Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted by Kay Holekamp at 11:24 AM
Tracy and Brian and I were driving home from a foray this morning into the territory of the Mara River clan, when we stumbled upon a female giraffe standing out in the middle of a hug tall-grass plain all by herself. Or so we thought until we noticed a wee head with huge ears poking out of the grass at her feet. This female giraffe had just given birth a couple of minutes earlier; the afterbirth was still emerging, the baby was coated in amniotic fluid, and it couldn't yet stand up. The mother kept scanning the horizon as though on the lookout for potential danger to her newborn. She repeatedly switched between scanning and nudging her infant as though to encourage it to get up. As occurs in many species of mammals, it appeared that this female had given birth at a place and time of day when her baby would face the fewest risks. Although the Mara is teeming with large carnivores that would happily take advantage of a vulnerable infant like this one, none were about on this plain at 9:30 this morning.
We were all thrilled and fascinated to be so privileged as to witness this initial interaction of a newborn giraffe with its world, so we stuck around and watched for awhile. The baby tried several times to stand, but kept tumbling back into the grass at its mother's feet before it finally made it up onto its very wobbly legs. The mother promptly began licking the amniotic fluid off the calf, but that was apparently just too much for it, and the baby tumbled back into the grass again. Finally, the calf made it to its feet again, and this time seemed a bit steadier.
After standing against its mothers' forelegs for a few minutes, the calf began nosing around until, after several minutes, it finally stumbled upon the mothers' teats. It appeared to take several minutes of suckling (quite noisily!) for the mother's milk to start flowing, but when we drove away the calf was happily nursing below it's mother's belly.