Its Hayley here, the Assistant Manager at Kings Camp. If you have already meet me at the lodge, this may or may not have been in my pyjamas! (more on this shortly) You may also know I am a huge animal lover and one of my biggest passions is wildlife rehabilitation.
I wrote a blog a long time ago called ‘’My journey to becoming a Bushbuck mother’’ and this was all about how I rehabilitated a female bushbuck back into the wild from only around 10 days old. If you are interested in reading the beginning of the story, then do go back and check out that blog too which is on our website or you can click this link here.
This blog covers many stories for the first couple of years of her life from me jumping in the swimming pool to rescue her in front of all of the guests while they had lunch! and I cant even count the amount of times I have been spotted running around the lodge, due to their being predators inside the camp grounds and I try to protect her or chase the predators away myself! and this is why some guests may of seen me in my PJs as these things often happen early in the morning or late at night, when predators like to come out but also when guests are about to leave for the morning safari or are just returning from the afternoon one.
A lot has happened since then, and now I am a ‘’Bushbuck Grandmother’’ x 2!!! And funnily enough this was how I ended my last blog, saying hopefully one day I will be a Bushbuck Grandmother and that I couldn’t wait!
Me and my buck
My buck has just turned 4 years old and I still see her most days, she is free to go wherever she wants and although she spends a lot of time within the lodge grounds as bushbuck do, she also ventures out down to the river bed and out quite far past our private villa which is well out of camp, so she is fully independent but still wants to spend a lot of time with me (and me with her) There is nothing better to me than spending a day relaxing with her in my garden on a day off.
She gave birth about 1,5 years ago for the first time, and this was actually the night of the fire we had in our curio shop and we had about 80 people here for much of the night trying to help us put it out, so she choose a very busy and loud evening to give birth! Her daughter is also independent but they still spend a lot of time together and although she isn’t as close to me as she wasn’t hand raised she still fully understands the relationship I have with her mother and luckily accepts it and has her own bond with me.
Pic of her daughter who is now 1.5 years
Pic of her daughter in the sprinkler
Unfortunately her second birth although she did give birth, I don’t know what happened to the baby as it was never seen but I think a predator got to it within the first couple of weeks which is very sad but the reality is that there are so many dangers out there for them, especially when they are so little. The mothers leave them for very long periods of time (many hours) and they have to hide during this period, ideally not moving at all, so one error can be fatal or of course they could just have the bad luck of being found in their hiding spot by a predator.
Grant, our head guide watched a Leopard just a couple of days ago check every single shrub bush and thick vegetation areas that it passed, and these babies are the sort of thing they are looking for as an easy meal as they are fairly defenceless.
4 days ago, as I write this blog my buck gave birth to a 3rd baby, and her behaviour before giving birth had already made me aware she was going to hide it somewhere close by, and although she didn’t give birth at the house on its 2nd day of life she moved it to hide just outside our bedroom window, presumably so we could keep an eye on it and help her out. This meant we haven’t gotten much sleep, worrying and listening out for any unusual noises and although being somewhat asleep, also being somewhat awake!
Mum and baby at 2 days old
Baby at 4 days old
As of yesterday, she relocated it to our garden, as we had a huge storm and actually had 80mm overnight in rain! This meant I was on high alert all evening knowing I was the official babysitter all night and I slept on a mattress in our lounge with the door to my garden open a little (something you don’t tend to do in the bush due to many creepy crawlies, but also it was a lot of rain so needless to say everything was very wet) Mum had left and went to find her own area to stay sheltered for the night and feed (as they often feed during the night time, and sleep during the day) I was up constantly in the night checking on the baby and checking to see if mum had returned as our garden gate had to stay closed to make sure the baby was safe and not trapped in case of a predator coming in. I tried to make it a sort of shelter for it with my sun lounger, as there isn’t much cover from plants in the garden currently due to the time to year being (normally) the dry season. The baby hide behind the lounger but did venture out during all the thunder and lightning so there I was in my PJs in the middle of the storm in my garden keeping an eye on the baby.
If the baby calls then this will attract predators to it and that I really didn’t want so I was listening out the whole night. Eventually mum arrived at 5am to feed the baby, which was very welcomed by all! Everyone was very wet from the nights rain, including myself!
I have decided to let the baby get somewhat accustomed to me so that if I do need to help it in some way then it will be easier to do so. And as it was having fun running around the garden today while mum was there, I did manage to check, and the new baby is a little boy! This wasn’t surprising to me, as he is very dark and the males tend to be darker, plus he just looks like a boy! But its going to be interesting as she has only raised a girl before and he will grow horns and get chased out by the dominant bull once he is a bit older so a very different experience ahead for us all.
Of course I don’t know if he will definitely make it, the same way I don’t know if any of them will or for how long but the most important thing is that they are wild and free and they choose to be this way and are not tame or humanised (only to myself and Grant) and my bond with them has changed my life forever so I’m grateful for every day I get to see them and really hope I get to see the new baby grow big and strong and I love that my herd is getting bigger.
If anyone would like to see more of my bushbucks or any of the other animals I rehabilitate then you can also check out my Facebook page or Instagram account, called ‘Wild Dreams Rehab’ and I will put some videos and photos on the Kings Camp pages regularly too.
Words: Hayley Cooper
Photos: Grant Murphy
A kiss from mum