One of my current works in progress is a humorous middle grade animal adventure trilogy for 8-11 year-olds concerning the exploits of a band of rock dassies and their journeys to the unknown ‘World Far, Far Below’. Although the books are set in an imaginary world, they are inspired by the dassies who live on Table Mountain in South Africa.
Rock dassies (aka rock hyrax) are small, brownish, greyish mammals (approx. 50cm long) found in Africa and the Middle East. They have long, dark whiskers, sticky-out ears and no tail and are similar-looking to a big guinea pig. However, unlike guinea pigs, they’re not rodents. Their nearest relative is the elephant and dassies have two tusk-like upper teeth, one on either side of their mouth. Their average lifespan is ten years and they live on rock outcrops, in colonies, where they enjoy lazing in the sun and not venturing far. They have special moist pads on the soles of their feet which help them to climb steep, rocky slopes. Dassies feed on vegetation, including grasses and shrubs, and are able to eat aromatic plants that are toxic to other animals.