Volunteer Diaries
March 4, 2013

Volunteer blog: The Adventure of Charlie the Dung Beetle

An educational African story for children

Hi, I would like to share my adventure with you, so let me introduce myself. I am Charlie the dung beetle, you may know about me and my friends as we are pretty important here at Tembe Elephant Park.We are proudly associated with those enormous, magnificent beasts the elephants. You see they, being so big, eat a lot of food every day, and a lot of food produces a lot of dung. That is where we come in, we remove it, make use of it and bury it.My mate Charlotte and I are ball rollers, we make round balls with the elephant dung and roll them away. Some of our kind bury the dung directly under the pile where it has been dropped. In fact, there are 780 types of dung beetle just in South Africa – impressive eh!

Tembe Elephant park dung beetle sign

Today started as a pretty normal day, the dawn chorus, the mist hanging in the air, the sun rising and burning through, and then work began as we sensed some fresh elephant dung. Charlotte and I flew in and we were working on our ball when we heard a big metal beast rattling along the road. They are usually pretty good at avoiding squashing us or the dung, you see we are so important there are road signs with our picture on, a reminder that we have right of way.The metal beast stopped along-side us, they do that sometimes and peer into our world with fascination. But then, to my surprise we were lifted, with the dung, into the air. A weird sensation to go up without flying. We were placed in the back of the metal beast and off we went.Some minutes passed, rather bumpy minutes, but we were able to continue with our work. We arrived at a camp and amid a lot of excitement were gently lowered and placed on the sandy ground, and so our work continued.

Photographing dung beetles

We had an audience who were marveling at our hard work as they filmed and photographed us. I felt like quite a celebrity. Then came decision time, where to bury our ball. We rolled it and rolled it, I’m pretty nifty when I get going with Charlotte perched on top of the ball. Thought I’d found a good spot, but when the ball was nearly buried we hit hard ground. Never mind Charlotte, here we go again. That’s better, some nice deeper sand just off the track where we came into camp. Work done. Then, what’s that, the rumbling of a big metal beast and the ground is shaking and help, right over the top of us.Phew! Good job we had buried our ball deep enough. Not such a good spot after all. Come on Charlotte, here we go again. At last, really think we have found a nice, quiet spot. Charlotte has laid her egg in the dung ball which is neatly buried and we are hoping for a well-earned rest. Goodnight.

Written by Sarah Scott