from its partner. She grinds her round teeth until the worm is mush, and swallows. Baby, beside her now, does the same. They stand for a moment, looking at the small hole Ma has dug, not looking for anything, just adjusting to the first meal of the day.

Finally, Ma speaks, “Was that all your dream?”

"Yes," says Baby, "that’s it. It just looked at me, that’s all." He thumps his tail in dirt. “Ma?”

“Yes Baby”

“Why did they come here?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they don’t even know. Maybe they don’t want to be here. But they are.” Ma turns her face away from the dirt, square with Baby’s eyes, “You know, you can’t go near them, those others.”

"Yes, I know."

"Because they’re not like us, and they’re not like Cousin Mal or Cousin Gus. They won’t share, they won’t do us any favours, and they want what we’ve got."

"What have we got Ma?”

"Well, we have the trees, and the worms. We’ve got the sunset, the moonlight and the distance. You’ve got me, and Baby, I’ve got you."

Crabeater seal

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Lobodon carcinophagus

By Ben Pearmain

Her ancestors thought of themselves as great conquerors. They had split off from the bears, whose lumbering burliness they considered primitive and embarrassing, and thought of themselves as sleek and clever because they had figured out how to fish. They left the bears by the streams to hunt in the rivers, where there was more to eat. The environment suited their aesthetic, their smooth bodies curved gracefully under water, but they wriggled uncomfortably when they went back on dry land. Eventually they swam further out from the ancient river-banks and cut through schools of bigger, faster fish. Their mythologies embraced the change, putting more distance between them and the bears, until they forgot life on the land. This seal doesn’t know anything about all that. Her dreams are of the moment before she drifts off, blurring sleep with the day that came before and the one she’ll wake up to. Flat and still on the surface, she’ll sleep peacefully for eight hours or so, radiating self-satisfaction on the ice. Yet something lurks beneath the complacency; an ancestral memory of ambition, of struggle.

Her ancestors styled themselves as colonisers and brave innovators who conquered a new frontier. Their intelligence and grace had been rewarded, and the water welcomed them as natural heirs. But they had no knowledge of the ocean, its vast loneliness or its terrifying depths. Although they had adapted, they weren’t completely ready for the aquatic life. At first it was the dolphin raiding parties that invaded their borders to loot their food stocks. The seals were still working on holding their breath, so the fish were taken right out from under their noses. So they adapted, hunting new species in deeper waters, but when they extended their range from the estuaries into the harbours they found themselves hunted by packs of orcas. The seals thrust out with their strong flippers into the open ocean where the skies opened up and the water stretched out forever below them, housing a dark, ancient world where giant whales battled with sea monsters. Too proud to go back, they stuck to the surface; fast and agile but uncomfortable with the expansive murkiness beneath. They retreated to the coastline, never truly embracing aquatic life, and found themselves packed together on beaches and rocky outcrops. Overtime they formed huge colonies that crept along the edge of the land until there was no more room. Some would be shoved out to sea, where they would fall prey to the orcas or become lost, scrambling above the terrible depths and drown. They told each other the stories of the their ancestors, the Great Innovators of Seals Past, and congratulated themselves on no having to struggle anymore.  Occasionally one or two seals would become captivated by the legends and feel the pull of the open water. They pushed themselves out and braved the waves until they found a new dash of rock, where they could  drag themselves out of the water and sleep smug, self-satisfied dreams.

This seal used to wake up panicking because she couldn’t find her mother. For the first few months they had been inseparable, but then she was weaned and chased off the ice. There had been males hanging around from the beginning; bullies who snapped at the pair and tried to separate them. She spent a few months close to the pack ice, the memory of her mother fading as she skirted across the surface of the water, snatching at anything that might be food. Her panic evolved. She knew she had to dive, that the real food was below her, if she could just hold her breath and duck down. But it was always too far, too deep, and she’d rush back up gasping for breath. The early Antarctic seals learned to follow their food through the vertical layers of water, gulping then sieving liquid through their teeth. Some of them had teeth that locked together tightly, getting more krill with each mouthful. They gorged themselves for generations until they didn’t bother eating anything else. This is the crabeater seal. The others split into three species, each with specialsed hunting methods and diets: The Ross seals stayed in the open water, chasing squid and silverfish, struggling like their ancestors; the Weddell seals learned to dive for longer and longer periods, increasing their oxygen capacity so they could hunt in the lower depths for crabs, prawns and tiny octopuses; the Leopard seals ate them all.

