Photo gallery for Playback team reports on rare field observation

| Image 1 of 4 |

Hollie and young females bunched closely

Hollie and young females bunched closely
Hollie and Hub next to dead calf
Covering the dead calf
Hyena closing in

Playback team reports on rare field observation

Tue, 2011-05-17 12:19 by nsayialel

Early this morning Graeme and I were looking for family groups in the East of the park for our playback experiments. We sighted the LB family moving quickly towards a small group 250 m distant. We drove to the family (which turned out to be the HB group) and I immediately noticed that they were bunched together in a distinctive formation, which is a good indication that there may have been a recent birth.

Both Graeme and I were very excited that this could be the first birth of 2011, and we drove in to get a closer look. Sadly, I noticed that the calf was lying flat on the ground and not moving. It then became clear that it was still-born, and the mother (Hollie - 28 years of age) was gently nudging the calf with her back leg to determine if it was alive. At this time the LB family arrived and chased Hollie and the other members of the family approximately 50 m away from the dead calf. Leana, the matriarch of the LB family is 46 years of age, while Hope, the matriarch of the HB family is only 31 years of age, and as a result Leana is likely to be the more dominant female. Hollie continued to try and approach her calf, but she was repeatedly chased away by Leana and other members of the LB family. Eventually after nearly an hour, Leana moved away from the dead calf and Hollie was able to return with her two daughters, Hub (11 years of age) and Hibiscius (4 years of age), and another young female, HardDrive (11 years of age). We stayed close by to observe their behaviour as Hollie continued to rumble softly and rock the calf with her front foot. Hub meanwhile was digging around the dead calf, constantly trying to remove the birth sac from the body with her tusk. It was at this time that I was able to see that the calf was male. He appeared to be almost the size we would expect at birth and therefore may have been only a month or two from reaching full term. Within 2 hours we spotted a hyena moving in the grass very close to Hollie and the others. We left after 2.5 hours and the mother continued to stand over her calf, a sad sight, but a natural event nonetheless.