1. DESERTS are the driest places on earth
and sometimes go for months, or even
years, without rain. But even the desert
animals cannot survive without water,
or for long periods in the scorching sun,
so they have had to find different ways
of coping with the harsh conditions. For
example, gerbils spend the hottest part
of the day in cool underground burrows.
And strange insects called darkling
beetles are experts at catching drops of
moisture on their legs, then lifting them
into the air until the drops trickle down
into their mouths. Not all deserts are
endless seas of rolling sand dunes.
Some are rocky or pebbly and dotted
with small bushes while others are
sprinkled with colourful flowers during
2. There are more than 2300 different
kinds of snakes around the world,
ranging from just fifteen centimetres
long to more than eleven metres. Most
snakes are quite harmless - but there
are a few that are so
poisonous they can kill a
human being with just one
bite. Most snakes lay eggs,
but there are many which
give birth to their young. In
the dry, rocky deserts of
America lives a rather evillooking
snake with a very bad
reputation. Its frightening
rattle can be heard as far as
thirty metres away, and it can strike
with lightning speed.
3. But the rattlesnake, or ‘rattler’ as it
is sometimes called, prefers to avoid
people if it possibly can. It holds its tail
upright and rattles the end whenever it
is disturbed, in the hope that the
intruder will go away. However, if its
warnings are ignored-and it feels
threatened-it will coil ready to bite. But
the rattler itself cannot hear the noise
its own tail makes. Like most snakes,
it ‘hears’ things through vibrations in
the ground. If a person walks nearby
the snake can feel the movement. But if
the same person were to shout, it would
not hear a thing. Rattlesnakes are very
common and widespread animals, living
right across the American continent
from Canada to Argentina. They feed
on a variety of prey, including mice,
voles, rats, chipmunks and many other
small animals. Rattlesnakes kill their
prey with venom. Like all snakes, they
swallow the unfortunate animals whole.
Few snakes have to eat more than once
a week and some, such as the larger
pythons, can survive for a year or more
4. Mongooses like to hunt together,
but they always keep a lookout for
dangerous predators nearby. Poking
their noses into holes, overturning rocks
with their paws and scratching the
ground with their sharp claws, banded
mongooses are very amusing animals
to watch. A common sight in many parts
of Africa, they travel in groups of about
twenty to forage for beetles, millipedes
and other small creatures.
5. They like to
keeping in touch
whenever they go out
of sight behind rocks
or bushes by
twittering and calling.
Always on the lookout
for danger - hawks,
eagles and large
snakes - they warn
one another with a
special alarm call if
they spot anything
6. Mongooses are famous for being able
to kill snakes without getting hurt
themselves. Their reactions are so fast
that they can dodge each time the snake
strikes. They continually make a
nuisance of themselves until, after a
while, when the snake gets tired, they
quickly dive in for the kill.
7. All the female mongooses have their
kitten at about the same time. They
are raised by the whole group in a den
made inside an old termite mount or
hollow log. When most of the adults
are out looking for food, one or two
males stay behind to stand guard until
the others return for the night.
8. Another animal which lives in the
desert is the camel. Camels were
first domesticated by people many
thousands of years ago. In the wild,
camels usually live in small groups of
up to thirty animals. Camels have long,
shaggy winter coats to keep warm and
shorter, tidier coats in the summer to
keep cool. A thirsty camel can drink as
much as thirty gallons of water - that’s
about five hundred full glasses - in
just ten minutes. Normally, however,
it gets all the moisture it needs from
desert plants and can survive for up
to ten months without drinking any
water at all.
9. There are two different kinds of
camel. One, known as the Dromedary,
has only a single hump; the other is
called a Bactrian camel and has two
humps. The humps help the animal
to survive in the desert, by acting as
storage containers. But they don’t
store water - as many people wrongly
believe - they are full of fat. This fat
nourishes the camels when food is
scarce. If they have nothing to eat for
several days, their humps shrink as the
fat is used up. There are many other
ways in which camels are adapted to
desert life. Their mouths are so tough
that even the sharp thorn cannot pierce
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
What If ...
Some What ifs crawled inside my ear,
And pranced and partied all night long,
And sang their same old Whatif song:
What if I'm dumb in school?
What if they've closed the swimming-pool?
What if I get beat up?
What if there's poison in my cup?
What if I start to cry?
What if I get sick and die?
What if I flunk that test?
What if green hair grows on my chest?
What if nobody likes me?
What if a bolt of lightning strikes me?
What if I don't grow taller?
What if my head starts getting smaller?
What if the fish won't bite?
What if the wind tears up my kite?
What if they start a war?
What if my parents get divorced?
What if the bus is late?
What if my teeth don’t grow in straight?
What if I tear my pants?
What if I never learn to dance?
Everything seems swell, and then
The night-time Whatif strikes again!
Online Lessons with Spoken text and correct pronounciation