It was near the end of October, and the rains had finally arrived! Slowly the bush was transformed with a lush green carpet of young grass. This was the time to witness that one rare sighting I had been hoping for, for years now.
We were on our morning safari tracking one particular leopard. It was hard work and often slow going. But towards the end of our game drive, we found her! She was on a mission, and we had a hard time following her through the bush. We stayed with her for a while before we made our way back towards the lodge.
Only five minutes from camp, I got asked to stop and go back. No way, that can only be a joke, but he wasn’t joking, and the reverse gear was found quickly. What took me years to witness, this guest was about to witness on his first safari trip ever!
Only a little was visible, and we slowly inched closer so as not to disturb the animal and have it walk off! We could all see now. The front hooves were already protruding as we watched the wonder of new life being born.
The female impala had separated herself from the herd for labor. It’s easier for her to stay unnoticed when she is alone, but it makes her nervous too. She was not used to being alone and she kept checking the area for any sign of danger. We were regarded as a danger too, and we needed to keep our distance if not to disturb her.
Slowly the head of the baby impala started to appear. The mother laid down and ten minutes later she gave birth. As she now had delivered her young, she was more relaxed and we came for a closer look.
Her young was lying motionless in the grass still covered in the birth sac. We wondered if it was alive at all. After a good look, we noticed that one front leg was draped over the neck and head, but it was breathing!
Just a few minutes after the fawn was born, it tried to stand up. It shook its head as if it didn’t really believe what it was seeing. The first attempts were clumsy and were not bringing the right side up. But a little while later, we witnessed its first little wobbly steps. It’s not easy to control those long and thin legs!
A little while later the fawn was carefully walking around, lifting its legs high up as if it was walking through invisible water. The hind legs didn’t cooperate fully and made the rear drift from left to right. It took a few minutes, but also that problem was overcome.
About fifteen minutes later, the mother and fawn walked off into the bush…
This was the sighting I had been waiting for, for such a long time! Something so rare and unique to witness. A real privilege to be part of this event as we more often witness the end of an animal’s life.
What will be waiting for the young? Will it survive these first vulnerable weeks? Will a leopard get hold of it? We can only hope and wonder as it walks off into the bush, into the unknown.
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