Merit

Props to the Boy Wonder for his hard work at school of late.

The school has a merit/demerit system, whereby good behaviour and achievements (for example) are rewarded with points, while being naughty or being late to class (for example) will lose you points. Each week, the scores are totted up and those with the highest scores are celebrated in school assembly. Good for them.

Here’s my son’s chart for this week so far:

1 point for his simple, but effective Science project. Good.
1 point for “excellent” work in French. Bien.

And 2 points for calmly capturing and removing a decent-sized Cape Skink (Trachylepis capensis) while all around him in his History class were losing their heads. Awesome.

I’m happy to say that my kids have no issues with any of the harmless local wildlife:

…and (equally importantly) a healthy respect for the dangerous stuff.

There’s more to schooling than just academic achievement, and I’m really proud that in a class of 20+ screaming kids (and 1 screaming teacher?), my boy was the one who kept his cool and helped out. And saved the skink, as well.

Nice work.

Skink

I went to pick up the boy from school today. It was while I was waiting, perched on a drystone wall in the car park that I realised I wasn’t alone.

There were other people also waiting for children in the car park.

But no, I mean that I had a skink sitting next to me.

Without moving too much, I swiped my Xperia phone on to camera mode, surreptitiously pointed – and shot.

skink

Considering the clandestine and hurried nature of the photographing process, I think I did alright. A second shot was impossible, as the camera shy fellow had retreated into deeper bush. That advice to “get a shot first, then get a good shot if you can” when it comes to wildlife, still remains good and true.

Then I uploaded the image to my Instagram.

I’m no expert on skinky things, so I consulted Google and found out that, brilliantly, the animal I had seen was a… Cape Skink (Trachylepis capensis). Of course it was:

Cape skinks are common, gentle creatures that hunt large insects. Sometimes they dig in loose sand around the base of bushes or boulders, and they also favor dead trees and old aloe stems. These useful creatures tame easily (with a tendency to become obese), and would be much more common in gardens if they were not hunted by domestic cats. You can find them in gardens, strategically positioned in the sun, from where they catch their preferred prey, such as beetles, flies and grasshoppers. They are completely harmless and shed their tails when they feel threatened.

Frankly, I’m getting fed up of the apparent laziness shown by early biological taxonomists when exploring this region. All they seem to have done was to find local species which resembled a previously known and classified organism, and then added “Cape” to the original name.
The list runs through plants, mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and trees and is near infinite:

Cape Cobra, Cape Sparrow, Cape Gull, Cape Olive, Cape Skink, Cape Cormorant, Cape Gorse, Cape Clawless Otter, Cape Hare, Cape Wagtail, Cape Fox, Cape Sole, Cape Rain Frog, Cape Gannet, Cape Buffalo… I could go on.

“Hey Steve! I’ve found a snake in this sand.”
“Is it one we’ve seen before?
“Nope.”
“Call it the ‘Cape Sand Snake’ then. Pub?”
“Pub.”

*sigh* It’s too late to do anything about it now.

I quite like my Cape Skink. I shall call him ‘Kinky’, because ‘Fluffy’ doesn’t seem to fit.