Masai Mara – birth simple and natural

On the second morning of our Masai Mara trip, instead of driving down to the river in the hope of seeing a river crossing, Lou decided to look around the area directly north-east of Kitchwa Tembo, our tented camp. It was just after six in the morning and dawn  was breaking – the start of a new day. The colours on the plains are soft and muted. The air was fresh with the latent temperature releasing fragrances from the grass and bushes. The wonderful thing first thing in the morning in the bush is that your mind and heart are clear but you are full of expectation, without any idea of what you are going to see.

This particular morning we were privileged enough to come across a lone young female Thompson’s Gazelle in the final stages of labour.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

She milled around intermittently grazing and stopping to cope with the contractions.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

When the birth started in earnest there was no noise but for Hyaenas’ whooping in the distance, which caught her attention. The morning was temperate, not cold, and the sun was rising.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

After a short while she got onto her knees and eventually lay down, There were no other animals around and we watched in respectful silence as this miracle of life unfolded in front of us.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Quietly and without fuss as she lay on the cool wet grass, this petite female ‘Tommy’ started to deliver her fawn. There was no noise  just a quiet acceptance of the natural advance of nature.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The fawn lay still on the wet grass as it was being born. The mother soon started to reach back and smell and touch her new fawn as its head peered out of the foetal sac.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Progressively and naturally the bond between mother and new-born started to be formed.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

She started to lick the foetal sac off the fawn’s head and shoulders and the fawn started to react to its mother.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The foetal sac still bound the fawn’s legs so the mother began to eat the foetal sac to free the fawn and remove traces of the birth.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Even before the foetal sac had been fully removed the fawn was trying to get up onto its feet.The result was the inevitable nose dive.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Within a couple of minutes of the birth, the mother was on  her feet cleaning up her fawn.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Within 24 minutes of being born this fawn was attempting to get on its feet. All the while there were Hyaena whooping some distance away but the mother without fuss continued to clean up her fawn.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The fawn fell a few times when it tried to get up, but with splayed legs for balance it soon got the hang of gravity and was standing unsteadily.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Despite the nose dives the mother continued to encourage her fawn to get up onto its feet.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

I am not sure whether it was the smell of its mother’s milk, but with no guidance this fawn knew exactly where to find its mother’s nipple. The natural intelligence displayed during this birth was spellbinding.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

After a quick suckle and 27  minutes after the birth, the mother started wandering off from the birth site followed by the fawn. Apart from the privilege of being witness to the birth  of a new life,  I was so impressed by the lack of drama and the sense of naturalness and calm with which this mother delivered her fawn quietly at about 6h30 on the Mara.  All of us photographers sat in silence and reverence at what we had just witnessed.

There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.

Henry David Thoreau

I hope you enjoyed this miracle unfold.

Have fun

Mike

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