Fierce Creatures

This post is part of  Kalahari  Series II – 2011. The previous post in the series is Showing your kid where its food comes from. Also see Kalahari Series I – 2009.

At all of the unfenced wilderness camps in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) they have a “Welcome to . . .” note taped up in the kitchen area.  After the initial welcome message, it is basically a list of all the fierce creatures outside your cabin/chalet door just waiting to sink their teeth or fangs or venomous stingers into you.

One of the poisonous Parabuthus species scorpions occurring in Southern Africa. Quick guide: Small pincers, thick tail = poisonous scorpion; the reverse configuration = not so dangerous. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons – click on image to see source)

One point is “Predators are free to walk through the camp. Take a good look around before leaving your chalet.“. Another reminds you that “Smaller animals such as snakes and scorpions can enter your chalet. Remember to close doors and gates when leaving your chalet. Lift large items that have been resting on the ground with caution.”  Having once shared a sleeping bag with a scorpion, I’m not keen to repeat the experience. So I make sure to follow all the safety measures advised.

However, there is one creature that the KTP do not warn you about – one with whom I had a close encounter one cold night at the Grootkolk wilderness camp.

It was a very cold night, so in addition to the duvet and sheets on the bed, I threw over one of the thick blankets they supply. Snuggling in and going to sleep to the sounds of hyenas close by, I was smug in the knowledge that I was warm and safe. In the middle of the night I was jolted awake with a panicky feeling that something had just bitten or scratched my hand (under the blanket). My second thought was that I had probably been dreaming. On the verge of drifting off to sleep again, I felt a definite movement against my foot. I lay there for a while contemplating what I should do. Thinking it was probably a scorpion, I didn’t want to make any sudden moves. So my strategy was to slowly reach for the torch I kept next to the bed, while carefully lifting the blankets. And then I saw it . . . Its cold eyes staring at me, its sharp teeth ready to sink into my foot, its claws ready to gouge me.

The African Pygmy Mouse or Mus Minitoides. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons – click on image to view source)

We later identified the fierce creature as Mus minutoides or the Pygmy Mouse. Essentially, Mini Mouse . . . Which, I know, doesn’t sound too impressive as far as fierceness is concerned. However, I still told Willie that should I fall ill with a mysterious illness (and not be able to speak for myself) he should tell the doctors about my scary encounter. Obviously I’ve been watching too much of House M.D.!

Now the nibbled edges of the blanket I’d noticed earlier made sense – I had stolen the Mini Mouse’s nest. Anyway, the story ends abruptly with me launching the little critter out of the bed and onto the floor, where it sat dazed for a while before scampering off. Willie, woken by the light and the noise, asked what was going on. Hearing that it had “just been a little mouse”, he rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe if it had been in his bed, he would have felt differently?! I, however, lay awake for quite a while trying not to think about what else I’d have to ward off that night. It didn’t help that I could still hear hyenas and jackals outside in the bush . . .

The Kalahari 2011 Series:


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Categories: Lifestyle/Travel, Nature/Environment


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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19 Comments on “Fierce Creatures”

  1. September 6, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Did it actually bite or scratch you, or did you just feel it walking across your hand?

    There’s no way I would have been able to fall asleep after that, but sitting here, at a safe distance, my first reaction is that the mouse looks so cute…

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

      The mouse (from a distance!) is so cute. In Wikipedia it says it “is possibly the smallest of all rodents and one of the smallest mammals. It is widespread within sub-Saharan Africa, and is kept as a pet in other parts of the world.” So obviously those of us living in Africa don’t think it as cute as people on other continents!

      I felt a sharp prick, and when I looked later there was a mark on my finger. So it either scratched my hand or took an exploratory nibble.

  2. September 6, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Lisa – you write so beautifully, making a funny anecdote into quite an intriguing story. I love reading your posts! Beware of the night time monsters!

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Thanks Jackie! I’m glad that I managed to make it sound interesting, since I don’t have any more dramatic animal encounters to write about.

  3. September 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    I guess the little mouse was just looking for a warm place for the night.

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

      Yes, it was. So I gave Mini Mouse its blanket back again, and used my sleeping bag for extra warmth the next night.

  4. September 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I’m sorry you lost a night’s sleep. All that uncertainty registering in your brain had to keep you up and spoil a good night’s sleep. You certainly kept the suspense up in this piece of writing. Nicely written.
    At the ocean I don’t like things nibbling at my ankles.
    And, the thing I fear most at the farm is meeting up with a brown recluse spider. I handle things with care and check my shoes before putting them on. When my parents lived in Mexico, my mother says she was on the watch for scorpions.

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      We also have the brown recluse spider here in South Africa – although we call it a Violin Spider. I’ve seen photographs of somebody who got bitten by one, and it’s really nasty. Good that you take care down at the farm.

  5. September 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Ha! Great story.

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

      Thanks! 🙂 Willie and my camp-mates weren’t as impressed by my scary encounter.

  6. September 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    This is a wonderful story, Lisa–beautifully told! I’m afraid I might not have slept so well after that ENCOUNTER!

    • September 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks Kathy! There are worse things to encounter out in the bush. I’m just glad it wasn’t a snake or a scorpion.

  7. Sarita Botha
    September 7, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Thanks for the warning about the first photo. I did look though, very scary! The little mouse is very sweet. How could you kick is out? Looks so helpless.

    • September 7, 2011 at 8:56 am #

      Ah, so you’d sleep with a mouse in your bed? 😉 I did give it its bed back the next night though.

  8. September 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    “We later identified the fierce creature as Mus minutoides or the Pygmy Mouse. Essentially, *Mini Mouse* . . .”!!!! You have me in stitches here, Lisa… talk about dead-pan! Giggling helplessly…

    Love the story… such a nice build-up, climax and resolution, perfectly structured and well-told.

    Animal encounters are always more scary when it is dark, and you can’t see what is making that peculiar noise, or what has just run over your legs, or what has bitten you on the hand – I probably would’ve sat bolt upright on the bed for the rest of the night, with the lights on! That’s after thoroughly examining and shaking out every single item on the bed – mattress, blankets, sleeping bag, pillow cases…

    I can’t believe Willie went straight back to sleep. Honestly! I’d have assigned him to delivering-breakfast-in-bed-to-Lisa duty for the rest of the trip! 😉

    Nah, just kidding….

    • September 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      I am glad that you enjoyed the story, Reggie! Since I didn’t have any encounters with any really dangerous animals (a little disappointing after all the warnings! 😉 ), I thought I’d have to make this one as dramatic as possible.

      Willie’s response really wasn’t what I was hoping for. At home he has to rid the house of all large spiders, mice and frogs while I stay at a safe distance. Seemed he thought that away on holiday, he was exempt from all his normal animal-catching duties!

      • September 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

        Well, you succeeded admirably with the conveying the drama, Lisa.

        Willie sounds like a most sensible man to have around the home, despite that little episode with Mini Mouse. Exempt, indeed! 😉 Giggle…

  9. Lu
    September 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Oh, my, word… you’ve shared a bed with both a scorpion and a mouse!? Thankfully not at the same time, eh!?
    Wonderful story!

    • September 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

      The scorpion was when I was a child – camping in Namibia. It actually got under my t-shirt. I can remember ripping my shirt off in front of the whole camp! 😉 If I had to chose, I’d say that the mouse was the less stressful experience.

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