Picture advice

So on Friday my wife gave me a slightly delayed birthday present – a very nice set of original drawings of three mammal species. Probably the perfect birthday present for a mammal watcher you would say. Excellent, I thought, and opened up the picture only to discover that the three mammals were all nemesis species for me that I’ve been trying to see, unsuccessfully, for over 30 years; the Striped weasel, Ground pangolin and Abbott’s duiker. Hours of my time and thousands of miles on the road have been spent looking for these animals, to no avail. The only comment from my wife was an airy ‘I thought you might like them’ statement.

Not sure what to make of it all. Do I sit and weep into my cornflakes, use it as inspiration to try even harder to nail the darned things, or conclude that I’ll probably never see them, hang it up in my office, and take up knitting as a hobby instead? I’m throwing it out to my fellow mammal watching enthusiasts for advice and comment.



  • machunter

    So knowing how sweet Lara is I am sure she never intended you to be tormented by these drawings. But solace or inspiration? I think that is up to both you and stochastic fate. I predict that in the end (when you have hung up your spotlight for the last time) you will have seen some but not all of these species and thus both words will apply…..mac

    • Charles Foley

      I suspect you’re right about the intentions having been good. Lara had probably heard me waffling on about these three species for so long that she thought I might actually enjoy a picture of them. The problem with stochastic fate is that its, well, stochastic, whereas I’d like a little more certainty in this endeavour, particularly when I do yet another 1000 miles round trip to look for the beasts.

  • Jon Hall

    Ha ha … has Lara also recently increased your life insurance policy perhaps … and added additional cover in case you are institutionalised? Or perhaps this is a subtle payback for not taking her to Sangha Lodge? …..clearly this dark cynicism means I have been living in New York for too long.

    Charles you have seen a Pygmy Hippo. And you have a thermal scope. These three species are well within your grasp. You can pin your own photos of them next to the artwork as you nail each of them this year. It could be just like Uma Therman’s hit list in Kill Bill….with less blood, but more sweat and tears.

    • Charles

      Yes you clearly need to get out of NY Jon. I hadn’t even thought to check my life insurance coverage..

      I suspect you are right that the species are within my grasp, but the question is, can I see them and still retain: a) a job, b) a wife, and c) enough funds to keep me mildly sozzled through my retirement? The Uma Therma idea’s a good one though; or at least the sword is, so I can use it on the next tourist I meet in Tarangire who says ‘Yeah, we saw this scaly thing crossing the road and the driver got really excited and wanted to watch it, but we asked him to move on because we wanted to see lions….’

  • Charles Hood

    Yes Jon Hall is right. In posh art galleries, when a picture on display has been sold, they put a little red circle next to it on the wall. I think as you see these nemesis beasts, you add a colored dot beside each image, maybe one with these words printed on it in tiny letters: “Done at last!” (Or, “Got you, f —- er”.) One of the interesting things about this site is the fact that sooner or later most of us really DO see everything on the list. Can we all remember growing up, when seeing a snow leopard was the most exotic possible fantasy imaginable? It just never happened. You could dream about it, but there was no system in place to make it happen. Even jaguars were impossible (or so it seemed). And by definition, all of us have things we have tried for and missed, often multiple times. If you count in just random hiking and camping, I now have missed western spotted skunk over 1,000 times. Yet Phil Telfer saw them two nights in a row at Pt Reyes north of San Francisco on his first trip. (Of course he got two pangolin species in Ghana, so obviously he and God have some kind of private arrangement.) Lovely art work — maybe instead of the “finally done” sticker, as you see each one, you cross it out with a big black X.

    Charles Hood, Palmdale CA

    • Charles

      Yes you’re very right about sightings of ‘impossible’ species becoming commonplace now that people know where and how to look. I remember a Nat Geo photographer spent 2 years trying to photograph a jaguar and never actually got a picture himself. That was only 15 years ago and now they’re almost guaranteed if you go to the right spot. Ok I’ll soldier on. But 1000 trips with no spotted skunk. Wow. Maybe I should stop bleating. I guess you’ve crossed Phil off your Christmas card list.

  • Paul Carter

    Hi Charles; all pretty shocking and it sounds like some therapy is needed. A few minutes of online research should get you to a therapist specialising in spouses of bird- and mammal-watchers.

    • Charles Foley

      I think you’re opening a can of worms there Paul, suggesting its our spouses that may need the therapy. I don’t think I’ll mention that idea to the missus…

      • Paul Carter

        You are right on that. In my case it would be me needing the therapy (if I believed in it) as when I come home sweat-drenched and with unusual insect bites and my missus asks me why I do this I still do not have an adequate answer; some primal urge I guess …

  • Vladimir Dinets

    My compliments to your wife, she’s a genius. Such a perfect gift selection! Having pictures of species you’ve already seen would just make you sit in a rocking chair next to your wall of fame, bragging endlessly about the glorious days of your youth and getting fat and moldy. But now you’ll start every day looking at something you still have to achieve, so you’ll have no choice but to remain young and sharp and vigorous and motivated. Brilliant.

  • phil telfer

    Hi Charles, i reckon you’ll get the Pangolin, might want to make a start on the knitting after that though. Happy birthday BTW.
    Also i may have been mega lucky with those WS Skunks ( sorry Charles H. ) but it ran out with the Pygmy Hippo as you know.

    Anyway, keep trying obviously and maybe look to some therapy as PC suggests. Phil.

Leave a Reply