Rocky the rooster is possibly the best-known resident of Durban's North Beach.

When he fails to greet the dawn with his lone cockerel chorus, residents in the area make frantic phone calls to find out if he is still alive and strutting.

So well-known has he become, that visitors to Durban seek him out, runners look for him when passing, and people from the townships say they have made a special trip just to catch a glimpse of "Durban's most famous rooster".

"How's the family doing this morning?" is a regular question on the beachfront. They are referring to a small posse of animals in Rocky's domain...

For the past 21 months Rocky has been living in the dune bush north of the snake park, but there have been attempts on his life: a business of water mongooses has taken up lodgings in the bush - and chicken is a tasty treat.

Neil Friedman, who feeds the mongooses and stray cats in the area, said: "Rocky is the greatest survivor. Talk about a cat with nine lives. He's a rooster with 20.

"He managed to escape being slaughtered on the beach and escaped into the dune bush. He has evaded street children who were paid to cut a hole in the fence and put down food as a lure, so he could be captured.

"And now he has lost his magnificent tail feathers. The mongooses attacked him, pulling out his feathers when they tried to catch him, and took a chunk out of his back."

Friedman is eager for the day when Rocky's tail feathers grow back. Meanwhile, he said, he had taken the feathers home to his flat where his own cats are delighted at their new playthings.

But Friedman and Phillip van Zyl, the building manager of a nearby block of flats, are sad the fine-feathered fowl has no female companions, despite several attempts to provide him with some.

"We have put seven hens into the bush over the months, but the mongooses have killed them," said Friedman.


Van Zyl said at first the crafty mongooses had been satisfied to raid the hens' eggs, but had then moved up the food chain and taken out the hens one by one.

Friedman, a former jeweller, was first alerted to their presence when he found cat bowls being dragged into the bush.

He believes the mongooses were probably foraging in the dune bush at the time the council erected the fence adjoining it, and so got trapped.

"But there is no natural water and they were in a really sad state. So I began to carry water to them twice a day. There are now about 12 of them, as last year they had three pups and this year two more."

When the Sunday Tribune visited, the sleek, fat mongooses were gambolling with their pups, pouncing into a plastic basin filled with water and dabbling their paws in the water.

Friedman has for years been feeding stray cats in the area. Some of these cats decided life in the bush would be more appealing, but they, too, have had to take evasive action from the mongooses.

He now puts their food on the top of an electrical box, out of reach of the mongooses.

"Only one cat stands up to them."

Full of innovative ideas, Friedman said he had contacted Nando's head office with the suggestion that they sponsor Rocky as a mascot.

He also thinks if the city were to install a small water feature behind the fence, visitors would be attracted to view the mongooses at play.

Friedman gets 17kg of cat food from the Animal Anti Cruelty League a month to feed the stray cats.

But he is digging deep into his own pocket as the mongooses and cats eat about 2kg of food a day. He hopes he can get sponsorship.

Meanwhile, the wily Rocky spends his days roosting high in the branches of the trees. He was offered a home on a Botha's Hill farm, but even Friedman has been unable to catch him.