Animal Dilemmas – Antelope Gnu Jerboa
The Jerboa had been hunted many times by snakes, hawks, fennecs but never had a foreign beast invested so much in digging it out of the hard desert floor. Once a snake had entered its hole but it had been side tracked in the first niche that served as defense and the Jerboa had escaped. But now with beast like the Coyote spending days to dig to the bottom of the hole the Jerboa had to dig deeper and more complicated tunnels. May be it had to calculate a second exit of the hole but that would invited more predictors.
The Jerboa leaped lightly among the dry bushes due south thinking more and more that having a habitat fixed in time and space was not the new way to live. It has always been told that sticking to what it knew was the safest route in life. And that it should dig a hole and hunt for food around it. But the Jerboa didn’t want to be dug out by some beast and killed in its own hole. What if it traveled the desert, it thought.
What if it lived traveling, sleeping in cracks in the rocks and eating whatever it found. The idea grew on it as it progressed south and the grass slowly grew greener. Its progress was steady but slow. The Jerboa could only leap long a few times or short for a few minutes before it needed a rest.
The Jerboa climbed a small hill and beyond it stood the edge of the savanna. Bellow the hill the Jerboa saw a Gnu walking around in circles kicking the dust and munching on dry grass. The Jerboa was not afraid of grazing beast for they didn’t not eat rodents. As it stood on the hill it noticed that the Gnu was confused and insure of which direction to take.
The Jerboa saw an opportunity for a faster transport south into the green savanna. It climbed down the hill and approached the Gnu.
‘Hey,’ said the Jerboa, ‘you look lost. May be I can help you find your way.’
‘There is no hope,’ said the Gnu. ‘I have been cut off, to the north is the desert, to the south the giants are fighting amongst each other with fire and noise.’
‘Where is your home?’
‘It is further south beyond the fighting where my colony numbers thousands.’
‘So let’s go south together.’
‘We were three and two are death and eaten by the giants. They kill their own, and our lives don’t mean anything to them.’
‘We can go east and then south,’ said the Jerboa.
‘East and then south, you mean around them?’
‘But I have never been east.’
‘I have,’ lied the Jerboa. ‘It is safe.’
‘Are you sure.’
‘Yes, the east is beautiful with plenty of grass everywhere.’
‘I like grass,’ said the Gnu.
‘So let’s go.’
‘Can I climb on your back so I can keep an eye for danger.’
‘There is danger in the east?’
‘No, it is safe. But it is always good to keep an eye.’
‘Yes, it is good.’
The Gnu kneeled and the Jerboa climbed on its back, walked to the front and settled on its neck. The Gun started slowly to the east. The passed dry valleys and climbed small hills with little signs of life.
They passed near villages with burned houses and vultures feasting on rotting corpses. The ground was burnt to ash the the air was heavy with death. The Jerboa wondered why did giants killed each other if they didn’t eat the dead but just left them to rot.
‘Why do you think the giants kill each other,’ the Jerboa asked the Gnu.
‘I don’t know. They are stupid but strong.’
After the village, the hills grew wilder and greener. The Jerboa convinced the Gnu to turn south and enjoyed the scenery. The jumpy mouse caught a beetle lost in the Gnu’s fur and munched on it taking the fresh breeze and green hills in. It felt happier than ever and wondered why had it hid under ground most of its life.
The Gnu stopped when it was tired and grazed in the green grass and drunk from watering holes on the way. The Jerboa drifted in and out of naps. They were entering the savanna and the danger of preying beasts increased. The Gnu knew those tall grasses and the dangers they housed and it grew nervous. All it wanted was to rejoin its herd and migrate to the great planes.
The Jerboa had no plan or aspirations. It enjoyed every breath it took without worried about danger of predators. It was ignorantly unfamiliar with the savanna. It had never seen a lion, cheetah or hyena, for it the savanna was a beautiful green field with soothing tree groves in the horizon.
The grass was very tall and the Gnu could not see over it. The Jerboa climbed on its head and still enjoyed the view.
‘I like your home,’ said the mouse.
‘It is very dangerous here, we have to be careful,’ answered the Gnu.
‘Danger is a small price to pay for all the green grass and trees.’
‘That is because you haven’t seen a wild cat.’
‘What is wild cat,’ asks the Jerboa.
‘It is fast and likes to eat meat.’
‘I am also fast,’ said the Jerboa.
‘Nothing is faster than a wild cat.’
‘Is is faster than a fennec?’
‘What is a fennec?’
‘It is the fastest beast in on the edge of the desert.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Don’t worry,’ said the Jerboa.
‘Worrying is my herd’s only weapon. We have to detect them from far so we can outrun them.’
The Jerboa was not interested in those fabled wild cats. It knew it can outrun a fennec if it had to so it was sure it could outrun a wild cat.
They traveled for several days and talked less and less. The Jerboa thought the Gnu was dull and cowardly. The Gnu thought the Jerboa foolish and naive.
One fine morning after sleeping for a few hours in the tall grass, walking along a beaten path, something launched from the grass and ran fast in the their direction. The Gnu charges ahead as fast as it could and the Jerboa could barely keep its balance on top. They exited the tall grass into a clearing and behind them a rhino emerged from the bushes to the Gnu’s relief.
The rhino nodded as it passed them and settled in the mud of the clearing. The Jerboa though it a wonderful adventure. The Gnu was more alert than ever. They continued to the far side of the clearing.
Just before they entered the grass a cheetah leaped from the bushes and landed on the Gnu. The Jerboa flew off and landed in the mud, the Gnu ran into the thick grass followed by the wild cat.
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photograph by EcoView