On 10 May we celebrate Mother’s Day. This year Wild decided to pay tribute to a different kind of mother . . . wild moms! Wild travellers sent us their beautiful images of mom and baby wildlife throughout our national parks – enough to make anyone broody. By Arnold Ras
Mohammed Jinnah was at the right place at the right time when she captured this special moment between an elephant mother and her calf. Because elephants are herbivores, they normally find the distinctive smell of birth fluids quite off-putting. But as soon as the calf passes through the birth canal, chemical changes in the cow’s brain get triggered and from that moment she no longer finds the smell off-putting. The cleaning of the newborn fixes the little one’s smell in mom’s memory. The calf uses its trunk to locate mommy’s nipple, but only sucks with its mouth.
It is quite common to run into these mischievous creatures when visiting one of South Africa’s parks. But don’t even think about getting between a female vervet monkey and her baby. Mothers are extremely protective of their young – although they do allow the rest of the troop to shower the little ones with affection. Babies watch their mothers closely to see what she eats and to sample the food. Anton du Plessis took this picture of mom and baby engaging in some allogrooming in the Kruger National Park.
When the time has come for a female giraffe to give birth, she will most likely leave her usual home range and head to a calving ground. Because calves are so vulnerable to predators, they are kept safe in nursing groups while mom feeds. Like a creche for giraffes! After about 15 months male calves bid their mom farewell, but female youngsters will remain in the same area as where they were raised. Isn’t this image by Ron Swilling just mesmerising?
Female black-backed jackals usually give birth to three pups and after six months the youngsters will have grown permanent teeth. These moms have a lot of help feeding the pups: Dad and sub-adults from the previous breeding season do their bit. A sad reality is that large numbers of black-backed jackals are killed as pests. This playful duo was snapped by Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
At birth these adorable little antelopes weigh only 4kg. The springbok mother will lick her lamb clean and eat the afterbirth – this is to get rid of odours that might attract predators. For the first two days after birth, a springbok lamb will hide in long grass. It’s not the easiest start in life, as lambs are the favourite prey of black-backed jackals (below). Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo took this picture during a visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
After a zebra mother gives birth, she keeps the foal separated from the rest of the group. Why? During the first two to three days one of the little one’s most important tasks is to learn his mom’s stripe pattern. This picture was taken by Michel Rademaker in the Kruger National Park. More learning those stripes and less suckling, buddy!
A rhino calf will not leave its mother’s side for at least two years. Did you know there’s an easy way to tell between white and black rhino calves? A black rhino calf walks behind its mother, a white rhino calf in front of its mom. Michel Rademaker was lucky enough to spot this calf having lunch.
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Sources: Creatures of habit: Understanding African animal behaviour, Richard du Toit, Peter Apps; Smithers’ Mammals of South Africa: A field guide, Peter Apps; Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa including Angola, Zambia & Malawi, Chris & Mathilde Stuart