Youngsters at Kapama
About 3 weeks ago now one of our female rhinos gave birth to a calf. Every three years on average, after an 18-month pregnancy the female rhinoceros gives birth to only one young. It weighs about 30 to 40 kilograms and only 10 minutes after it emerges it can already stand upright, a couple of hours later it begins to suckle. He or she will suckle from its mother for about 18 months, but it also begins to graze long before it stops suckling. The young has no horn, it is unprotected and depends entirely on its mother. The mother protects the young carefully from each predator. From time to time the young stays with its mother even after the birth of the second young, although at the age of three years the young rhinoceros is already able to take care of itself alone
Also, it looks as though 2 of our adult lionesses are expecting. After a gestation period of 100-119 days, the pregnant females will leave the pride and find a place to deliver. lions will hide their newborn cubs in marshes or kopjes. The number of cubs born depends on the age and condition of the mother. The litter size is 1 to 4 offspring on average. The pride generally synchronizes its reproduction so they can rear their cubs together, each suckling the others’ cubs as well as their own. For example, if a lioness is away hunting, her cub will be suckled by another lactating female. Cubs are nursed at 6-7 months.
Unfortunately lion cub mortality rates are high. In the wild as many as 80% die before they are 2 years old. Because the cubs are not able to compete with larger ones during feeding, some of them starve. Even in times of abundance cubs may starve if all the kills are small. If a pride is taken over by a new male who has defeated the top resident male, he will most likely kill any existing cubs that are under 2 years old. This rapidly brings the females into breeding condition, ensuring that the strongest male gets to breed and continue his genetic line.
There is also a young female leopard busy raising two young cubs of about 6 months old not too far from River Lodge. The little ones are beginning to learn from their mother how to swim, to climb, to hunt and how to protect themselves from other predators.
As with all newborns and youngsters on Kapama , the rangers are very respectful and always maintain a distance to ensure that the youngsters are not frightened or intimidated by the game drive vehicles and to ensure that the mother/baby bonding is successful. We look forward to seeing more of the youngsters in the very near future.
Its not just young animals that add magic to safaris. Recently, an extremely spirited and clever young girl from Argentina called Daniella was on my game drive vehicle. We were lucky enough to find one of our dominant male lions and I was talking about lion cubs. Daniella asked me “Sarah, where do the lions get married?”. I glanced at her parents and was thinking of an appropriate response when she said “Because Sarah the lions HAVE to get married before they can have babies”. Just one of the many magic moments in the life of a ranger!!!!