As the summer fades into the autumn season, the cooler morning temperatures and soft breezes in the evening along the seasonal river courses remind us of the yearly change taking place. Through the summer we have been fortunate enough to watch the innocence of young members of various species play out in the wild and on some occasions been witness to them being delivered. The impala lambing season occurs at a time of abundance in the year, as it kicks off in mid-November with many guides placing a friendly wager as to when the date of the first impala being born will be recorded. A sighting of the first young commences with a win, no photograph needed in this competition.
As we travel out on a daily basis watching the young grow in the wild, it allows an opportunity to take in the innocence of the young in the wild as they playfully frolic in the open grasslands or curiously watch other species come down to drink at a waterhole. Young buffalo calves often have a very peculiar look about them as their two front lower jaw teeth often protrude from the jaw giving them quite a comical look as they stare back at you with an awkward grin. With leopard cubs it takes a while before they become independent, much the same with lions and other predators. We generally only get to see leopard cubs being introduced to carcasses at approximately 10-12 weeks old and this is a rare occasion to see them for the first time. It also a vulnerable time for the cubs as the dangers exposed during these ventures away from the security of a den may result in the loss of the cubs due to other predator or scavenger interactions at the food source. However, given that they are vulnerable, there is always a sense of instinct that is reassuring to watch to maintain their survival. Instinct can be noted in many forms as the cubs grow, but most notably is the ability to climb and explore and the innocent endeavours to being inquisitive to their new-found surroundings. In the past few weeks, we have been fortunate to record two cubs with the Hukumuri female, whose territory is just north of the river and the Schotia female who has been viewed in close vicinity of the lodges. She has also been reported to have two cubs; we are waiting in anticipation for the introduction, as this will be her second litter of cubs. Unfortunately, her first litter was killed by the Mhangene pride.
By far a firm favourite to watch, is a young elephant as they move with the herd shortly after birth. The herd will slow down for the addition. As the young calves become aware that there are other calves amongst them, they soon realise that playtime becomes a priority! Feeding becomes an overrated activity, especially when you have the opportunity to still suckle from your mother. The playful behaviour is closely monitored by the adult females and generally anything that becomes a part of their daily interaction soon becomes a game of some sort. Even if it means chasing away the birds that are capitalising on the movement of the elephant herd as they swoop down to catch the insects moving in the grass. The age of innocence can sometime be forgotten when we don’t have the time to watch it and it can be one of the
most rewarding finds in the bush whilst on a game drive that will have you laughing out loud sometimes, and leaving the sighting smiling all the way home.