The Wits university grounds are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. An extraordinary group of these animals are well-known and loved by students, staff and even visitors alike. Meet the cool and calm Iguana, the close-knit family of ducks, the vibrant bands of Koi fish and the gangs of feral cats on campus.
Behind the Oppenheimer Life Sciences (OLS) building lies a large cage decorated with shrubbery and logs. It is home to Kermit the Iguana. He’s a slow-moving reptile that enjoys eating spinach and insects almost as much as he enjoys lazing in the sun.
The dam on West Campus is home to a curious swarm of ducks. The three young ducks waddle and follow their mother all day in and around the water foraging for food, while their father watches from a distance.
One of the students who feeds the ducks bread rolls on a weekly basis, said she had never seen the ducks being fed by anyone official.
“I took it upon myself to feed them,” said the MA student who comes by three times weekly.
The ducks coexist with the students who said they enjoyed having the ducks around.
The cool and colourful Koi fish at Med school campus are celebrity performers who aren’t afraid of any paparazzi.
Rochelle Keene of the Adler museum was delighted at the effect the fish have in creating a “relaxed and ecofriendly ambiance” in a concrete space like Med school.
Keene said on cooler afternoons the fish come to the surface and backflip out of the water.
“Students, staff and visitors love to watch them, a tranquil treat at the end of a tough day for anybody”.
The fish were certainly not shy of the Vuvuzela camera and surfaced for close-up shots.
Since 2006, the Adler museum staff have taken responsibility for the school of fish. Starting with only three the pond now hosts over 30 fish.
Staff David Sekgwele and Gilbert Singo feed the fish during the week, while the security guards do so during the weekends.
Sekgwele told Vuvuzela of a cat that was reported to be terrorising the Med school pond at the beginning of the year. The cat was reported to come in the evening and wait for the fish to start with their out-of-water theatrics to catch them.
“The cat is clever,” said Sekgwele but it has not been spotted for over a month now.
On the other hand, the proud packs of feral cats of main campus lackadaisically roam across the terrain stalking rats and insects. Although they look furry and cute, it is not advisable to approach them as they are wild and hiss hysterically when they feel threatened.
“The cats only let me touch them when I’m pouring the pellets into their bowls, after that – forget it!” said Constant Volschenk, interim manager of the Wits planetarium, who gladly feeds three every morning at 6h30 sharp.
The staff have been feeding the cats for six months now and say they have seen an improvement in solving the rat problem. Feeding the cats was a “health and safety issue” for the planetarium . The staff and primary school learners who would come to visit the planetarium would come into close contact with the rats”.
Wits Vuvuzela first reported on rats plaguing campus in 2012.
Volschneck says they feed the cats a small portion so they can still go out and hunt the rodents. But after soccer matches at the Bidvest Wits stadium, the cats don’t come for breakfast for up to three days. And, as the saying goes, when the cats are away, the rats come out play.
Whether domesticated or not, Wits animals have a special role to play in the micro ecosystem of Wits and an important social role for humans too.