Written by: Cara Pring
One lunch time at Makuleke camp, Quentin (one of the EcoTraining instructors) found a tiny baby acacia rat, which had clearly fallen from its nest in the roof. We tried to put it back on the roof but unfortunately, the poor little guy just kept falling down. Its little eyes were not even open!
We decided the safest thing was to leave it on the ground and hopefully its mum would come and find it. Needless to say, I was very worried about the poor thing, particularly as it had now fallen from a pretty great height numerous times! I kept an eye on it as it lay motionless on the deck.
Everyone set out for the afternoon walk but I decided to stay at camp to edit photos (and keep an eye on the little baby acacia rat). Bruce, Van, Jeff (another ex-EcoTraining instructor) and I were sitting in the common area when the mummy rat started running around in the roof rafters – obviously looking for her lost little baby!
Bruce suggested we pick up the baby and try and get it to squeak so the mum would hear, but I was worried that it was now dead as it had not moved for a long time. Naturally, I made Van go and check, and luckily the little guy was still alive, but he wouldn’t squeak.
Eventually everyone else went off to do their respective things and I stayed editing my photos. The next minute I saw the acacia rat mum on the lowest rafter.
By this time the little baby had made its way under the fridge, but I managed to get him (or her?) out and went over to the mum and showed her that I had her little baby. She was very interested. I didn’t know how to safely give her the baby (and let’s face it I was a little too short for the job), so I simply held it up as close as I could to her and then placed it gently on the ground.
The baby had no idea that its mum was there as it was still blind, so when I placed it down, it started walking blindly in the opposite direction. I walked away to give mummy rat some space, and of course switched on the trusty video camera on my phone.
Mummy rat barely hesitated before she clambered down the pole and over to her lost little baby! As you can see in the video, she pushes the baby under her until it bites on and then effectively drags it across the ground as she runs! A very unique way of transporting your young!
Bruce was pretty sure she wouldn’t come down while we were there but it goes to show you that even though she knew I was there, there was nothing that was going to keep her from saving her baby. The mother-baby bond is strong in most animals too and it’s always something special to see!
What made the experience even more special for me was the fact she came right over to me after retrieving her baby even though she could have gone the opposite way. It felt like she was coming over to say, “thank you” before she scurried away and up another pole back to the safety of her roof nest.
It may not have been a leopard, or elephant or other typically exciting African animal, but I have to say this was definitely one of the most special encounters I have had in my time at EcoTraining. Amazing things happen every day in the African wilderness, and it is so special when you happen to be in the right place at the right time to see them!