This stuff is hollow and springy, more like quills than fur, and it wasn’t long ago that it was used for stuffing saddles…
Which didn’t please its rightful owner, the klipspringer, who finds it invaluable as insulation from extreme heat and cold, and as protection from injury when he is leaping around in the rocks. Or, in this case, as a camouflage when your mother has been gone for far too long, and you are hiding in the grass, desperate for food.
And that’s where Scout Khanye found him, bleating, and putting himself into great danger of being discovered by baboons or one of the four leopards who are presently active on Stone Hills.
Out of all the African antelope, klipspringers ("rock jumpers" in Afrikaans) are the most devoted of spouses. They are rarely more than a few metres from each other, and this closeness continues until one of them dies.
For their first two or three months, mothers hide away their babies, who instinctively stay still and quiet, so when you find one of only a few days old continuously calling and alone, chances are that the mother has died.
Sweet though he was, the last thing we ever want to do is to remove animals from the bush unless it’s absolutely necessary. Wild animals belong in the wild. Care of orphans is fraught with problems and rehabilitation is often unsuccessful, so Khanye and later David, stayed in the area for another few hours hoping that the mother would return.
By the afternoon, it was clear that she would not – so Klippie arrived in our guest bedroom, very sure of a welcome and extremely hungry. His tiny mouth couldn’t manage any of our teats, so Rich cunningly plugged a length of soft rubber hose onto the end of syringe, which had him feeding in no time – with Rich on one end with the syringe, and me on the other, dabbing his bottom with a wad of wet cotton wool to stimulate sucking. His mother would have been licking it - and she’s welcome.
All went beautifully for the first couple of days until, inevitably, Klippie developed diarrhoea from the change in diet. That’s pretty normal, but it can’t be allowed to last long, as dehydration can kill very quickly. Within a couple of days, he was onto rehydration solution and antibiotics, which meant a series of jabs into an almost non-existent muscle in that tiny leg.
He must have been feeling very weak, but that didn’t alter Klippie’s cocky attitude.
Not only did he try to head butt us, but he was determined to jump - anywhere, all the time. Onto anything lying on the floor, off our laps, out of our arms, or just on the spot – because that’s what he’s designed to do on the tips of his hooves, like a ballet dancer en pointe: an adaptation that makes it possible for them to bound sure-footedly up and down the steepest rocks. Most of the jumps ended up with Klippie flat on his face or crumpled on the floor, but that didn’t stop him practicing.
His arrival came at a tricky time – we were off on a hiking trip with David to the Chimanimani mountains four days later – something we had promised to do before he took off to Brazil. Caring for young Klippie wasn’t like having a puppy that anyone with commonsense could manage – this little chap was a mighty challenge, and if he didn’t receive the right treatment, he wouldn’t last long.
And that’s when Baye Pigors came into the picture – with her menagerie of Umfazi, the year old female baboon, rescued by Baye when the whole troop was destroyed on a local farm; Bange, the young male warthog - another orphan - and her two enormous dogs, Tipsy and Sooty, plus a couple of Jack Russells. Chaos is king at the Pigors' house. Umfazi leaps about, never far from Baye , but apt to tease the others, and not above the odd exciting foray over the wall for a bit of pilfering from the neighbours. It was hard to believe that our tiny fawn, weighing in at a mere one kilogramme, could last more than a couple of minutes with that bunch of heavyweights at large. The baboon would be jealous of him, the warthog would want to butt him, and the dogs would probably have him for breakfast. But Baye didn’t seem at all worried. Feeling guilty and relieved all at the same time, we left her standing calmly in the driveway, with a box full of ideal milk, syringes, towels and medicines, and Klippie in her arms.
Some people are good with animals; some have an instinctive “way” with them – and that’s Baye (and her helper, Kumbulani, who lets Umfazi sleep in his bed when Baye is away). When we returned 10 days later, Klips was running with the pack – best friends with Umfazi, and bossing up Bange. At first, anticipating a pushover, Bange knocked him down. Then Klips got to his feet and charged – giving the little warthog a good butt in the side. Even at that age, he demanded respect, and he got it.
|Umfazi and Klippie with carer Kumbulani.|
Two months later, Klippie is a healthy 4.1kg and still with his new family. Reintroducing him to Stone Hills could be disastrous. Like 90% of orphans, in our experience, he’s a boy (doesn’t that tell you something?) – so he won’t be tolerated by the adult males who are highly territorial. But he might just have to take that chance. Then again, Baye has plans to set up a primate rehabilitation centre on a large piece of land, which may be another, safer option. Whatever we decide, though, it will be in the best interests of little Klippie – and as close as he can be to a natural situation.