Abandoned newborn wildebeest follows cyclist to lucky rescue

2014-12-10 00:00

A CURIOUS baby wildebeest, abandoned by its mother with its umbilical cord still attached, followed a cyclist who realised the youngster was in danger.

Two weeks later the wildebeest is on the mend and said to be in a healthy condition.

“The alpha male rejected this newborn, which was found wandering in the estate. We are not sure yet exactly why he is doing this to newborns,” said Rosalind Marais of FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The cyclist was riding through the St Ives estate, just outside Howick, a fortnight ago when he noticed the calf following him.

At the time it was found the calf was vulnerable and had a slim chance of survival.

The cyclist notified the owners of the estate who then acted on getting treatment for the animal.

Catherine Ashley, who owns the estate with her husband, said it was very rare for an animal to be found abandoned on the premises.

“We sent out the farm manager to look for the mother of the calf. She could not be found so we called FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation to treat the baby,” she said.

Ashley said while they waited for FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation to fetch the calf, he wandered into their home.

“My daughters thought he was a reindeer and wanted to keep him. They named him Bruce and we go to visit him regularly to see how he is progressing,” said Ashley.

Marais said the calf was abandoned by his mother shortly after birth, and would have died without food and protection.

“The alpha male in a wildebeest group can be quite aggressive if the mother is not around to protect the babies and it was possible that he would have attacked and killed him,” she said.

Marais said it was very important to feed the baby colostrum for his first feed, so he receives antibodies that will protect him from infections later.

“He is doing very well and is gaining weight steadily on a diet of calf replacement feed,” she said.

Marais said the calf would stay at FreeMe for about five months, whereafter a suitable release area would be found for him.

Yesterday afternoon a second new-born wildebeest was picked up by FreeMe from the estate.

“The alpha male rejected this newborn and he was found wandering in the estate,” said Marais.

•rumana.akoob@witness.co.za

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