D d

DDonkey    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  1. Domestic ass  2. colloquial stupid person

Our definition:  The donkey’s wild ancestor, the African Wild Ass, is well suited to life in a desert or semi-desert environment, having a tough digestive system which can break down desert vegetation and extract moisture from food efficiently.  They can also go without water for a fairly long time. Their large ears give them an excellent sense of hearing and help in cooling.  Because of the sparse vegetation in their environment wild asses live somewhat separated from each other (except for mothers and young), unlike the tightly grouped herds of wild horses. They have very loud voices, which can be heard for over 3 km (1.9 mi), which helps them to keep in contact with other asses over the wide spaces of the desert.

Mature males defend large territories around 23 square kilometres in size, marking them with dung heaps – an essential marker in the flat, monotonous terrain.  Due to the size of these ranges, the dominant male cannot exclude other males. Rather, intruders are tolerated—recognized and treated as subordinates, and kept as far away as possible from any of the resident females.

Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse.  However, their tendency is to not flee right away from a potentially dangerous situation, but to investigate first before deciding what to do.  When they need to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind legs.

Though the species itself is under no threat of extinction, due to abundant domestic stock, the two extant wild subspecies are both listed as critically endangered.  African wild asses have been captured for domestication for centuries, and this, along with interbreeding between wild and domestic animals, has caused a distinct decline in population numbers. There are now only a few hundred individuals left in the wild.  These animals are also hunted for food and for traditional medicine in both Ethiopia and Somalia.  Competition with domestic livestock for grazing, and restricted access to water supplies caused by agricultural developments, pose further threats to their survival.  The African wild ass is legally protected in the countries where it is currently found, although these measures often prove difficult to enforce.

There are more than 40 million ‘domesticated’ donkeys in the world, mostly in developing countries where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.

The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon works hard to transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships.  They work inclusively with people frequently marginalised within their own countries and communities, whether due to poverty, ignorance, race, gender or disabilities. They treat every interaction as a two-way opportunity to learn and to teach. “We know that it is only together that we can help donkey owners and carers become donkey welfare ambassadors wherever they live and work.”

Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, in love with them since childhood, made it her life’s mission to rescue abused, neglected and abandoned donkeys and founded The Donkey Sanctuary in 1969.  She said,

“To me they are the most beautiful, the most underrated animals in the world – and, as long as they need my help, they shall have it.”

Down²    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  1. Baby bird’s fluffy covering.  2. Bird’s under-plumage.          3. Fine, soft feathers or hairs.

Our definition:  For down-filled coats, pillows, duvets etc.,  feathers are violently ripped from live birds who, often left with bleeding wounds, are then stitched up with no anaesthetic.  Weeks later, when their feathers have grown back, they have to endure it again.  White geese, bred for meat, will be plucked three times before being slaughtered at twenty six weeks; grey geese, tortured daily for foie gras, will be plucked once or twice before being slaughtered at twelve weeks of age.

Whilst some down is from birds who have already been slaughtered, the price fetched by the softer down of live birds is almost twenty times higher.  High Street retailers say it is impossible to say whether down is ethically (huh!) sourced because the down from live birds is mixed with that from the dead and suppliers can’t be trusted.

Dredge¹    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  Apparatus used to collect oysters etc., or to clear mud etc., from bottom of sea etc.

Our definition:  Dredges are used for collecting molluscs such as mussels, scallops and oysters. There are two types of dredgers, mechanical and hydraulic. A mechanical dredge is a metal-framed mouth attached to a mesh bag made from metal chain-link. The dredge is dragged across the sea bed and metal teeth fixed to the mouth rake shellfish into the bag. Up to eight dredges may be towed at the same time.  An hydraulic dredge has nozzles attached to its mouth which pump sea water at high pressure on to the sea bed in front of the dredge to flush the shellfish out.

Drifter    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  2. Fishing boat with drift net.

