One of the greatest gifts of childhood is its inherent innocence. Peter Matthiessen once wrote, “the child was not observing, he was at rest in the very center of the universe, a part of things, unaware of endings and beginnings, still in unison with the primordial nature of creation, letting all light and phenomena pour through.” It is with the development of the ego that we cost ourselves this innocence. Watching young animals at rest and play is very often our guests’ greatest highlight and I think the reason for this goes far beyond the fact that they are cute. Watching these small beings is a reminder of how our young, natural, innocent selves knew how to be before the ego intruded. They are totally unfazed by time, death, guilt, the future and accept the large and small events of everyday life. They are completely at rest in the present and this is the paradise of youth.
This photographic journal is therefore a tribute to those young animals who remind us what great truth there was in our innocence and what it is that we lost whilst trying to ‘grow up’.
The Nanga cub swats and bites at the ever-flicking tail of his mother. It seems anything and everything is a toy at that age. 1/400 @f6,3; ISO 1600
A young elephant tries to steal some of its mother’s water from right out of her mouth. For the first few months of an elephant’s life they are pretty poor at using their trunks and start by having to drink straight out of water holes with their mouths. 1/640 @f8,0; ISO 200
A young hyena stands patiently while its mother cleans it up. The den was flooded during a summer downpour leaving the youngsters completely filthy. 1/320 @f7,1; ISO 1600
A young lion cub drinks from the safe protective covering of its mother. I’m sure at this age, the cub believes there is no safer place in the world. 1/400 @f7,1; ISO640
A young Tsalala lion affectionately rubs up against his aunt as she focuses on a herd of zebra ahead of her. At this age, the cubs are heavily reliant on the adults to hunt for them and are often so full of energy and impatience that they mess up the hunt. 1/1000@ f8,0; ISO1000
Nanga’s youngster receives a bath from his mother. 1/640 @f6,3; ISO 1000
A group of wild dog pups wrestle over a stick. This is one species that carries over this playful behaviour right into adulthood. 1/500 @f7,1; ISO800
The Nanga female disciplines her youngster for being a little too boisterous. At this age, the cubs do not know the meaning of boundaries and the females can become quite grumpy at times. 1/500 @f6,3; ISO 2500
An elephant cavorts in the sand of the Manyaleti River. 1/1250 @f7,1; ISO 1000
A female Nyala licks the after-birth from her newborn baby. Just minutes after being born this little one is already attempting to stand. 1/640 @f8; ISO1250
A young lion takes notes from his dad. It is amazing to think that in just a few short years, the little cub will as big as its father. 1/500 @f7,1; ISO 400
A cheetah cub decides that its mother has rested enough for the day, apparently its time to play. 1/500 @f8; ISO 1250
A hyena cub inspects the vehicle inquisitively. I find there is no other animal that looks at you quite so directly as a hyena and the youngsters are no exception.1/60 @f5,6; ISO 2500.
Which of these photos do you think best represents the innocence of youth?
Written and Photographed by: Amy Attenborough, Londolozi Ranger