Any mother can attest to the fact that it is a huge relief once new life is borne out of the old. The last few weeks of pregnancy is filled with anticipation and discomfort. Belly swollen, udder stretched and itchy, baby kicking into bladders and lungs…
Here on Kaingo, the first of this year’s crop of babies have just been born this week! Jacques was lucky enough to get footage of a very new-born baby wildebeest. It is still wobbly, standing on legs that seem too long for the body perched on top of it.
Mother wildebeest looks on with concern as she moves off. She and her new-born calf will be very vulnerable to predation for the next few weeks.
Ever heard of colostrum? This is the ‘first milk’ produced by most mammals to give their young a thriving colony of bacteria and antibodies they will need in this hostile environment called life.
It is also filled with the protein, fibre and fat needed for those first steps into the unknown. Animals deprived of this colostrum is at a distinct disadvantage in their resistance to disease and parasitic infestation…with predictable results.
Most of the young are born ready to rumble. Both wildebeest and impala babies can stand, run and be aware of their surroundings within thirty minutes after birth. They will blindly follow their mothers and the herd, in general, to keep out of harm’s way.
It makes us as human seem rather weak, thinking that our young will only be able to operate at a comparable level of maturity at the ripe old age of three!
Predators, large and small, will eat the new-borns. Jackals, who would normally concentrate on eating rodents and smaller prey, may kill and eat little impala. Even baboons will kill and eat baby impala and wildebeest.
Cruel as it may sound, this is one of nature’s control mechanisms. The small and weak is taken first, leaving the strongest of the youngsters to grow into the next generation’s adults. Nature is indeed a cruel mistress.
Those that make the first year of life stand a very good chance of making it into adulthood. But first, they must go through the teenage stage- long legs and the curiosity of youth. Adolescence is marked by a split in the males and females. Males go into the bachelor groups. Females stay with the herd. With the next group of babies, these young females will learn vital skills in rearing their own young.
It is a magical time in the bush. Hot, long days and balmy nights. Impossible greens and reds browns dotted with flowers. Hatchings of butterflies and other insects.
And if you are lucky, the birth of a new baby.