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The Living Edens
 
a picture of Jackass Penguins
Afternoons in Namib are grueling. Wind and heat burn the desert surface, setting most animals crawling for the relative cool of any available shade, or burying deep into the sand.

Along the Namib's beaches, fur seals and their young lie along the sand and rocks in reach of the ocean's cooling spray. Jackass penguins plunge headfirst into the sea to clean the dirt from their plumage, while pelicans and other seabirds mine the shallows for fish. Africa's more traditional predators, jackals and hyenas, make their way to the seashore to prey on fur seal young. The ocean here, which teems with life, is the key to survival for creatures of the Namib shore.

   
a picture of fursealsFur Seal
Beginning in mid-October, legions of fur seals migrate to the Namib coast to breed and mate. Bull males, some of whom weigh over 700 lbs., arrive several weeks before the females to fight for prized seafront territory -- areas of the beach closest to the cool, soothing ocean spray. Females land on the Namib beaches ripe with fruits of last year's mating, and within a month, they give birth, peppering the beaches with small black pups.

Inside of six days, the new mothers will be mating with the hungrily awaiting males, and the breeding process will begin again.

a picture of JackalsJackals
While the Namib presents fierce obstacles to most wildlife, perhaps no animal fills its niche here better than the jackal. Slightly built, able to range over nearly 200 miles, the jackal eats nearly everything the Namib has to offer. In the dunes, jackals feed on insects, golden moles, ground birds, and the carcasses of larger creatures. Come autumn, jackals head for the beaches of the Namib, where they dine on placental fur seal afterbirths and the weaker pups.

a picture of a brown hyena in the desertBrown Hyena
With its arched back, sharp, pointed ears, and shaggy hair, the brown hyena is the picture of a sinister scavenger. True to form, the hyena prefers feeding on carcasses of large dead animals to killing its own prey. But when presented with easy prey -- a weak or isolated fur seal pup, for example -- the hyena will not hesitate to attack. Moreover, when food becomes scarce, brown hyenas will settle for a diet of small mammals or birds, or even fruit.

a picture of Jackass penguins...making a you know what of
themselves !Seabirds
Heavy fishing off the Namib coast has led to a decline the fish population, and consequently, a drop in the region's seabird population. Still, at least 150 bird species persist in the area, including flamingos, pelicans, and terns.

Jackass penguins, found nowhere else on Earth, inhabit several islands just off the Namib coast. Of the many bird species in Namib, perhaps none has been as dramatically detrimented by commerical fishing as the jackass penguin. The population has dropped nearly 90% since 1930, when it numbered over 1,000,000.

The jackass leads a bizarre symbiotic relationship with another Namibian bird species, the cape cormorant. Cormorant droppings, guano, accumulate into hard layers that over time can be several feet thick. The excrement, in turn, provides jackass penguins with a home -- the flightless creatures burrow into the guano to make their nests and rear their young.

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