We were looking for cheetahs, but found something completely different and probably more incredible!
Driving around in the western sections of our reserve, where the terrain is quite open but fairly rocky, we had been criss-crossing a number of crests, knowing that three cheetahs had been seen in the area that morning. Eventually we heard on the radio that one of the other vehicles had found tracks of them, but we were quite far away, and knowing that a number of other rangers were also quite keen to join in the search, we continued patrolling the rocky area were were already in, hoping to bump into something interesting.
Descending a hill towards the Sand River we spotted some giraffe off to one side, and stopped to take some photos as the light was starting to get good. As one of the females turned away from us, we suddenly saw two legs protruding, and to our amazement we realised she was giving birth!
We don’t know how long she had been attempting to birth before we arrived, but we sat there for a good 45 minutes as more and more of the calf emerged.
Eventually the whole calf was out and with a resounding thud, dropped to the ground.
Giraffe calves are about two metres tall when they are born, and their mothers don’t lie down during birth. This means that this big, heavy infant has a serious drop as its welcome into the world, but one of the theories surrounding giraffe birth is that it is the impact of this initial fall that kickstarts the calf’s breathing.
We could certainly see it start to take small breaths, and it was so beautiful to see how the mother was nuzzling it, giving it gentle nudges in an attempt to get it moving.
We waited for awhile longer as the calf raised its head and looked around, seeing for the first time. As it began to get dark, we didn’t want to attract any unwanted attention to it so left the mother and calf alone.
Happily, we received a radio call the next morning to say that the calf had made it through its first night and was alive and well!
Sightings like this are once-in-a-lifetime, and although giraffes are fairly common across the reserve, seeing a birth is incredibly rare. I’ll be keeping a close watch on this particular calf as it finds its way in the world!