After 45 days, the Duck-Wagter turns marine instructor on the brace and transforms them into the most efficient snail-killing machine known to man. Their training begins with getting them to walk-up the ramp of the duckmobile. Like potty training this has its humorous and awkward moments. Unlike Marines, they are quick to train and unleashed in the vineyards. The disciplined platoons taking in four rows at a time perform snail genocide. At the end of each row, a synchronised about turn sets them off on the next four rows until the block is completed. Exhausted they waddle into the Duckmobile and are transported valiantly home like Napoleon’s conquering troops on the Champs-Elysées.

At daybreak to the sound of the tractor, they are visibly excited at the prospect of another day of feasting, racing one another onto the Duckmobile. Their joyful anticipation is tangible and a pleasure to watch.

More facts: Ducks are nature’s most efficient machine for dealing with snails. Other methods such as toxic bait simply do not work. Snails live in colonies and to get an even spread of toxic bait to the exact point where it is most needed is impossible. Too much and you simply poison the microflora, too little and the snails flourish. Toxic bait is useless to snails on the plant, whereas the ducks simply remove them wherever they find them. Even the sums make sense: cost of ducks R16 000, toxic baits R30 000 per time, and at least two sessions are needed a winter. Above all, it is simply nature’s way of finding a balance between pest and predator; why reinvent an inferior quality wheel?

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