Giraffes in the Gondwana Namib Park enjoying their favourite food: the leaves of camel thorn trees.
Southern Namibia in 1760: “Which animal, even though not quite as big as an elephant, is of a rather tall body and also because of the long neck, humped back and high legs is a type of camel, albeit not the proper one”? With these words, written in 1760, a European describes the first giraffe he ever saw and obviously couldn’t quite place among the animals he knew. The Afrikaans word for giraffe is kameelperd – which literally means camel horse – and is probably based on this description.
Giraffes at the Gondwana Kalahari Park. Photo : Judy and Scott Hurd
The European in question was Jacobus Coetsé Jansz, of Dutch descent, who lived at Piketberg Mountain in the Western Cape. Elephant hunting had brought him into today’s Namibia. It is quite likely that he was the first European to cross the Orange River from the south. Coetsé shot two adult giraffe after chasing them on horseback. Both were females, one with a calf which he wanted to take home with him. He fed rolls soaked in water to the young animal.
GIraffe hiding in the Camelthorn tree. Photo : Olga Nesterenko
It died after two weeks.Coetsé then skinned it and brought the skin back to the Cape. Back in the Cape he not only talked about this strange new camel but also about other interesting discoveries, among them this tree: “(…) the core and the innermost wood are of an extremely beautiful red colour, and the branches bear large cloverleaves and yellow flowers as well as a pod-type fruit.” The flowers and leaves from the crown of these trees are the preferred food of the kameelperd. Thus the tree’s name: camel thorn, or kameeldoring boom in Afrikaans. When giraffe are grazing on camel thorn trees the formidable thorns rarely get in the way.
The tongue of a giraffe can be up to 50 cm long. Photo: Janika Stoldt
They browse by wrapping their tongue, which is up to 50 cm long, around a twig and then draw back the head to strip off the leaves. Since they have to graze very carefully, giraffe need almost 20 hours to complete their food-intake of 30 kg per day.
They have been there since time immemorial, in many parts of Namibia: piles of stones, usually next to ancient paths and passes or sometimes in the vicinity of waterholes. Among the Nama they were known as Haitsi Aibeb (the grave of Haiseb, a deity) and held in great respect.
Travellers who came across a Haitsi Aibeb added a stone, a stick or a twig and occasionally a few drops of water or diluted honey, some venison or tobacco. They then knelt down and said a prayer. Those on a longer journey asked for a favourable course or good hunting. Upon leaving the site they were not allowed to look back. This was a general rule when leaving an extraordinary place. Refusal to show deference towards Haitsi Aibeb was equal to provoking misfortune or an accident.
According to the belief of the Nama, Damara and several San (Bushmen) peoples, Haiseb was a deity who lived in primeval times. Haiseb the bull calf was born after his mother, a cow, had eaten some magic grass. He was known for singing wondrous songs out of bushes and trees. Thus he was referred to as Haiseb, which means “he who is like a tree”.
He saved the world from a monster called ╪Gâ╪gōrib, or Plunge-into-the-Hole, which had caught many a traveller in its pit. According to oral tradition the demon sat beside his pit and mocked anyone who passed. He challenged passersby to throw a stone at him. Usually they could not resist the temptation. But the stone always bounced off ╪Gâ╪gōrib, hit the person who had thrown it and catapulted him into the pit. There the monster pounced on his victim and devoured him. Only resourceful Haiseb managed to overpower ╪Gâ╪gōrib. However it is unclear exactly how he did this.
The sun, the moon and the stars rose from Haiseb’s breast. He died several times and arose again – supposedly always in a different shape. This might explain why his graves can be found in many places in Namibia and why scientists have not as yet unearthed any mortal remains beneath the piles.
After an attempt to murder him, Haiseb sorted out the animal world. The story goes that he removed fish from the desert and stopped lions from nesting in trees. The world evolved as we know it today. Haiseb disappeared from earth and his presence was reduced to that of an invisible deity.
So if you ever come across a Haitsi Aibeb, don’t forget to show your respect. And whatever you do, do not look back!
How Gondwana Collection Namibia raises awareness for cancer
As you walk in through the big gate at the Gondwana Travel Center, you can already sense that today is not an ordinary day at the Gondwana head office. If the security wearing his pink badge did not give it away, the lady with the huge pink afro will: It is Cancer Awareness day at the Gondwana Travel Centre and man and woman is wearing their pink with pride!
Iroleen in her creative pink look.
Nurse Christolina Kavetuna from the Cancer Association of Namibia visited us today to give a speech on the most common forms of cancer in Namibia, their warning signs and some of the causes of cancer.
The Gondwana Travel Centre staff listening to Nurse Christie
WHAT DOES THE CANCER ASSOCIATION DO?
It is imperative to understand that a shocking average of 3 000 Namibians are diagnosed with cancer on average annually. The Cancer Association has it as its mission to make contact with as many of these patients and try to assist to the best of our abilities where possible.
“We have a very hands-on approach and policy when assistance is requested by patients,” says CAN CEO, Rolf Hansen.
The Association tries to provide to as many persons as possible in striving to attain its objectives. This is done, amongst other projects and initiatives, through various media campaigns, school and community visits and projects hosted by the Association.
The main focus of the Cancer Association of Namibia is to create awareness, educate and support the fight against cancer and cancer patients within the country. Besides providing personal support, they also provide financial support to cancer patients and loan them equipment where needed.
After information dispersal and education on prevention, rehabilitation and emotional support during the treatment period remains an ongoing daily task of the Association. This is primarily achieved through the Association’s “Reach for Recovery Namibia” (RFRN) project.
Reach for Recovery is internationally a recovery programme supported by breast cancer patients who extend a helping hand and network in the fight against breast cancer. The new Namibian version supports and encourages the traditional RFR programme, but expands its horizons with the Namibian arm, by allowing any Namibian who is dedicated and willing to help fight cancer and its effects in Namibia to become a volunteer “Reach for Recovery Namibia support member”. Training is conducted based on the new adapted manual and volunteers are grouped per region with a Team Leader, who helps to guide and support them.
Gerhard from HR introducing Nurse Christie
WHAT IS CANCER?
Cancer is an abnormal growth of the cells in the body. There are over 200 different types of cancer. Cancer can affect anyone – no race, age, gender or sex is immune to cancer and it is every Namibian’s responsibility to try and fight cancer together.
Nurse Christie explaining exactly what cancer cells are
COMMON FORMS OF CANCER IN NAMIBIA :
Kaposi Sarcoma / Blood Vessel cancer
Oral cavity cancer
The Gondwana Travel Centre staff thanking Nurse Christie for talking about cancer
WARNING SIGNS OF CANCER:
– Lump, swelling in body
– Change in bowel habits / bladder functions
– Unusual bleeding discharging
– Recent changes in moles / warts
– Persistent coughing
– Consistent weight loss
– Recurrent diarrhea
CAUSES OF CANCER:
– Lifestyle choices
o High sugary diets
o Lack of exercise
– Heritage (15% of cancer sicknesses are inherited)
The beautiful pinata that Iris conquered for us
If you would like to find out more about the Cancer Association of Namibia, feel free to visit their website www.can.org.na or email email@example.com
Or contact them telephonically via 061 237740 to find out more about what they do and how to support them.
We thank the Cancer Association of Namibia for their support and we thank Nurse Christolina Kavetuna for coming to the Gondwana Travel Centre and teaching us about cancer.