Impala Baby Mystery
Impala… Shy… Humble… Yet Ever Present
If the impala mother had to write this story, I wonder what her “take” would have been? Below is my “take” on these interesting series of events that I thought worthy for our website and you, our readers.
First you find a warthog trying to take a bite out of an impala baby while it was being born. Those photos I have not included in this miracle of life.
The next chain of events happened very fast. I was looking out through the stoep (porch) screen door, when I saw a large warthog snuffling at an impala ewe lying under a bush. As this struggle went on and before I could wonder why the impala was allowing such treatment, I noticed to my amazement, that the impala was giving birth! Why the mother chose to give birth so close to the house is a miracle, given the circumstances that followed.
This was lambing time, when M took the following sequence of pictures. The scene I am describing, took place early on a cold summer’s morning with no sun, after a long cold southern rain. From my view point the warthog appeared to be biting at the impala baby. I ran out shouting to M, what was happening, he grabbed a tamboti kierie, – walking stick – and the camera in one move, because he was right behind me when I next turned round – this time the tables were turned with M taking the pics and me running the protection racket.
The impala mother was trying to defend the baby and give birth at the same time. While I was running the 60 yard dash (60m), from the stoep (porch), to the scene, the mother stood up, going head first at the warthog, hitting it in the side of the head. Now the warthog left off with the impala baby and stormed the mother. Here is where I came in, kicking and shouting my indignation for all it was worth, I ran straight toward the warthog.
My husband in the meantime was smiling to himself, with no worry for me, suggesting the warthog run for its life, counting its own skin a blessing, while he clicked away on the Nikon. These valuable images show the impala baby as it was breaking free of the birth sack. The photos are blurry in places, a result of the twigs and leaves, as well as the fact that M could not move because of the thick growth around him… remember, we are also in the middle of black mamba and the master of disguise, twig snake, country.
The first photo below is the impala mother watching me, chasing the warthog away. The next photo is her turning to face M seeing he was keeping his distance. What was amazing to me, was how the mother, after turning back to the baby and licking it a few times, would walk off, out of our and the baby’s sight. As you will see from the succession of photos, she kept this up throughout, time and again. I asked M what she was doing? He said she was trying to get the baby to stand up and know its legs, should it need to run, also feed it the colostrum, then follow her to a hiding place where she will take care of it. The mother can keep the fawn hidden away from the herd for days and even weeks. If there is a well developed nursery with the herd, she well take the baby sooner – the herd was, at that moment, out of sight from where we were.
The biggest concern to us, was if the impala baby had been hurt too badly to get up on its feet. This appeared to be on the mind of the mother as well, sniffing, licking and pushing at her young one to rise. All the mother wanted, was to get the baby up and out of there, before any other danger came around.
Note here… The mother usually licks the baby clean of afterbirth all over, straight after birth. This is very important in bonding, but much more as an aid to stimulate the baby’s circulation, for it to warm up. This had not taken place though. Another miracle you may not know, is the baby, – when licked clean – is almost totally odorless, – although to humans there is no smell – nature’s protection against predators from an early stage. The mother hides the fawn and stays away until feeding time. The greatest danger to the fawn is when the mother is near it. The mother showed no fear of us, standing about 30 yards (30 m) away taking photos, hoping for the best.
M would not venture closer, being concerned for upsetting the mother any further. So the images are not as clear as they may have been, given other circumstances. When I ran past the mother first – after the warthog – I didn’t see any blood, so I was fairly convinced the impala baby was OK. I won’t say we weren’t a little worried though. I was not sure at what stage or how soon we had come into the scene. Although I think I saw most of the struggle that had gone on. Here is the entire series of images taken, so you can enjoy and let the pictures tell the story.
Then the next day!
After this little episode, the next day at about the same time and almost at the same spot, we saw an impala ewe with a baby lying by her side. You can see the impala baby from the photo above. I have left out the mother, because the impala baby is so camouflaged, it’s hard to see.
Was this the same mother and baby as the day before? Well, there is no way of telling. In the bush you cannot surmise or guess such matters. Although it was good to see this happy couple, who stayed while we had coffee on the stoep (you know) and then left.