Some of the most delightful sightings in the bushveld, the memories that will melt even the hardest of hearts, are those of baby animals. Watching a baby rhino cautiously approaching a safari vehicle, only to realise that the big hulk isn’t another of its kind, and then skittering away squeaking back to its mother, is priceless. Having the privilege to see a baby antelope being born, and then quickly find its balance on wobbly legs to escape becoming a meal is amazing. Or being lucky enough to find a really young elephant calf struggling to stand tall while trying to drink from its mother – these are sights beyond precious.
Have you ever wondered why a baby impala is called a lamb but a kudu has a calf? Both are species of antelope after all. What is the correct name for a baby elephant or giraffe? With summer around the corner and much-needed rains imminent, baby season in the bushveld is almost here; and with it comes the question of which baby is called what.
Female adults of the smaller antelope species, such as impala and bushbuck, are called ewes, and the males, rams. The offspring of these small antelope are lambs. For larger antelope such as kudu the adults are cows and bulls, with the babies being called calves.
Elephants, giraffes, hippos and rhinos all give birth to calves. Zebras, like their equine cousins, have foals. Unsurprisingly, monkeys and baboons which have such human looking babies, deliver infants. And, of course, baby warthogs couldn’t possibly be known as anything but piglets (females and males are sows and boars).
The magnificent cats that inhabit Sabi Sabi – lions, leopards and cheetahs – produce cubs. The civet, though not a cat, gives birth to kittens, as does the serval which is a genuine wild cat. Dog-like jackals and African wild dogs produce pups; but what about the conundrum of a hyena? Sharing characteristics of both dogs and cats, the hyena baby is called is a cub.
Most people know that new born birds are hatchlings and soon become chicks. However, a bit more unusual is that hatchlings are also the name given to baby crocodiles. In fact any young that hatch from eggs are referred to as hatchlings, including baby snakes, lizards and monitors. Spiders’ young are called spiderlings – a group of which is a cluster – and frogs begin life as tadpoles.
Not all species drop their babies with the first rains, but many do and guests have come to associate early summer with the adorable young animals that emerge almost simultaneously. Whatever they’re called, it’s worth visiting Sabi Sabi to see the new babies of the bushveld.