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Easter 2013: exotic megafauna

For as long as I can recall, the Salcombe Harbour Guide has had a two-page spread on the megafauna which one can see in the Harbour. Well, that’s what it says: but I’ve been out and about in the Harbour for at least 10 years and haven’t seen dolphins, let alone killer whales. They can’t be all that common.

This year has, however, been better. I’ve seen a seal, a few turtles and a crocodile. Let’s deal with the seal first. He is a friendly soul and we meet from time to time off Halwell Point. Last time we saw him was at Christmas, keeping an eye on what was happening and responding inquisitively to my whistling. One calm, clear, sunny, blue skied November afternoon he followed us for almost half an hour as we rowed up Frogmore Creek. My feeling is that he’s not too keen on motor boats and most sailing boats probably go too fast for him; but he finds the steady pace of a rowing scull conducive and likes to pop up on different sides to take a closer look. I believe he’s been around Frogmore for some years. In my experience, he’s there more in the winter, and very sensible that is too: it’s calmer and much warmer than bobbing about in the freezing English Channel.

Calmness and warmth is what both the turtles and the crocodile were experiencing too: but perhaps I ought to make it clear – in case you doubted it – this was not in Devon. The crocodile was in the Panama Canal and the turtles in the Caribbean and the Pacific. I like turtles and have been to a conservation scheme for them just north of Salvador in Brazil. It is wonderful that people will expend quite a lot of time, energy and resources saving and nurturing sea turtles. They are a lovely element of the eco-system.

I’m not so sure about crocodiles and even less sure whether I would be delighted to have many lying around Salcombe Harbour. There are one or two things one has to watch out for with crocodiles: a book about scientific experiments with living animals contained what I am sure is extremely good advice namely, when handling crocodiles, it is very important to be careful about their teeth. Always remember that.

But they are useful animals. I have an excellent crocodile belt which I bought from a crocodile farm near Mombassa and I remember a delicious dish of lightly grilled crocodile which we ate at the farm’s restaurant. And here’s another valuable nugget of information: in Lent this year the Most Revd Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, clarified the position over whether it was acceptable to eat alligators in Lent (I am sure the same applies to crocodiles: alligators are regarded as crocodilian in all the best circles). The answer, which must have been keenly awaited in New Orleans, was that you can indeed eat alligators in Lent as alligators count as fish.

That, I think, would surprise the writers of Salcombe Harbour Guide but perhaps this is an issue which will raise itself even less frequently than the appearance of killer whales in the Harbour. In the meantime I will continue to commune with my friendly seal.

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