Hey everyone! Sorry for disappearing over the last couple of weeks and neglecting the blog. Repeated changes in location, lack of access to internet and lots of work have kept me busy, but communicating with all of you is important and I’ll try to do a better job in the weeks leading up to my return to Canada.
This week, following the amazing idea of my fellow volunteer Mark Abbott, currently with the EWB team in Ghana, I will be exchanging questions and answers about Burkina Faso and Africa with Audrey Paquette’s class of grade 1 students. Every Monday, Audrey will explore some aspects of Africa with the kids, who will then send the questions my way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer them! (Note that the answers are written specifically with the students in mind, but that they will hopefully be interesting for anyone!)
Here are this week’s questions:
Akshay’s question: What do elephants eat?
Annabelle’s question: How do animals get washed?
Maude’s question: How do Zebras lay babies?
Rakesh’s question: How do elephants lay eggs?
Thank you so much for your questions, Akshay, Annabelle, Maude and Rakesh! Believe it or not, I have not seen a single elephant or zebra since arriving in Burkina Faso almost three months ago! Africa is a really big continent. Just like in Quebec, where we don’t have the rattlesnakes that exist in some parts of the United States, the animals that live in one country are not always the same as in another country. That’s why, in Burkina Faso, there are no zebras!
As for elephants, most of the time I am in the big city. Here, you are probably as likely to see an elephant as you are to see a bear in Montreal! however, there are still a lot more animals going around in the city than you will find at home, but you might be surprised to find out that they are animals you probably know: I see chicken, oxen, lamb, goats and donkeys almost every day on my way to work, often in the middle of the street or in people’s yards. I am still hoping that I will get the chance to see some elephants while I’m here. If I do, I’ll be sure to send you some pictures.
Even though I haven’t seen them myself, I looked around to answer your questions. Here is what I found out!
What do elephants eat?
Elephants are herbivores, which means that they eat plants. They can eat many different things, like bark, leaves, fruits and shrubs and also sometimes grasses and herbs. However, exactly what an elephant eats depends on where it lives and the season. For example, in Burkina Faso, just like in Canada, there are seasons, except they aren’t the same ones. Instead, here we speak of the rainy season, during which it rains every other day, and the dry season, during which there is almost no rain at all.
Right now it is the rainy season, so there are a lot of plants and everything is very green. I haven’t seen the dry season myself, but I am told that soon everything will start being dryer and dryer, as well as hotter and hotter. Since elephants can eat up to 270 kilograms a day, roughly the weight of three adult humans, I’m a little worried they’ll have enough to eat!
How do elephants lay eggs?
Elephants are mammals, just like humans, dogs, cows, donkeys and many other animals. That means that instead of laying eggs, like reptiles or birds would, the female gives birth to live babies. For elephants, the pregnancy lasts 22 months, more than twice as long as for humans. Even right when it is born, the elephant calf weighs about 115 kg, already more than an average human adult!
There are many animals in Burkina Faso that do lay eggs. For example, snakes are common, and aren’t too difficult to find if you leave the city. I’ve been told not to whistle when outside at night, or they will come to get me. I don’t know if it’s true, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it. For now, I have some Burkinabe friends who have come across big boas and even eaten them, but I haven’t personally seen a single snake. I guess that makes me really lucky or really unlucky depending on your point of view!
What I have seen are little lizards everywhere. Often, they even come inside the house, like this one!
How do zebras lay babies?
Like elephants, zebras are also mammals that give birth to live young. What this means is that the baby develops in its mother’s belly until it is ready to come out into the world. When it does, it already looks like a zebra, except for one thing: it is brown and white instead of black and white!
Zebras live more in eastern and southern Africa and can’t be found in Burkina Faso. Here, I’ve seen the zebra’s cousin that you are all familiar with: the horse! Horses tend to be much smaller here than those we have in Canada. Much more common than horses, however, are donkeys. Whether it be in the city or in a village, you can hardly go a day without seeing a donkey here!
How do animals get washed?
Different animals clean themselves in different ways. If some of you have pets, you may have noticed that dogs tend to be given baths while cats often get clean by licking themselves. Of course, a human’s idea of clean and an animal’s idea of clean might be different, so we tend to give our cats baths as well.
In the wild, many animals take baths of their own. Elephants, in particular, can use their trunks to spray water on themselves. When swimming, they can even use their trunks as a snorkel! When elephants are done bathing though, they do something that humans might find pretty weird: they put mud on themselves! This is actually to protect them from the sun, kind of like a sunscreen. Like I said, a human’s idea of clean and an animal’s idea of clean might be very different!
Once again, thank you all so much for your questions! I hope you will have a ton more this week and that I can answer them for you. Have fun!