Saving Baby Karen

The Saving of Baby Karen

As Told by our Animal Orphanage Keepers

By Iris Hunt

On the Second of September (2002) one of the workers at Mr. Hunt’s house was frightened by a strange noise, coming from the surrounding bush. He was frightened and wondered if it could be a large snake making such a cry. The next day, hearing the cry again, he reported to Peter the Manager. Peter sent his little boy Lorian to go with the game scout Kingori to investigate.

It All Began Like This…

African Bushbuck antelope

Following the sound they wondered what animal this could be. Ten year old Lorian had no fear and went straight through the bush towards the sound. And there she was, a little frightened bundle of red fur all curled up and with her ears flat and eyes closed so as to hide.

Gently Lorian tried to lift her to her feet. Now he realized this minute creature was a baby buck. Lorian remembered what he had learned at the Orphanage. He lifted her gently letting her “hide” her head. They returned to the orphanage with the baby, sending a quick Radio message to Peter.

Meanwhile Peter rushed to the scene and found what he had suspected. Some distance away, the grisly remains of the Mother Bushbuck. There were the tell tale signs of a struggle and the footprints of a leopard.

How the baby escaped is a miracle that nature plays over and over again.

Leopard foot prints

Sensing danger the mother buck would have let out a sharp whistle, an instant command for the young to drop out of sight and stay hidden and quiet and wait for her call of release. Only then the mother would have taken flight, so as to lead the carnivore as far away from her baby as she could, before facing her killer for whom she was no match.

African Bushbuck antelope

Such is nature. The young, instinctively stayed silent, waiting for the mother’s call that never came.
Only the next day, when it could no longer survive on its own and growing too weak to fend off danger did the little fawn call out.

Lucky little fawn. Once in the Orphanage our experienced keepers took over. She did not take long to learn to drink from a bottle. Overcome by loneliness and need she quickly made friends with the hand that fed her.

A few days later a family from Nairobi came to visit the Orphanage. A little girl and her brother fell in love with the baby fawn and they spent most of the afternoon with her and returned the following morning. Sensing trust in each other the two young creatures, one human and one animal made friends giving the orphan the confidence to live in her new environment. That is how the fawn became “Karen,” named after the little girl, and her famous name sake Karen Blixen, authoress of “Out Of Africa,” who also wrote of a young bushbuck she befriended.

African Bushbuck antelope

Our fawn Karen displays instinctive behavior as she licks the tortoise. Her choice of friend however, proves her lack of “learned behaviour.”

In the wild, her mother would have prevented (taught) her from making such an “unsuitable” friend. In contrast, the young Bongo Antelopes born at the Ranch and raised normally by their mothers recognized the bushbuck as their “cousin,” signified by their intense interest in the new baby.

Update 2008

Bushbuck mother and daughter

That was in 2002. Now, 6 years later Karen is still a frequent visitor to the orphanage where she was raised after her rescue.

She produced a number of offspring, all conceived in the wild but born, by Karen’s own choice… in the safety of the Orphanage where she herself reared them.

Karen is free to come and go as she chooses. It makes us very proud grandparents indeed when she, time after time, returns to present her latest offspring.

Young male bushbuck

Two of them have decided to make the orphanage where they were born, their home, at least for now: A beautiful young female calf and her older handsome brother.

They are often joined by their mother Karen who continues to ‘disppear’ in search of the amorous attentions of the wild bushbuck nearby.

Seeing the happy trio here free and close-up is a treat for everyone: Bushbuck are uncommon in zoos, and shy by nature, they are rarely seen in the wild.

Captured !! This is the killer that made Karen an orphan

Leopard trapped at Mt. Kenya

Leopard trapped at Mt. Kenya

It was a real menace – on a deadly rampage at the Ranch for several months. We lost numerous young antelope and many precious llama babies to this wily leopard’s predation.

Traps were set, but the animal seemed much too smart to be drawn. Then finally it happened. She made a fatal error of judgment and went into one of the hidden, baited lures.

A young and beautiful female leopard.

We then called the Kenya Wildlife Service, which responded immediately, sending in an experienced, capable squad of Rangers to deal with the still dangerous animal. In due course, they transported her to Meru National Park where she was released back into the wild, well out of harm’s way from any human retribution for her natural predatory lifestyle.

She is now free in a beautiful environment, protected for life.

Some facts about the Bushbuck

(TRAGELAPHUS SCIPTUS)

A midsize colorful antelope that occurs all over (Sub Saharan) Africa, but is seldom seen, shy hiding from predators in dense bush or forests, near water

Females and fawns are reddish to brown with stripes and spots arranged in more artistic designs in West Africa (Harnessed Antelope). The male only has horns and becomes a dark brown as he ages.

Bushbuck are active mainly at night, when they eat leaves and soft grass, but also flowers and fruits from trees that have been raided by monkeys.

The bushbuck has been observed to be the only solitary non-territorial Antelope in Africa. After a gestation period of more than 6 months, a single young is dropped (up to twice a year) and usually near the rainy season to ensure a good food supply. The fawn stays hidden for several months, but will remain with the mother at least 6 months or much longer.

Social behavior includes grooming, licking, and nose to nose contact.

Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy