Peruse the bookshelves in a child's room and you will most likely come across the title "My Big Book of Baby Animals", or something of the sort, as diminutives are one of the earliest lessons we learn and animals are a favourite topic for children. Teaching them about animals is imperative and it is of the utmost importance to retain this interest, as we strive to protect various species – a mantle of responsibility which our younger generation most likely will have to wear in the future. In a time when almost every animal species is vulnerable or endangered, the birth of a baby animal is both a blessing and a relief.
At Inverdoorn you will often catch a glimpse of a baby eland, giraffe or zebra and several guests were lucky enough to bear witness to a wildebeest birth recently. If you reach back to the recesses of your mind, where your elementary education still lies intact, you may recall that antelopes and giraffes give birth to calves and zebras to foals. These animals give birth to one calf or foal at a time, but mating pairs are not monogamous. Calf is a typical name for a lot of baby animals and is also prescribed to little elephants and rhinos. We are familiar with the latter, as Inverdoorn is home to Bundu and Livinia – the big, baby rhinos.
Many may already know their story. Rescued and relocated to Inverdoorn after their mothers were killed by poachers, they now live safe and sound in the new rhino orphanage in front of the Ambassador Suite and Luxury Chalets. Their story points to a key matter when it comes to baby animals – the relationship with their mother. Rhino calves stay with their mothers until they are about three years old. Bundu and Livinia were barely six months old when they were orphaned, leaving them lost and bemused in a seemingly cruel world. The team at Inverdoorn have taken it upon themselves to look after these babies with the utmost care and attention, as the rhinos would normally still be with their mothers. Another pair of orphans – although somewhat older and much bigger – are the elephants Bully and Nduna. Bully was taken from his parents at a young age to join the film industry and Nduna lost his parents to hunters.
A lot of animals in the wild have a heart-warming relationship with their young. Besides rhino calves sticking close to their mothers' sides, you will also notice a close attachment amongst giraffe and their calves. Female elephants live in herds and all will contribute to the nurture and protection of the young. Buffalos work together to protect the little one, because when danger threatens they will shield calves by pushing them into the middle of the herd.
So what of the animals that give birth to more than one animal? These are typically called a litter – whether it be a litter of cheetah cubs or bat-eared pups. Although female cheetahs are solitary, they will take care of their young, protecting them from danger and teaching them to hunt. Bat-eared foxes are quite distinctive in that pairs are generally monogamous and the male tends to look after the young.
Baby animals are often unique in aspect. Besides the obvious fact that they are a lot smaller, there are other interesting details such as a zebra foal's brown and white stripes, a cheetah cub's fluffy white Mohawk or the buffalo calf's tiny horns , which all change as they age. As we grow older, we also change and learn. We are often reminded of the variety that exists in nature, not only in name, but in myriad other ways, helping us understand exactly what we are conserving.
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