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How to Survive in the Desert? Eat Poison.

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 20, 2013

Gemsbok in Namibia (Photo: Dana Allen/Wilderness Safaris)

Gemsbok in Namibia (Photo: Dana Allen/Wilderness Safaris)

The desert has never been an easy place to make a living. There’s not usually much rain, and the vegetation is sparse and runty. Yet, when I was traveling not long ago in the arid landscape of Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa, there was wildlife everywhere.

The animals seemed to have adapted to the desert in ways that flouted their very nature. One day, for instance, I watched as a giraffe spread out its front legs and canted its long neck down, not up, to browse on a stunted little thing known, unpromisingly, as the smelly shepherd’s tree.

Later, we stopped at one of the big clumps of milk bush that dot the landscape like haystacks in a Monet painting. The milk bush is actually a succulent, Euphorbia damarana, and it’s found only in this region.

Makumbi Swenyeho, a wildlife guide at Desert Rhino Camp, where I was staying, snapped open one of the pipe-like stems, which promptly bled a white latex liquid. It’s poisonous, he said, and effective enough that Bushmen hunters use it …  to read the rest of this story, click here.


2 Responses to “How to Survive in the Desert? Eat Poison.”

  1. Makumbi Swenyeho said

    This comment goes to Rechard Conniff. My name is Makumbi Swenyeho, your guide on your stay at Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia. Your stay at that camp remains a wonderful and memorable to me like it was yestarday.

    Thank you so much, first of all, for including me in your publication and for taking conservation at heart. I am really greatful that you took your time to document the information and knowledge you got from Namibia. Secondly, I would love to encourage you to keep on educating and informing the world on the importance of conservation.


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