6:00 a.m. Against All Odds
On this beautiful and serene morning, waking at the crack of dawn, my driver and I had decided that our group would have an intimate breakfast in the bush as an introduction to the Serengeti. This is the time animals are engaged, active in the brisk morning coolness before the sun breaks through to warm the day. We had no idea what we would be in for. The migration brings many unexpected moments, and on this day, we had many many unexpected moments.
With births, come deaths…
As we slowly drive along Lake Masek, we notice that the wildebeest and zebra migration has, as always, produced hundreds of babies, from days old to weeks old. However, with births, come deaths and we see plenty of carcasses picked clean by the waiting vultures after the hyena have taken their part. Babies have been lost from their moms, their moms killed or incapacitated and incapable of caring for their young. It is sad, but this is life on the plains of the Serengeti.
As we drive along the banks of the river, we notice significant numbers of babies that have lost sight of mom and are stranded, not knowing what to do or which way to go. Some have succumbed to the lack of nourishment from mom, others running up and down the banks desperately in search of mom, never to be found, while in some cases, the mother is looking for the baby calf, but in the wrong direction. Her call goes unanswered. Yet others are near death on these heartless plains, just at death’s door, unable to move themselves anymore, they give up and wait for the moment, they no longer have to try to struggle to make it.
Life is not easy for these young babies during these times of mass births. Wildebeests all drop their babies in one specific period, February/March, which gives the population a better chance of surviving, but unfortunately, a certain percentage will not make it.
It makes us sad, but we know, this is the cycle of life, and less than 30% of the babies survive. As we struggle with what we see, there is life on the lake, with thousands of pink flamingo picking through the algae from the waters. We then notice, one lone baby wildebeest, navigating himself through the thick currents of the lake.
It’s many miles to cross, We don’t think he will make it and we prepare ourselves to watch him drown, midway through. As he struggles his little tired body across, we are cheering him on, and pleasantly surprised when he drags his almost lifeless body on land. For it is against all odds that he would complete this long and tiring trek across the shallow lake.
We know there is a hyena just down the banks, so we do not know what’s in store for the baby, but pray for his safety as he slowly disappears into the bush, so very tired from his journey, all in search of mom. For no one but the mom will protect him, no other wildebeest will ‘adopt’ him.
Just as we are about to leave this scene, along comes one lone wildebeest female….we assume it is the mother of the young one that just crossed, for she us calling relentlessly for her calf. She cannot know he has risked his life to cross the water all in search of her. How sad this makes us – we yell at mom, we want desperately to be able to point her in the right direction to reunite her with her baby. We can’t!