This weeks, ‘ Let’s Talk Pet’s ‘ was written by Hannah, a amazing blogger who blogs about books, travel, her experiences among other things. If you’d like to check out her blog then CLICK HERE to be directed to PagesPlacesandPlates home blog page.
So let’s get into it!
What pet do you have?….A Millipede!?
When I tell people that I have a pet they usually jump straight to thinking I have a dog, cat, or some sort of rodent. The reactions I get when I reveal what she is are often varied… Sometimes curiosity, other times a confused look, and occasionally a look of disgust! I absolutely love Chongololo though… my wonderful Giant African Millipede.
I haven’t always loved millipedes – in fact, I used to be quite scared of them before I’d interacted with them properly. Living in England they’re not something you really come across… We have centipedes, but they’re tiny and bitey and so fast that they can freak you out a bit. My uneducated younger self made the assumption that a millipede was a bigger, leggier, faster version of that, when in fact I was very wrong.
If you know me then you’ll understand that I strive to love and appreciate every being, whatever species it is. I have a fascination with invertebrates and when I have a fear of an animal I do my best to overcome it. I’d never hurt an animal unless it was either about to injure me badly (or for some reason it was the only food source available but I’m hoping that situation won’t occur!).
The start of my fear removal of millipedes happened purely by chance, as I attended a bug handling show in Colchester with my grandmother when I was much younger. She was around 76 at the time and despite being petrified of tarantulas volunteered to hold one, describing it as “quite soft and nice, really.” Once I saw the unnerving millipedes getting ready to be handled I knew I had no excuse not to interact with them. I plucked up the courage and let the keeper place one on my hands… And I was quite surprised.
Giant African Millipedes are the biggest species of millipede in the world, growing up to 38.5cm, and are really quite docile (unless you attack them, in which case they’ll spray you with a light acid, but it takes a lot of provoking for that to happen). They walk slowly, their myriad of legs flowing in tandem like a Mexican wave, and they’re really quite timid. They can’t bite as they have no teeth – they have to dissolve their food before they can eat it. I likened the millipede crawling over my hands as similar to the feeling of Velcro, and it instantly made me relax.
Fast forward 12 or so years to 2017 and I find myself in Kenya, a stunning African country teeming with wildlife. I’m in awe as I realise that millipedes are everywhere! Not just Giant Africans, either… smaller, stripy ones can be witnessed within the foliage along with larger, red-legged ones – everywhere I looked I would see them. I became fascinated, watching them slowly inch across the ground exploring their surroundings. When the camp leaders weren’t looking I’d let them crawl onto my hands, feeling their pointy feet grip onto my skin. As weird as it sounds, I quite fell in love with them.
When I got back home I knew I had to have more interaction with these creatures, so I made the decision to throw myself into the exotic pet world and purchase one. We got her as an early Christmas present… She arrived curled up in a plastic pot from Pembrokeshire, complete with a heat mat and some symbiotic mites. My friend, owner of various exotic creatures, helped me get her set up, and I quickly settled into being something of an invert Mum.
Chongololo (which is Swahili slang for Giant African Millipede) is by far the most fascinating creature I’ve ever owned. She’s not cuddly and she doesn’t love me like a dog might, but I’ve learnt so much about her kind just from being able to observe her. She’s almost completely blind, relying on her sense of smell and her antennae to understand the world, and she gravitates towards dark spaces for protection – when I’m taking photos of her she’ll often headbutt my phone thinking it’s a cave! She eats overripe fruit and veg but also loves hardwood leaves, so I go out every so often to collect them from my town (you can imagine the looks from the locals). Sometimes you’ll hear this tiny crunching noise and it’ll be her feet traversing over the leaf debris.
Despite her lack of sentience, she’s also got a fair bit of character… I’ve had to rescue her before as she got her head stuck in a tomato skin! She can be incredibly shy, making me wonder why I feared them in the first place – any interaction will at first cause her to curl into a tight swirl, protecting herself from danger. She’ll relax after a while and will freely explore, though sometimes she’ll refuse to unfurl until I place her back in her coconut hut, which is a personality trait I completely identify with.
Chongololo may be a bit different but I love having her as a pet, and hopefully I’ll have her for a few more years (Giant Africans tend to live for around 5-7 years on average). If you’ve never considered an exotic pet before but find yourself intrigued then they’re a really great option – a different kind of rewarding, but a fascinating creature to observe. And if you’re currently fearful of them, I urge you to have a go at interacting with one… Once you see first-hand how timid they are you might just feel okay about them.