We often don’t realise how fine a line it is between life and death. As quickly as life is given, it can be reclaimed. This we found out when we did a trip to Lake Tagalala. We set aside a day to go to Lake Tagalala, to experience a boat trip on the Lake and also to see the hot springs, possibly even enjoy a plunge within them.
On our way to the Lake, nearing its shores, we found a newly born Giraffe calf and mom. The calf had just learnt to stand on all four, still very wobbly at the knees as his mom patiently coaxed him to take his first steps in his brand new life. A small remnant of his umbilical cord still attached to him, and mom still had a little blood on her from giving birth. We watched in awe, as he followed and ambled behind mom, his small horns still flat and hadn’t even taken their upright shape yet.
We left mom and calf, to go and do our boat trip and then take a splash in the hot springs. As we finished up at the hot springs and on our way back, we were informed that two lions were seen close to where the giraffe cow and calf were seen, so we headed off in that direction. The lions had made an impala lamb kill, so they would still be in the area, allowing for us to possibly relocate them, watch them for a while and then head home.
After a fair amount of searching, we eventually spotted one of the males, walking with purpose. He was one of the three musketeers, a coalition of three young males which have formed a pride with two lionesses. We followed, soon finding a second lion. The scene that met us and the proceedings that eventually took place, made us all realise how things can change and how precious life is.
There were actually four of them, two males and two females actively hunting and trying to take down this newly born giraffe calf we had just seen a few hours previously. Mother had positioned herself between the lions, with her calf in front and between her front legs, guiding the calf in the direction of safety. As the lions would approach, she would then rise up like a mustang stallion and lunge with legs kicking and dropping in the direction of the intent hunters. The giraffe cow was also bellowing in a loud booming voice, something which is very rare to hear, as giraffe have no vocal cords, and have been described to make grunts and snorts, but virtually never heard. This would be the second time in ten years that I have ever heard a giraffe make a sound, and in this case, it was appropriate timing.
The lions, biding their time and awaiting the valuable opening, took their places on either side of the two giraffe. The Giraffe mother still leading her new calf between the lurking dangers and almost to safety. However, these lions could not let an opportunity like this go, and as the cow began her movement through the middle and away from the four lions, a mistake was made; the calf lost his footing, falling to the earth. In the same instant as the calf crumbled to the floor, the lioness lurched forward. In a spit-second, the lioness’s powerful paw with her claws encircled around the calf’s throat, engulfed his head with her jaws and delivered a powerful bite as she dragged it down, for the final suffocating bite.
But as the crushing blow was about to be delivered, one of the males stormed in chasing the lioness off the calf, and claimed the baby giraffe as his prize; his mighty jaws finding their mark. The male lion then lifted the giraffe calf, which may weigh 80kg from birth, in his jaws and dragged it under the safety of a bush; finally finishing it off with a powerful bite.
From birth, to death in five hours, just shows us how short life can be in the African wilderness. But even though one witness’s these scenes and it is emotionally taxing, the circle of life needs to continue. The four lions need to eat to sustain themselves, for the giraffe calf would keep them satisfied for several days, before they would need to hunt again. The dead calf will also feed other scavengers and species, like Spotted Hyaena, several different species of vultures, micro-organisms and insect life; which collectively will breakdown the giraffe and completing the circle of life.
Because from life comes death, and from death comes life again.