Known for being extremely shy, I never thought that I would be fortunate enough to see a Genet so soon in my short time here at Cheetah Plains. Granted, I have been with the team for just over 6 and a half months, but I was made aware of the critters that are most rare to spot: Servals, Genets, Honey Badgers, Cheetah, Wild Dog and rarest of all: the mythical Pangolin. Among many of our friends who reside at the lodge – avian and reptilian alike – the genet is seeing itself becoming a treat of a resident here at Cheetah Plains.
The first night that I was privileged enough to first see this small family was during my first night back from my December leave. I was quietly lazing in my room when I had heard a sort of chirruping sound. I thought that it was perhaps just a group of Francolins scuttling about. That was, until the chirruping grew closer and more odd in sound. As quietly as I could, I opened my door (the darn thing has the most horrendous creak and feels the need to announce to the world that I have decided to emerge) and peered outside. As I did so, a low shadow blitzed past my door followed by three smaller shadows. ‘Amazing!’ I thought as I watched the mother scurry up the stick-pole fence and clamber onto the thatch roof; disappearing toward the curio shop. Her three poor kittens were left behind, helplessly mewing by the fence, anxiously waiting for her return. I took a seat and watched this lot, all the while being careful as not to make any sudden movements and unnecessary noises. Not long after she vanished, the mother reappeared and climbed down the fence, carefully grasping one of her kittens by the neck and nimbly climbing back up the fence. It was quite a site to see – this small, long catlike creature climbing a fence with its baby hanging from its maw. The remaining kittens followed suit, leaping up the main pole and hurriedly following their mother into the night. The next day, after recounting the event to my colleagues, they had said that the same family had taken refuge in the roof that covered the curio shop’s veranda. This was a bit worrying, as Frikkie, the local Rock Monitor lizard was also residing above the curio shop and I imagined that he would just love the taste of a soft Genet kitten.
It wasn’t until we spotted them again, frolicking in the main lodge lounge that all worry had subsided. Myself and Nico were busy welcoming a couple of new guests who had just arrived in the early evening – between 16:30 and 17:30 pm – when I had happened to look up toward the lounge and see something slender and a dull-sandy colour hopping about at the far end of the lodge. Immediately, I thought ‘Oh, it’s a squirrel..’, until I noticed that this squirrel had unusually large ears. In my usual excited manner, I piped “genets!” to which the conversation with the guests took a brief turn, explaining that there is a resident family residing here at Cheetah Plains. Another comical moment was when we, the staff, were trickling in for the usual pre-morning-meeting coffee greet. I was waiting for the kettle to boil when I had heard Happiness, who was busy cleaning the lounge area, yip excitedly and hurry down the stairs. I went up to see what the commotion was about when she directed my attention to the daintiest little genet I had ever seen (and will continue to see). I was beside myself with curiosity and glee as I inched closer. Having a natural tendency to be curious and being a near-crazy cat-lady, one could only imagine the excitement when the little kitten peeped and mewed lightly, just like a domestic cat! The genet was creeping along the roof brace which sat just above the back rest of the couch. It scuttled toward the bookshelf, never taking its gaze from this strange human who was suddenly near its personal space. It jumped down, nose twitching and whiskers quivering, all the while staring at me with these large hazel-brown eyes. It then turned and skipped behind the couch, darting toward the far end of the lodge where it completely disappeared from sight into the thick thatch wall. That morning, I decided to make it my mission to observe these little things and just enjoy their quirky behaviour.
A couple of days later, the kittens had shown themselves again. Both myself and Cheryl were at the lodge when we spotted them. We have both noticed that one kitten in particular is a lot more curious than it’s siblings. This came into light when each of us took a turn, on different days, to be present when they popped their little heads out for a play while their mother went out for an evening hunt. After the mother had made certain that the coast was clear and beetled off to procure something for the evening’s feastings, the little ones were left to romp and jump about. I had slowly moved closer to get a better look at them, and saw how they clattered back into their den. So, I took a seat on the floor nearby and patiently waited for what seemed like a good hour. Just staring out into the bush – trying to seem as least threatening as possible. Eventually, I heard a peep and glanced briefly to my right, where their den was, spotting three little heads peering at me from behind a pillar. I looked away, continuing to stare out at the bush, not moving at all, when one of the more curious kittens edged closer and craned its neck, twitching its nose at my shoe before spinning around and darting back to its den. Although brief, an encounter like that was truly special. The next encounter was with Cheryl. That same kitten was playing near the couch when Cheryl saw it and crept toward the stairs, taking a seat near the top step. The kitten, in turn, crept closer. Cheryl moved her hand along the very top step – as one would when playing with a normal house-cat – and the little genet crept even closer, bobbing its head and twitching its nose. It stopped a mere three feet from her and began nervously playing with the large bean-bag instead. It is a sharp and outstanding contrast to an adult who would have bolted into the bush upon even the slightest scent of a human nearby.
The photograph of “Cookie”, peeking out from under the wicker chair, was taken by pure chance. I was waiting for them to appear so that I could capture a photograph of them for this blog – naughtily, I did have a cookie with me in an attempt to entice them out for at least one picture…. To no avail… I had left the lodge to begin typing this when I received the call that they had appeared! The little rascals…. So I lumbered back to the lodge, camera in hand, and sure enough, there they were: three slender little genets jumping, skipping and rolling around the lounge floor. I moved to the top stair, keeping a distance so as not to chase them off, and of course, they had seen me. Two of them had retreated to their den entrance, but “Cookie” decided to inch closer, crawling under the wicker chair. I also had crept closer, taking up a seat on the carpet near the chair and lightly scratching my nails over the floor in aid to attract its attention. Success!! “Cookie” was just fingertips away and I raised the camera, snapping a gorgeous shot of him!
Here’s hoping, that with more time and patience, us lodge folk can watch and learn a bit more about them, which in turn will aid, most importantly, the conservation of such curious creatures as well as their larger kin.