At the end of her first summer she began to venture further into open water, testing her speed and confidence. One day she saw a leopard seal rip through a whole generation of penguins; snatching them out of nowhere, slapping them against the surface to burst their skin. She began to dream about it, finding herself in a huge colony slowly waddling toward a massive set of jaws. Wave after wave sent over the edge to their death. But that was years ago. That winter she migrated north, following the retreating pack ice toward the sun. By the time she returned she had moulted, her fur slightly lighter, her nightmares left on a melting ice floe. Here she is now, asleep and self-satisfied, safe knowing that when she wakes up the krill will be there and she’ll eat them, again and again. Her insulation against the cold and extinction; the food source that never runs out.

Giant otter

Pteronura brasiliensis

By Laura Mitchell

She was certain that she was alone in her dreaming. The family did not typically communicate about their dreams, but she watched the others while they slept. At first she snuck glances from the rock where she stood guarding the campsite. She was meant to watch the dense forest for any shaking leaves that might signify a jaguar or human, but her eyes were drawn to the warm heap of her slumbering kin, searching out signs of unrest.  Before long she was openly staring at the sleeping bodies, her body hunched tightly, teeth clenched.

 The family nestled together on the riverbank, their breathing forming a slow syncopating rhythm with the night. The pups slept on their backs, legs flipping languidly in the air and lips smacking. It was easy to imagine the huge shiny dream fish clutched in their little dream paws, and the dream games of hide and seek, skittering over mossy rocks and slipping without a splash into velvety green water. The older otters slept profoundly. Replete, rolling snores issued through slackened jaws.

 They slept without disturbance. They only rolled occasionally to snuggle deeper into the bulk of sleeping otters.

 They were never startled into consciousness by the events playing out in the recesses of their brains. They never lay in the dark with their hearts beating out of time, unable to sleep for fear of what loomed within, but equally unable to move, in case those same dreams had finally intruded into real life and were tiptoeing through the darkness.

 It was utterly galling. She hated them for their easy sleep, it fizzed acid in her stomach. She ground her claws against the rock, stretched her neck towards the pack and chittered her teeth. She stared until her eyes hurt and watered.

 When the moon hit a point in the sky directly above the riverbank she shook herself off and slunk towards the pile to wake the next otter on duty. As she reached the campsite a sickly smell hit her nostrils (warm fur, flatulence, dirt) and she stopped. She huffed twice, turned, and dove into the murky river, glided through the reeds and emerged on the opposite riverbank. She scratched at an inadequate thatch of grass until it formed a nest and curled into an ellipsis on top. Here she slept.

South American coati

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Nasua nasua

By Theresa Pearmain

You are listening to BNDN 92.5, Arizona’s finest radio station. I’m Willie Waite, your host for the morning, and that was The Animals with ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.’ We’re in the middle of our British Invasion Hour here on BNDN 92.5, it’s coming up to 11 o’clock and boy, is it hot outside! 35 degrees out there, it’s hot and it’s bright! Coming up next is our much anticipated interview with the rogue carnivore who’s hit the headlines in recent days with his brazen ‘sit in,’ it’s Esteban, the South American coati found waaaaay north of his natural habitat, having crossed the border, no doubt illegally. We’ll be checking in with our reporter on the scene Edward Snowman, cool to the touch but hot to the topic. Ed will fill us in, top us up and satisfy our hunger for the real story. He will be reporting live from the hollow, where for the last four days the unsavoury and unvisa-ed occupant has taken up residence in a native tree. Little is known of this scoundrel, except that he arrived four weeks ago from who knows where, with his nose all white and his identity unverified. 

We all heard the news last week about the possible threat to the ringtail, our state mammal, which has been found in increasing numbers of racoon and fox traps throughout our great state. We were all shocked to hear that this native Arizonan symbol could potentially be nearly threatened with a slight concern status, but all the while this foreigner, this … alien has cheekily slept, slaughtered, roared and rotated his limbs in a most unpleasant fashion, whilst illegally enjoying our beautiful, Arizona-fresh air. We are hoping to get to the bottom of this unwelcome situation and to provide you, our valued listeners, with the answers you seek. When we cross, any moment now, to the tree-hollow Ed will provide us with a comprehensive grilling on just how many of our precious Arizonan invertebrates and bird eggs this interloper has consumed over his unwelcome stay.

Now, some might say that he means no harm, that he’s merely obeying his coati-nature and filling up on cute little insects and poor baby birds so he can sit and wait for the beginning of the rainy season. Well, that may well be. Maybe he is just a lone coati, mistakenly blown off-course and over the border. It may appear that he is on his own, but will his family follow? We all know these South American animals have large families, and families need feeding and then they grow. Do we really want our country side occupied with white-snouted beasts poking in every crevice of our beautiful state, day and night? Do we as a community stand by while these illegal mammals strip our native flora and fauna clean? I think I speak for all of us when I say surely there’s a hollow back across the border? Why doesn’t he just go back? What is he doing here? Let me tell you, watching this drama unfold has left us with more unanswered questions than you could poke at a quiz contestant. We can have no doubt that Edward Snowman will provide the answers we demand to abate the fury growing in our community. So let’s head over to Edward who is standing by, live, ready to find the answers to our burning questions that need answers now. Ed, over to you, how’s it looking over there?

Edward? Are.. are you…

Yes…yes I… Will yes I am here. Will,  I’m here under the infamous tree ready to ask the difficult questions. The sun is just above the tree line, a small crowd has gathered, but we are not able to locate the villain in question. We received word earlier this morning that Esteban was willing to communicate with us, having arrived at a list of demands. Now, after calling up to him we have had no luck. I can only conclude that he must have gone into hiding, afraid to face the media. There appears to be no movement in the tree tops, no sounds apart from a few insects chirping, and now we are left with nothing but a few empty egg shells and lots of unanswered questions, so back to you Will.

Thanks Ed. Edward Snowman there, our man on the scene, aaaaaaaaaaannd it’s coming up to 11.05 AM on this BNDN 92.5 British Invasion hour, now let’s hear from The Beatles with a track from 1968, you’re listening to Willie Waite, here’s ‘Rocky Racoon.’

Spotted linsang

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Prionodon pardicolor

By Peny Bohan

Two pointed ears.

2 sets of toes.

I’m only 27 inches from my tail to my nose..

I’m a spotted linsang

They call me Oriental.

I build my house, under the trees, 

I like to curl up in the hollow

And sleep away the day breeze..

I’m a spotted Linsang,

I only come out at night.

I like my Insects  crunchy, so are frogs and mice.

I’ll pick birds feathers outta ma teeth and gosh they taste nice

Cos i’m a carnivore… 

ooo give me some of that meat

Sometimes its a little confusing when I look down at my toes.. I gots spots all over my body.. but my tale.. well you know.. its got 10 stripes, but I think its a very handsome tail.

You can find me in the mountains,  you can find me by the streams,

My home is the forest, so don’t you take that, away from me or I might die…..

Two pointed ears.

2 sets of toes.

I’m only 27 inches from my tail to my nose…

Striped hog nosed skunk

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Conepatus semistriatus

By August Jarvis

I got lost in western deserts when some asshole with a shotgun

Chased me up onto the highway and I ain’t got good direction

And I don’t see well at night, and it just gets worse in the daylight

Black & White

I was sniffing out some groundfood when a coyote with attitude

Took exception to my perfume and I almost got my ass chewed

So I, I melted his face,

I’m a trundling bucket of mace

Black & White

My cover was blown, back on the road

Black & White

I got stuck in northern forests like some stupid fucking tourist

Stopped to smell the fucking flowers and I got side-tracked for hours

And a woman chased me outta my ‘hood, now I gotta go live in the woods

Black & White

Your second most beautiful pest

Black & White

And I couldn’t find no shelter when the cold snow started falling

And the wolverine came crawling so I did my best to stall him

But I can only run so far, til I’m back in your front yard

Black & White

No friends in this world

Cuz I only fight over girls

Black & White

Let me lay my weary head In your girlfriend’s flower bed

Black & White

Common dwarf mongoose

Helogale parvula

By Luke Fussell

The irony of it all, if I may apply my own lax definition, is that I had been wandering all day, in and out of villages avoiding eye contact with everyone. I guess I was bored, certainly hungry, and a little curious as to how they run things in there these days. It is the time of year when many of my kin ‘go domestic,’something I loathe in my kind because to me it is a weakness, a failing, even a receding of our instincts and something I will never understand. Sadly, I’ve seen so many of my friends and family members go the wrong way, intoxicated by the exotic, lured by the human hand and the steady diet..Recently, I was told I havean inferiority complex and that this is common amongst Africa’s smallest carnivores. I’ve also been called worse - often an egg thief - but that has never bothered me and why would it? The thought of holding life sacred at any point past conception just seems silly to me, especially on an empty stomach.

Anyway, yesterday in the early afternoon I was really starving - not literally of course - starving in the way one feels after inspecting every inch of their territory in a day, looking for something decent to eat. And when I’m talking about something decent I’m talking about conforming with generally accepted standards of respectable or moral behaviour. A decent, clean-living individual is what I am. Most days insects are plentiful, they’re common too and this is fine; crickets and grasshoppers will usually suit me (and rarely are they in short supply).  Anything smaller is without challenge, I could walk around all day with my mouth open catching flies and if that does happen - often when I’m in the midst of hurling a stream of abuse at some passing rodent - I’ll spit them out. This is just a reaction I have, you could look at me and think that I have not got standards, and you would be wrong. I’ve never been too keen on spiders but to be honest I’ve inadvertently eaten them a few times, half-digested andstraight out of the guts of a bird or lizard I’ve ripped open, but really the texture is appalling. I only blame myself as one often becomes a little over zealous once tucking in to a fresh bird.

I digress. Speaking of birds brings me to my point. It was on this afternoon that I met up with my bird acquaintance, a Red-Billed Horn Bill; and for the sake of his anonymity from hereon in I will refer to him as Red Bill. Red Bill and I have what biologists might call a mutualistic relationship, whereby we forage together and we look out for each other whilst we’re doing this. Ordinarily I will keep an ear to the ground and ideally Red Bill keeps watch of the sky. Now, I have no qualms in saying so and I believe my story will support this, but the relationship Red Bill and I have has never been what I consider to be mutualistic, in that this term implies a notion of equality and I gladly state that Red Bill’s contributions to our arrangement have often been lacking. For many years now I’ve carried Red Bill on my back, and surprisingly for someone gifted with the advantage of flight I have quite literally - after an altercation with an eagle from which Red Bill narrowly survived - carried him on my back. It would only be fair at this point to allocate some of the blame upon myself for what happened yesterday but really, the lengths I have gone in the past to recover Red Bill speak volumes to my character and I shall leave it at that. Yesterday was a particularly hot day and as the glaring sun reflected off anything and everything I was at times disorientated to my surroundings, loosing track of Red Bill at a time when I should have been most cautious.

It must have only taken a matter of seconds and ultimately it was fortuitous that I was hidden amongst some scrub, chasing down a lizard I had just spied, when a pair of humans loped past and scooped Red Bill straight out of the dirt. As he was dumped into a hessian bag and onto the back of a truck, I knew that I must act quickly. On first attempt I was able to climb up and over the rear wheel, over the side of the tray and into the back of the truck where I was greeted with a most sorry sight. Amongst the hessian sacks which housed a countless number of birds, I was able to spy Red Bill as he meekly attempted to press his long beak - accompanied by his long pitiful squawk that I have now become so used to - out of the somewhat secure closing of the bag. It really was quite simple chewing through the fastening tie and Red Bill lumbered out, with a knowing and appreciative look in his eye. From there it was even easier; we jumped off the back tray as the truck slowed in a loose patch of road and made our way home. Red Bill thanked me several times and although his gratitude was welcome, I was still most concerned with what I would be eating for dinner. In the end I just gorged on grasshoppers, which was simple and satisfactory, but as I curled up amongst the long grass, and as the hot sun sunk into the horizon, it was digesting the memory of another day’s heroics which I found to be the most nourishing thing of all.

New Zealand fur seal

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Arctocephalus forsteri

By Amber Fresh

Open Letter to The New Zealand Fur Seal. 

To my dear Actocephalus Forsteri Otariidae,

Do you see the moon tonight? It’s big and white as a tooth against the big blue sea of sky. I know that you see it too. I know you watch. 

My mother watched you on the shore, a black shadow. She burned your image into her eyes, and you burned yourself into her eyes, first as a mystery, then as a wild animal, then as a symbol. 

Do you remember your mother, Otariidae? You know we are the same, my mother took me to the sea to live too. And like your mother, became obsessed momentarily with Picasso and painted her own mother and father and brothers and sisters after their journey across the seas becoming you. She called it “Metamorphoseal” and hung it in the kitchen. We are vagrants too, making a colony. And she built a boat from clay, laden with suitcases which we all knew we couldn’t travel on.

On the mantlepiece Picasso looked on, as my mother had formed him of clay and he looked at you, double furred in oil paints, your hands turning and following us like the eyes of a woman. 

Wean and disperse. I know why you did it, went away alone. I did it too, diving, sometimes on my back looking up through the water at the sun or the moon, turning my self the whole way around to find out if the other side of the globe would feel just the same. But I have a question, What is it like to stay down there? 

Last month there were Shearwaters dead on the shoreline and I thought of you. I travelled all the way across the inlet in a boat with that question turning round in my mind, ‘Why did they die?’ If you’d been there, I would have asked you, without judgement, and I know you would have given me the answer straight. 

I know you think about it, the day your mother will be gone. Your mother and father and brothers and sisters, off on the clay boat down deep and staying there. We might not be getting extinct, but we know the day’s coming. 

Anyway, it’s getting late and I have to do what my body tells me, just like you. I forgive you for the Shearwaters, for the Redbait and the Jack Mackerels and the Little Penguins. Please forgive me for everything else. 

Yours,

Amber Fresh, Goode Beach, Southern Ocean. 

P.S. AF to AF, it was meant to be. 

Walrus

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Odobenus rosmarus

By Leonie Brialey

You are sitting in a circle with your friends. You’re playing a game—or more accurately, you’re laying down the foundations to play a game—where everyone goes around in the circle and names an animal, and then that’s the animal they have to be for the game. You pick the walrus: for his whiskers, his tusks, and because you feel him to be an animal that is often overlooked, or not taken seriously. You also pick the walrus because the word “walrus” is funny to say, turning your mouth into a kind of kissy pout before its soft ending at “-us”. But you picked the walrus before you knew the rest of the game. Turns out you have to make the sound of the animal you chose, followed by the sound of someone else’s animal. Your friends are growling and roaring and barking and squawking and giggling, and then it’s your turn. You know that walruses bark and roar, but when it’s your turn to make a sound, your walrus voice gets caught in your throat and comes out weak and inarticulate. Also it sounds too much like the seal, an animal someone else has already chosen. Your heart sinks that your body, your voice, has failed you. But you want to honour the walrus and you’re already in the game. You use what you have: with your hands you mime two elegant tusks growing out of your face while you simply say, “walrus”. It feels silly to do this but it makes your friends laugh and this gives you some comfort. Every time you pull your hands down your invisible tusks and feel the long “awl“ sound in “walrus” vibrating in your chest you wonder about the walrus more and more.

*

“The time has come,” so you say, “to talk of many things.”

Maybe you are a symbol of the ills of capitalism, but it’s not your fault and seems completely arbitrary that you should be chosen for this role. Maybe you are complete nonsense, or a mere convenience of rhyme.  Nonetheless, this is your role here and we must acknowledge that: you ate all the oysters. You tricked them into being eaten. You are maybe the bad guy in this story. You must remember though, that here you are not real and that it is only a story. Stories mean things, and they help us and give us thoughts that sometimes help us in our lives, and for your role this we are grateful. In the wild you live only to be 20-30 years old, but here you’re 142.

*

Maybe you are a man named John. He sits at a piano and stands up after he speaks your name and then “goo-goo goo-joob”. Later John will say that you are Paul. Then later he will say that he was you, but now he’s himself. Then even later he will die tragically, needlessly. People will mourn his death, but celebrate his life. People will try to figure out what you mean, but would be better off just accepting that your existence comes without any hidden symbolism, that meaning which is bestowed upon you is not you, but merely shapes you, and only in our eyes. Your eyes remain deep and mysterious.

*

You can smell fish. You need to eat. You will do anything to eat.

Music plays, and you feel the vibrations throughout your blubber.

You hold the tiny instrument between your flippers and shake your shoulder up and down and your head from side to side, as you have been taught to. It feels strange but not completely unnatural to move your body in this way. You wonder what it is for. The man dances like an idiot beside you, but you can easily ignore him. There is raucous noise and applause when you finish, and clap your flippers together, still wondering what for. Leaning forward you remember what is coming next: the man presents you with a fish.

 *

You are in a pack with all your friends, your bodies close together, touching, leaning, relaxed. You are lying on the sturdy rocks effortlessly, languidly. The rocks absorb and hold all your energy, and all the energy of the ocean, stoically, ceaselessly. You feel the energy of the waves and the ocean only through the air, through the splashes that land on your body. The air is cold and harsh, the ocean icy, but you are warm and secure in your body. You lift yourself up off the rocks and look out over your peers. You grunt into the air and some of your friends grunt back. You turn towards the ocean. You move your body towards it with all your strength and determination. You feel the waves lashing against you, but don’t feel their cold, and they don’t feel like lashings, but strong, embracing arms, reaching out and calling to you. You slide into the water.

In the water you are graceful and swift, weightless but full of presence. You were born to do this. You are one with the ocean, one with space. You are the walrus.

Leopard

Panthera pardus

By Colin Harte

Translated from the Leopard’s Swahili mother tongue to English

Baboons, baboons, baboons. My voice it bleeds. My last little, gone. That is the past. The bark mountain where I tried to rub of the scent of my little, my cub. Rub, rub, rub. Off forever, your name the smell on my coat, I rubbed it off. My voice bled for a minute or two as I talked to death and told him that I hated him. Baboons, I hate them too. Those bastards did this. I know. To small to fight me, little shits. On the bark mountain I rubbed  and rubbed, it off and over. Over and off. I move on, I always move on. Rolling like the land beyond the bark mountains, flat and arid. I must make my heart flat and arid like the lands beyond the tree line, until the return of summer then I can try again.

Always the same. Off and Over. Flat and Arid. Under and Above.

Above! In my branches, I am ruler here! I White-Yellow Paw.

Running and pouncing in the smooth supple grass, thrashing through the bracken, and best of all, flying! I love to fly from my bark mountains. How I love to fly! The air rushing up my nose as I fall. Death from above. The commingling of colours rushing at me. Death the cloak that clings to my skin. Death whom I know so well. I am Death and Death moves through me. I feel most alive when I act as Death. The taste of fear in my nostrils as I take down the moving wall of meat. Dizzying fear that makes me feel like a God and sharpens the taste of meat with the hunger that it stirs.

I am a bird that goes in one direction down, down, down, down. With a swoop I pinion.

When it is over then the claws are to be licked. Oh, how I love to lick them. I feel proud when I lick them so.

Ah, the red. What can I say of the red? The red that tastes so fine, and sings in my ears as I eat it. The red that pushes back the other tiredness. Not the fun one which I let take over in the branches or in my den. This other tiredness whispers of Death. It is a hole inside me that wants to consume me the way I consume others. Ah but the Red. Oh, the Red. The day is good when the day has the red in it, and I strip the red, the meat off the bone and crunch up the bone, mixed all in my teeth, as I sit up here in my unmoving cloud of foliage. Where I can watch all.

Up here I can see that brute the Lion, whom I hate and who hates me. He hardly ever comes by. This is not his place but my place. Sometimes he does come. Once he and his pride hung about too long like a pack hyenas. That day the wind, who normally is so nice to me with its messages and signals written in urine, blood, movement, fear, seasons and night, it cruelly taunted my hunger. But I waited and eventually they moved on. I am good at waiting. It is because of them and the Baboons that I must always move along secrets trails, only I know these ways. The unspoken ways. I tried to show the ways to my littles but…

Tonight I dined in my lofty kingdom, whilst I looked out at the white spots that hang above. You can not climb to them. They are so strange and yet so beautiful. I am smart you see, I carry my wall of meat up here so as not to share. I hate to share. I have only ever shared with family and that only for a time.  Family, we no longer speak. My bother was a freak. He was coloured like living night. My brother not like Mother nor me. Strange one, he. For a while we played together, until our family was driven apart. family was driven apart. One day our Mother chased us out. She loved us one day and not the next. Suddenly she was angry at us, very angry, perhaps because she got fat like I got fat – damn those Baboons - or maybe it is because she didn’t want to share any more. That hole inside will eat us all. I saw my father once and we growled and spat at each other. I ran away as he made to attack me. He is still strong and has the best bark mountains near the watering hole, the old prick.  His time will come too.