From Congo to the Cape: "Africa" visits the Cape tonight

Anissa Ford's picture

The Discovery Channel's "Africa" visited the Congo last week. Each "Africa" episode visits a different section of the African continent.

Each episode explores and explains the landscape of each region and how environment plays a big role in shaping the ideologies and behavior of its inhabitants.

So it comes as little surprise that the Congo is a dangerous place. Americans typically think of Brazil and the Amazon when they think of a jungle forest. But the Congo jungle is a rain forest half the size of America. The jungle is "heaven and hell rolled into one" because the jungle is a place that requires its inhabitants to work especially hard for food and sunlight. And once the inhabitants get the food and sunlight they need, there's no guarantee a larger animal, or a foot of rain will drive teh animal off and leave it seriously out of luck.

Cape Episode, click here.

Not only are insects, amphibians, and mammals fighting for its livelihood in the jungle forest. Trees, the very green vegetation that comprise the Congo's dense landscape filled with "vines and thorns" , also compete with other's space for sunlight. Trees grow as tall as 150 feet in a decade. The suggestion is that the highest climbing trees have sprouted so high and so fast because it's in competition with the sun.

The Congo is not only a crowded place, but it's one of the most violent places on the continent. There are violent thunderstorms, as many as 100 million lightening bolts strike the forest a year. That's enough electricity to power the United States twice over. After the storms and lightening comes the water. This is great afor the amphibians of the forest, particularly frogs.

Viewers who aren't interested in the life of amphibians, like frogs, or reptiles, like pregnant pythons, may cringe at the Congo episode of "Africa." The narrator spends a good deal of time with a 15 foot python that, like other jungle plants, seeks some sunlight to warm its body so that warm body can keep her eggs warm. Once the eggs hatch, the new baby python snakes are virtually on its own. The new baby pythons go and search for their own food,

It's a tough sell to engage audiences to sympathize with an animal as unattractive as the python. Like other animals in the African landscape, female snakes protect their babies for a little while (approximately two days). That's just enough time for the animals to get a little stronger and go out hunting on their own. Their biggest natural enemy, of course, is other snakes.

Still concerned with slimy unattractive animals of the Congo, the episode visits frogs who welcome the rain as a call to mate. Cameras follow the tiny amphibian as it climbs to the top of a leafy tree to serenade a female frog. As the frog quests for the highest spot on a tree, it gets into a kickboxing match with another frog that wants to do mingle and find its perfect mate.

The entire purpose of the Congo episode is that animals in the forest certainly enjoy a beautiful landscape and exquisite scenery, particularly seaside. But their lives inside of the thick vegetation is a very tough existence where boatloads of work can be swiped away in seconds by a much larger animals.

The Congo episode opens with chimpanzees scouting for honey that bees have kept hidden for more over a year. The chimps climb great heights for the honey that took years to save. There are also elephants in the mood for mating and a very graphic episode of a male bull elephant sexually overtaking a female animal. The female elephants don't get pregnant but once every two years.

By the end of the episode, bull elephants, hippos and colorful birds have gathered on the beach. After the tremendous rains, the falls are full and the jungle has been rearranged. The Congo's jungle forest would keep growing and growing if it weren't for the massive Atlantic Ocean that prohibits the develpment of more land. As beautiful as the shoreline is, the forest is only several feet away.

The most amazing aspect of the beautiful views and oceanside breezes is that the animals gather at the beach to play in the water and enjoy salty ocean water either by wading in the Atlantic, or snacking from the trees that have been moistened by the ocean.

Tonight the "Africa" series visits the Cape where the lands inhabitants are quite competitive. The land and its inhabitants will likely resemble the Cape's long history of apartheid. And even if the landscape and wildlife aren't really reflections of apartheid, it's a good chance producers will draw parallels between two warring races with a book sold and waiting for distribution.


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