Striped Velvet

» Posted on May 4, 2008 in Blog | 0 comments

Striped Velvet

I didn’t want to tell you, at first, about the little bundle of bones the local senior game warden placed in our care about two weeks ago.

Zebra Baby

He had received word from a (northern) Maasai that a zebra foal had followed his cows into his “manyatta” (a Maasai traditional homestead). The Maasai people are known for their benevolent ability to respect wildlife, sharing what little grazing there is for their live stock with zebras and other wild grazers and tolerating even the king of beasts, the lion on their turf.

The Maasai herdsman narrated the story, how only 2 days ago he had witnessed 2 lionesses making a kill of a zebra mare. Then, “the king” male lion who had been observing from a distance, claimed his right to feast first on the still warm and twitching Zebra, with the lionesses dutifully waiting their turn.

The whole commotion of the chase of course had totally unsettled his herd of cows who had fled in panic in every direction.

Unnoticed in the excitement, a zebra foal no more than two days old, had been swept up in the flight of the cows. Unable to locate her slain mother the confused little foal had followed the cows as they gathered for the trek home. Once united with their herdsman they entered the manyatta, a safe enclosure giving them protection from the predators at night. That’s when the odd one out was first noticed, now feeling quite safe amongst the warm assuring bodies of other larger animals even though they did not have stripes on their pelts. The Maasai herdsman just left the little one there and went to consult with the elders. When it was time to milk the cows, a little was spilled on a hollow stone for the foal who, following the lead of the calves, licked it up.

Left to chance, the foal might even have leaned to nurse from a cow if that had been permitted. But the council of elders decided it was better to send a message to the Government Game Warden than risk being accused of having killed the mother themselves.

Another day had passed before the familiar green land rover appeared and game scouts swiftly grabbed the foal and, holding it in their arms for the long journey back across the plains, finally delivered it to Fundi at our animal orphanage.

Zebra with Children

Domestic motherless foals are difficult to rear under any circumstances, let alone wild striped ones. Muraya, one of our animal attendants, offered to find donkey milk in the village, although I wondered what donkey would let you milk her! He of course returned empty handed (and bruised!!). Fundi agreed to “donate” his sleep for the first ten days to fed the little one on our special formula in a nursing bottle throughout the days and nights.

So far all the fuss and care has paid off: now, 2 weeks later, our foal has gained a little weight, getting stronger each day and with it boosts our hopes for its survival.

“Helping” of course is the never tiring “Chucky” the mini hog, and Bella the little buffalo, who, by example, has persuaded the foal to try some alfalfa leaves.

Zebra with Warthog

Each night these three unmatched creatures cuddle up together, having made their choice from all the other orphans around them.

Zebra, Buffalo, and Warthog at the Conservancy

Nature certainly has its ways to adapt and insure survival when the need is greatest.

Your help and support is indispensable for the continued success of the rehabilitation to the wild programs of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy and animal orphanage.

“Striped Velvet” can be adopted, even named: click here for details:

Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy