Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's Time For Africa!

I just arrived in South Africa. My group arrives on Monday, but I came a few days early to do some lecturing, filming and procuring items for the museum. Today, I visited the Rhino & Lion Reserve, which is not exactly "the wild," but it's a great place for photography and filming. I had a close encounter with a very ugly and unusually inquisitive marabou stork:

Like all storks, marabou storks are predatory (and thus non-kosher), and they can be particularly aggressive, sometimes killing flamingos. I was somewhat nervous when this stork started poking his beak around my midsection. I realized that he was looking for food, and also water. So I turned on a nearby faucet, and he happily gulped the water down:

Here's a lucky shot that I took of a leopard yawning:

It was only after I transferred this photo to my laptop, and zoomed in, that I saw the most remarkable part of it. Once, I had my hand licked by a cheetah, and it was quite painful. Cats have sharp backward-facing spines on their tongue, called papillae, which they use for shredding meat from a carcass. The bigger the cat, the bigger the papillae. Zooming in on this yawning leopard shows the papillae very clearly:


Meanwhile, here's another picture that I took, of a lion cub tearing at some meat. Note his sharp claws protruding from their sheaths:

For the next two weeks, my posts are going to be light on the Rationalist Judaism and heavy on the wildlife!

(Thanks to Rabbi Gavin Michal for driving me around.)

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Amidst everything we do, we say Hashem, please help our soldiers bring our boys back home


  1. Good luck and enjoy your trip!
    Did Rabbi Gavin learn in shapells in the early 1990's?

  2. Looking forward to it (not that I mind the RJ, I like that too. but I love the animal ones :D

    -Avraham S.

  3. Your picture of the cub tearing at some meat awoke the memory of a question I've had for some time. Even Noachides are prohibited from eating the limb of a living creature, were there or perhaps are there cultures that do that and to such a degree that it needed to be singled out?

    1. It's not common but exists in some cultures.

      There used to be a very rare and expensive feast-dish in Ethiopia consisting of beef cut directly from the living cow. The custom was abandoned decades ago and was never practiced by Ethiopian Jews.

      Japanese and Korean cuisine includes fish cooked while still alive and frogs and shrimp partially cut up and served still living. Octopuses and squid are cut up alive and eaten, but this sometimes comes with its own consequences. Arms and tentacles can continue to act for quite a while. They even have their own small brains. A few people every year die when the limbs attach to the inside of the diners' throats. And one woman's mouth and throat were painfully inseminated when a still-active spermatophore tattooed her.

      Good for the octopus, says I

    2. A certain verypopulous east Asian culture boils live cats, dogs, rats, others, and eats them as a delicacy. Presumably, they aren't alive by then time they are out of the boiling pot, so i presume no "ever min ha- chai issues. For those who know about that ethnic group in canal. Street in Manhattan, i always suspect that is what is going on.

      Of course, arrival lounges in american airports (and supermarkets in the nyc area) serve live lobsters, then cook them to order, live.

      MiMedinat HaYam

    3. Anonymous, I'm not sure what "verypopulous east Asian culture[sic]" you're talking about. It's certainly not China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea or anywhere of which I'm aware in Southeast Asia. I've outlined the eating of live or parts cut live from seafood and frogs. The other I'm not aware of. When dog, rat, cat and so on are eaten they are killed, gutted and skinned before preparation.

      Ignorant amateurs sometimes cook lobsters live. Professional chefs do not. They kill them first by cutting through the head and severing the brain.

  4. Great! Looking forward to following you. Amazing shots!

  5. Thank you Dan, that was very helpful!

  6. It is a rare and beautiful privilege to see animals behaving normally in their natural environment. Dangerous situations occur when people start shouting, hooting, feeding hamburgers or throwing things at animals. I'm afraid that type of behavior happens more and more frequently in the world today. Thanks all. Best of luck.


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