Parktown Prawns – they’ll eat you

South African insect

The parktown prawn, or Libanasidus vittatus, is unique to South Africa but is closely related to the weta of New Zealand and the Jerusalem cricket of North America. It is a member of the King Cricket (Anastostomatidae) family. The name parktown prawn comes from the Johannesburg suburb Parktown, where the creature first began to appear en-masse. The prawn is a browney-orangey-reddish colour, with long spiked legs and piranha-like teeth that it uses to eat the meat of its enemies—cats, dogs, people and the odd bird…people.

Some reasons why prawns suck: a) they’re fucken ugly b) they jump great distances c) they like to hide in cupboards and shoes but will live in any dark, dingy, damp place from which they can launch an attack d) they spray stinky inky crap d) they are vindictive e) they eat people—but only when you aren’t looking and f) they don’t die—not even when you kick one down the passage; I did this one night. Strolling down the passage minding my own business, my foot made contact with something that felt like a small rock. As I turned the light on to see what it was, it started jumping. But not just jumping, the little (big!) beastie was jumping at me! Word of advice: IT IS A VERY BAD IDEA and I mean VERY BAD idea to kick a prawn. I squealed in horror and did a Forrest. And, man oh man, was I a fast Forrest. For a long while, I hid out in a room at the other end of my house, until eventually I decided to risk the wrath of the prawn and head back to my room. I picked up my cat for protection and ventured back toward the passage. I made it to my bed and spent a sleepless night imagining what a prawn, that had been kicked down a passage, would do to me—chew my eyes out, embed itself in my orifices, and the worst of all: call its friends.

My fears were magnified by the memory of a previous experience that involved a crazy jumping prawn that kept banging itself on the underside of my bed in some sort of mad furore. It was like Chinese torture—too afraid to move, I endured the repeated doof!-doof!-doof! sound of the prawn doing heaven knows what under the weight of my sweating body.

Then there is the ink. Prawns squirt when they’re scared; in defence of their right to life. Cats don’t care. It’s like the ink incites their bloodlust. I’ve stumbled across my fair share of prawn massacre—head, entrails, shell and legs mixed around in purple/black sauce; an unhallowed brew.



Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is. She also wouldn’t touch a ‘prawn’ if it was the last creature on earth and she was starving, and nearly dead. 

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