The time of plenty

Sabi Sand | January 2019

This time of the year is like no other, the bush is looking beautiful, lush and completely full of life of all kinds. The rains have finally come with some heavy showers. This has created an instant transformation from a somewhat dry and barren landscape into a vibrant and lush carpet-like landscape. Although it is a time that is traditionally not always regarded as a good game-viewing time, I always personally love it! It sees all the migratory birds returning, the beautiful colours and nothing can beat the smell of the first big thunderstorms rolling over the escarpment!

The big event that this time of year is famous for is that it is the baby season, due to many of the species attempting to synchronise their lambing or calving with the first rains. The thick new vegetation means more cover for the little ones to hide in, but more importantly great feeding opportunities and thus great quality of milk for the nursing babies!

In the midst of baby-season, my guests and I were lucky enough to come across a newborn giraffe. With a gestation period of approximately 15 months, it is hard to plan the timing of the birth. Giraffes therefore can give birth any time of the year, which is great for us, because there is always a chance of seeing a young giraffe running around, no matter what time you come to visit us!

This giraffe couldn’t have timed it any better! We arrived moments after the baby giraffe first hit the ground. Interestingly, mother giraffes give birth standing up, dropping the newborn giraffe from quite a height to start its life! The high drop is believed to be a way of kick starting the baby’s heart. Expectedly, baby giraffes are the tallest of the babies at birth, measuring in around 1.7 – 2 metres! We witnessed the very attentive mother stand over the baby as a way to protect it from potential predators. The mother then swiftly cleaned off the baby as he tried to get to his feet for the first time. The cleaning and eating of the afterbirth remove the scent from the little calf and also helps to replenish some of the energy the mother lost during birth. She then assists him to get to his feet for the first time.

It was such an emotional sighting, and such a privilege to see the young giraffe take his first steps.

The next day we visited the area again, hoping to see him, only to find tracks of a lion pride in the area. Nervously, we tracked the animals for a few hours, and we fortunately found mother and calf giraffe healthy and well. He was running around so happily, it was hard to believe that he was less than a day old!