Have you heard of Lesotho?

Drawing by Louise du Toit

In southern Africa, completely surrounded by South Africa, lies the enclaved, landlocked country of the Kingdom of Lesotho. This beautiful nation is home to 339 known bird species, of which 10 are globally threatened and 2 are introduced; 17 reptile species, including geckos, snakes and lizards; and 60 endemic mammal species, including the endangered white-tailed rat.

This story poem is the third in my educational series about wildlife, focusing on introducing its readers to a wealth of magnificent creatures from different countries and locations. The mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and insects mentioned in my poem are all part of the fauna of Lesotho. As an emphasis, I have used capital letters and an oblique style for all the animal terms.

Have you heard of Lesotho?

Have you heard of the Kingdom of Lesotho? It’s a beautiful landlocked land.

Where there once lived a poor Transvaal Lion, who wanted a baby grand.

He was a bursary piano student, of the great Cape Porcupine;

Whose tutor was a golden Caracal; and a concert pianist divine.

He wrote to a Speckle-throated Otter, who co-owned a music hall,

With a haughty smallish Spotted Skaapsteker and an Aardwolf, who stood tall.

They told him about a Secretary Bird, who had a grand piano for sale,

Since she would move to Botswana with a Long-tailed Widowbird, who often flaunted his tail.

The lion took a trip with a fat Vlei Rat and a tiny Hottentot Golden Mole;

And a grey Blue Duiker, and a Brown Hyena, and a Highveld Gerbil, who lived in a hole.

Along came a Rinkhals and a Namaqua Rock Rat; and a baritone, a big Cape Baboon;

And an African Spoonbill, an aspiring coloratura, who mostly sang out of tune.

A herd of Hartebeest heard about the journey and decided to join the crowd;

They were members of a choir, conducted by an Orange Mouse, who always counted out loud.

Their manager, a stubborn Hamerkop, offered the lion a position as their repetiteur;

He promptly invited him to a dinner with a Mudfish, who was a respected connoisseur.

On the seventh day of their lengthy journey, the tired travellers realized they were lost;

So the clever Kori Bustard took out his compass, keeping his three toes crossed.

He pointed to the south, to the Malibamatso River, but the Hoopoe disagreed;

So she ascended a hill, with a big Machacha Brown, and a fiery Red-headed Centipede.

A wide-awake Cape Griffon lived on the top, on a cliff that was high and steep,

But his neighbours, a Shikra and an African Goshawk, were both very much asleep.

He told them to follow the river and to find the rare White-tailed Rat,

Who had a sight-seeing business with a Rufus Rockjumper, a Barn Owl, and a canny Wildcat.

So off went the company of travellers, ever growing in numbers in a wink;

For along came a Bontebok, a Cape Hare and a Hyrax, a Fairy Flycatcher and a Montane Speckled Skink.

After many days of walking steadfastly, they found a blue Village Indigobird,

Who was a famous playwright in Lesotho, an icon of the theatre of the absurd.

Overnight they created a spectacular show, on a rock in a dry riverbed,

And the lead part was played by a quirky Bokmakierie, who portrayed a plump pudding head.

A Karoo Scrub Robin composed an avant-garde song, which the coloratura sang;

While a Burchell’s Zebra played the preposterous part of a peculiar striped mustang.

And the creatures of Lesotho came from everywhere, to watch the grotesque cabaret;

Among them the much-wanted Secretary Bird, who heard the music from far away.

She arrived in a truck, with a smart Southern Boubou, and a Sundevall’s Shovel-snout;

And a Sharp-toothed Catfish, her charming chauffeur; and her butler, a rescued Rainbow Trout.

She was deeply moved, when she heard about the lion, who wanted to buy her baby grand;

So she made him a gift, presented by a Moggel, without a transaction or demand.

An African Leopard and ten hefty Black Wildebeest unloaded the piano from her truck,

And the Transvaal Lion gaily played until the dawn, for he could not believe his luck.

Drawing by Louise du Toit