Our definition:  A fishing boat which drags huge drift nets through the sea in order to catch a massive amount of fish in one catch.  Any fish that crosses the path of a drift net in the ocean may be tangled or caught in the net.  Non-target individuals caught in the net (by-catch) include sharks, dolphins, whales, turtles, sea birds and other marine mammals. Since nets are placed and may not be retrieved for days, air-breathing mammals that become tangled in the nets drown if they are unable to free themselves.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated global by-catch rates to be as high as 27 million tons of fish discarded by fisheries each year.  Drift nets lost or abandoned at sea due to storms causing strong currents, accidental loss, or purposeful discard become ghost nets.  Synthetic nets are resistant to rot or breakdown, therefore ghost nets fish indefinitely in the oceans.  Marine animals are easily tangled in ghost nets. The float line on the net allows it to be pushed in the current which causes ecological damage to plant life and substrate habitats as the nets drag the sea floor.

Dromedary    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  One-humped (esp Arabian) camel bred for riding.

Our definition:  Dromedaries are large, even-toed ungulates with one hump on their backs. Their diet includes foliage and desert vegetation, like thorny plants which their extremely tough mouths allow them to eat. These camels are active in the day, and rest together in groups. Led by a dominant male, each herd consists of about 20 individuals. Some males form bachelor groups. Dromedaries show no signs of territoriality, as herds often merge during calamities. Predators in the wild include wolves, lions, and tigers. Dromedaries use a wide set of vocalizations to communicate with each other. They have various adaptations to help them exist in their desert habitat. Dromedaries have bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes to protect their eyes, and can close their nostrils to face sandstorms. Their ears are also lined with protective hair.  They have specialized kidneys, which make them able to tolerate water loss of more than 30% of their body mass; a loss of 15% would prove fatal in most other animals.   They usually mate in winter, often overlapping the rainy season. Pregnancy results in one calf being born after the gestational period of 15 months, and he or she is nurtured for about two years.

Duck    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  1. Swimming bird esp. domesticated form of mallard or wild duck.  2. Female of this.  3. Its flesh as food.

Our definition:  1. Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of birds, which also includes swans and geese. The ducks are divided among several subfamilies in the Anatidae family; they do not represent a monophyletic group (the group of all descendants of a single common ancestral species) but a form taxon, since swans and geese are not considered ducks. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.

Ducks exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small molluscs.  Diving ducks and sea ducks forage deep underwater. To be able to submerge more easily, the diving ducks are heavier than dabbling ducks, and therefore have more difficulty taking off to fly.  Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water or on land, or as deep as they can reach by up-ending without completely submerging.  Along the edge of the beak there is a comb-like structure called a pecten. This strains the water squirting from the side of the beak and traps any food. The pecten is also used to preen feathers and to hold slippery food items.  A few specialized species such as the mergansers are adapted to catch and swallow large fish.  The others have the characteristic wide flat beak adapted to dredging-type jobs such as pulling up waterweed, pulling worms and small molluscs out of mud, searching for insect larvae, and bulk jobs such as dredging out, holding, turning head first, and swallowing a squirming frog. To avoid injury when digging into sediment it has no cere, but the nostrils come out through hard horn.

Some ducks form monogamous partnerships that last for years, others take a new partner each year.  Mother ducks are very caring and protective of their young unless forced to abandon one who gets trapped where she cannot reach him.  Females of most dabbling ducks make the classic “quack” sound, but most species of duck do not “quack”.  In general, ducks make a wide variety of calls, ranging from whistles, cooing, yodels and grunts.  Calls may be loud displaying calls or quieter contact calls.

3.  Duck meat:   Since ducks reach adulthood at about sixteen weeks of age, but are killed for their flesh when they are between six and eight weeks old, we are actually talking about ducklings.  The majority of commercial meat ducks reared in the UK are reared in indoor systems. Typically, several thousand birds are raised together within a building.  Ducks are given specially formulated diets and are provided with access to water for drinking. However, farmed ducks may not be given access to an open water source for bathing, or if they do have an open water source, this may not be suitable.  Some ducks, particularly Barbary ducks, may have the ends of their bills trimmed to try to reduce the risk of any damage to other birds caused by pecking.  However, the most commonly used breed of meat duck in the UK – the Pekin – is not beak trimmed.  Ducklings are slaughtered when they reach the desired weight of 3 to 3.5 kg, at six to eight weeks of age.


4 thoughts on “D d

  1. I was going to say: I have a bear bum (on the B page). Butt now I want to say I have a Wild African Ass. 😉 Is that inappropriate? 🙂 Sorry 😉 Very immature. That’s what I like to use dictionaries for. 🙂
    PS I do hate to use the Wild African A word in front of preschool children’s books, butt: you said it first! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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