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Why Skipping Tea-Time Can Get You Unforgettable Photographs in Etosha

A tiny newborn springbok lamb is being licked clean by its mother
A springbok ewe licks her newborn lamb clean just after giving birth

It had puzzled us for quite a while.

It was rainy season and the fresh, green plains were dotted with cute, tiny springbok lambs ... some just a day old, others already a week.

But although we had been on game drives daily in the early mornings and late afternoons we had never encountered an actual birth.

How on earth, we wondered, did the baby springbok land on the green plains of the Etosha National Park?

Although a trusted friend favored the theory that 'the Abdim stork brought them', most of the Etosha park staff we asked suggested that springbok moms either delivered their lambs in secluded bush away from their herds or that it actually happened during the night. Mmmhhh, I wondered, what if we were all wrong?

So one day I decided to change our photo routine.

Instead of heading back by mid-morning in time for our regular tea break I stayed on with a large herd of springbok. From inside my car that I’d parked by the side of the road I was watching them.

Most of them continued to feed on the fresh green grass that had sprouted after last week’s storm. As the temperature rose toward midday, most springbok lay down to rest and ruminate, others sheltered from the sun in the tiny shade of a Nebrowni shrub.

It was quiet ...

the kind of quiet that accompanies the heat in Namibia: no sound from any movement, but a constant 'zzzzzz' from the sun beetles in the shrubs that didn't seem to mind.

The temperature gauge of the car indicated over 40 degrees and I was struggling to stay awake, when some movement a little way off the herd near the shrub line caught my eye. It was an ewe who nibbled at some grass, walked a few steps, nibbled again, walked on ...

... odd, I thought ... she seems restless.

I reached for my binoculars and looked at her closely. As she turned sideways I scanned her body and … could not believe my eyes: a tiny nuzzle protruded from her backside, she was about to give birth!

A springbok ewe is about to give birth
A springbok ewe is about to give birth

I grabbed my camera with the long lense (450 mm), positioned it in the open window on my bean-bag and took the first shot.

I was thilled … and so lucky to be able to witness and photograph the entire birth that took place in a very quiet, disciplined and dignified way. Wow!

A springbok mother and newborn lamb just after the birth
A springbok mother and newborn lamb just after the birth

Less than 45 minutes later the 'new springbok earthling' was born and licked clean by its mother. Another half an hour of tries and falls on its wobbly legs the lamb was sturdy enough to walk behind mom - and to run off, if it must, to escape from sudden danger.

Just minutes after its birth a tiny lamb is attempting to get up
Just minutes after its birth a tiny lamb is attempting to get up

Delighted I packed up and returned to camp way after lunch time. Although I truly enjoy the park staff’s daily get-togethers at tea-time, having had missed it today had been absolutely fabulous.

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