Animal Dilemmas – Dung Beetle Camel

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Short Story

The Camel was delighted to diversify its diet of dry grass sticks with a juicy moth. Most camels only ate grass and were always hungry. When grass was plentiful they overate and stocked the extra energy in fat reserves in their back humps. But grass has not been plentiful for a long time since they started the crossing of the great desert. Oasis keepers charged high prices for feeding camels and now in the traveling season they charged even higher.

Most camels were always tired and fought over every stick put in front of them. Their only other strategy was to stay still and conserve their energy as much as possible. Eating insects was unnatural to them. The Camel that ate the queen moth had discovered by accident that insect could give it a little extra energy. Before it entered the desert it was well fed in an outpost farm. But during sandstorms deliveries of fresh grass to the farm were delayed.

Crickets and flies felt the sand storms from a long way coming and started migrating out of the edge of the desert further south. They flew in clouds and inevitably some of them met their death smashed against a walls, trees, and at times in the gaping mouth of camel. So in the early hours of a sand storm the Camel had eaten a large number of crickets and felt a rush of good energy afterwords.

Since then the Camel ate insect any time it could. The other camels laughed at it but the Camel laughed silently back when they could barely keep walking under the scorching sun when it strode confidently.

The oasis provided some shade but that was reserved for the giants. So after the camels were watered and fed they lay in the sun hoping for a breeze. They rested and digested their last meals for several hours at a time until they produced a dark green or brown series of dung balls that piled up under their butts. The balls of dung dried up in the sun and the oasis keepers collected them and used them to light their cooking fires.

Before that end purpose of the camel’s manure the dung served as food source for an insect, the local dung beetle. The Dung Beetle was stoutly dark creature and was cautiously crawling toward the fresh dung bellow the butt of the snoozing Camel. It was one of the few left in the oasis surviving on the light acid from the Camel’s stomach mixed with the processed grass sticks. It somehow extracted all the calories it needed from there and thrived.

But in this oasis dung beetles had a short life expectancy because the giant masters of the palm grove were from the great desert’s west end where dung beetles were considered a delicacy. They hunted the crusty bugs, skewered them and let in the sun to dry. Then they grinder them into fine powder and spiced their curries with it.

Very little was let to go to waste in the desert and everyone had to adapt. The Dung Beetle was well adapted to stealing off a dung ball before the camels left instead when everything cleared up and the master could see it rolling a ball from far. The Beetle entered the pile under the Camel and first ate its fill, dedicated to die on a full stomach if need be. The pile it settled on contained the fully digested remains of the queen moth and the extra protein gave the Beetle a boost it had never experienced before. The Beetle could lift a dung ball above its head and toss it about with ease.

But it no longer wanted a ball, instead in looked up and wanted to go to the the place where dung balls came from. It could fly there but flying in the hot day took consumed too much energy and it decided to crawl up the Camel’s leg. It started the climb with a leap and stopped a few times lost in the long sticky hairs. It found good aged dung stuck to the Camel’s leg and munched on it. It looked down only to assure itself of its progress and hoped never to have to return to the dusty ground.

The Camel felt the inset crawling up its hind leg and turned its neck as much as it could. It saw the Beetle and could not believe its luck, it bended back and extended its tongue. But before it could scout its next meal in a giant bended over and picked up the beetle with a hand.

The giant put the beetle in a canvas pouch and fastened its opening with a string, tapped the Camel on the head and smiled. The Camel didn’t give up it lifted itself up on its feet and bit on the pouch stealing it from the giant’s hand. The giant was not happy but the Camel ignored him and shook its catch until the string came off and four dung Beetles fell to the ground. The Camel bended down and scooped two of them that were not showing signs of life. The giant collected back the third one. The forth was the Beetle still alive and kicking that spread its wings and flew as far as it could.

It flew with the wind and landed on the shaman’s tent. Its wings were designed for escapes not for long flights. It crawled on the stiff clothe on the roof of the tent until it saw an inviting crack. It went in and tumbled down into the tent on a dusty table with many jarred animals.

next chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Coyote Dung Beetle

previous chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Camel Moth

all chapters: Animal Dilemmas

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