On our 2nd day in South Africa, we visited “The Cradle of Humankind.” We arrived later in the day than we were hoping, so we had to choose between seeing the museum and fossils or going deep into the Sterkfontein Caves where the oldest hominid fossils have been discovered. We chose the caves. Mrs. Ples (short for Plesianthropus transvaalensis) was discovered there and is dated back 2.05 million years. Little Foot was also discovered there and is dated back 3.3 million years. He remains under excavation and has been categorized as quite unique. It is thought he may be a direct ancestor of humans. Interestingly, while we were there, we had to wear hardhats. Oliver is just about fed up with people mistaking him as a girl; but he doesn’t want to cut his hair. While wearing the hardhat, everyone knew he was a boy. So, I am thinking about getting him a baseball cap or something to help take away interest in his hair.
We got to visit The Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Center (a.k.a., the De Wildt Cheetah Research Center). What an incredible experience we had! All of the cheetahs there are rescued. Some are then kept for the De Wildt breeding program. Whenever possible, they reintroduce cheetahs into the wild. We got to see a few cheetahs run at top speed. We also had the opportunity to get up close and personal with one and to see others feed.
The center is also home to other rescued endangered animals. We saw beautiful blue cranes, white storks, and three different gorgeous vulture species. While there, we got to see the most dangerous mammal on earth — the honey badger. Oliver taught us about honey badgers last year when studying the world’s deadliest animals (that is when we also learned about the wandering spider, which we got to see in the Amazon). The center has an active breeding program for endangered wild dogs. We went in an open vehicle through a big wild dog enclosure and got to see how wild dogs hunt together as they circled and yipped at our truck, basically hunting us.
The center has a fundraising program that includes “adopting” an animal. Looks like we are destined to become the proud adoptive family of a cheetah and a blue crane!
When we went to the Apartheid Museum in JoBurg it was closed because there was no power. Thing is, they have these rolling power outages all over the country as a means to save power. There is too much demand and not enough supply. So, when we arrived at the museum, there was no power. We ended up hopping on the “Hop on, Hop off” tour of Johannesburg and got a good overview of the city. When we arrived back at the museum, there was power and we were able to see most of it. It is a magnificent museum. It very nicely gives the history of South Africa and apartheid. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize that Ghandi had spent so much of his life in South Africa. It was there that he began developing his philosophy of active, but peaceful, resistance to political injustice before moving back to India and making such great changes there.