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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

City Wildlife Snapshots: Douala

I'm away for May, accompanying a natural history tour to tropical Queensland.
I don't have time to set up full postings for the time I'll be away, but in the hope
of keeping you, my valued readers, while I'm absent, I'm going to post a few brief
perspectives - snapshots perhaps - of some wildlife I've come across in cities.
I
often leave my camera behind when I go out in towns, so I can think of many possible subjects
for this series that I can't offer you.
In particular I can't offer a posting on an Australian city!
(My home town of Canberra doesn't count, as it's known as the Bush Capital, and it'd be too easy...)

Douala, the largest city in Cameroon with over three million inhabitants, is a complete shock to anyone unfamiliar with cities in the less-developed world. My first diary entry when I was there included these observations: "What an amazing, appalling place – and I’m on the edge of the commercial sector! Vast, throbbing, noisy, frantic, hustling chaos. Footpaths are just bumps at the sides of the roads, useful for parking. The roads are dominated by thousands of seriously clapped-out old yellow Toyota taxis and motos – not a helmet in sight of course and commonly three on board. ... surreal lunacy."


This was the view from my hotel window; early morning, so still fairly quiet.

Typical traffic on the way out of town, above and below.
Note the state of the roads - normal throughout the country.


Birding by a very polluted little wetland on the way out of town.
It's different.
You  won't be surprised to hear that this offering is pretty short on wildlife, though there is probably more than I saw and certainly more than I photographed - there are trees, but I wasn't inclined to take my camera or binoculars with me very often on the crowded streets, and it was raining a fair bit of the time.

One of the most dramatic wildlife spectacles comes in the evening when the Straw-coloured Fruit Bats Eidolon helvum appear. I had excellent views from my hotel window.

They seemed to be coming mostly from the direction of the Wouri River estuary, presumably
roosting in the mangroves.

However there were even some roosting in the few trees in the hotel grounds.

Just two of the numerous bats flying past my window.
They occur across sub-Saharan Africa, but seem to be declining.
In the grounds of the nearby chaotic service station I was astonished to see large colourful lizards zipping about under cars on the oil-slicked asphalt.

Male Common or Rainbow Agama Agama agama in full breeding splendour.
This one was actually in the hotel grounds; as I mentioned I wasn't keen on taking the camera into the streets.
We also ventured into an industrial area near the river for some more birds, though my most abiding memory is of a swelling chorus of song which materialised as a troop of army recruits being exercised through the streets. A couple of Grey Parrots winging overhead assured me I really was in west Africa!
Reichenbach's Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii near the Wouri River;
it is found across central-west Africa.
And yes I agree - it would have been a much more desirable photo if it had a beak!
And on that somewhat uninspiring note I'll end here. You certainly won't be going to Douala for the wildlife; indeed you probably won't be going there at all unless en route to somewhere else. Which is in itself a reason to introduce it here, albeit so briefly.

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