Close-up of a lion cub yawning

Animal Mums

The recent ITV series Animal Mums has enjoyed tremendous and unsurprising popularity. Who does not love footage of baby animals?

Luckily, the programme went beyond filling our TV screens with cuteness and included interesting insights into animal behaviour and some familiar faces from ACE projects! Episode 2 followed John Vogel and Cilla Pickering from the Phinda Wildlife Research Project through the Phinda Private Game Reserve. John explained the fascinating dynamics of lionesses looking after their cubs collectively while Cilla tracked Phinda’s elephants.

Although they don’t usually have a film crew in tow, driving through the bush and climbing a vantage point with the telemetry aerial in hand is a familiar routine for Phinda volunteers. These pics from past Phinda project volunteers Thomas Seymour, and Krishna Makineni could have been taken straight from the footage of the Animal Mums episode! Detailed observations of wildlife movements and behaviour are essential to the research, as Phinda closely monitors the dynamics of its lion pride.

Not all wildlife babies are so lucky to have the protection of their mothers, though. When poachers strike, wildlife orphans are left behind, and human “animal mums” need to step in. This is where the wildlife rehabilitation centres come in, and Khulula Care for Wild has been doing “heavy duty” in the wildlife mums department. The project now looks after over 20 young rhinos, from babies to temperamental adolescents. Our tireless helpers at Khulula know all about “mum duties”: the bottle preparations, the 2 am feeds, and even “bath time” (with mud!)

Two of the latest arrivals are Oz and Don. Oz was brought to Khulula by emergency helicopter transfer, with the pilot having to make an emergency stop and having to resuscitate OZ. Don’s story is equally dramatic – he made the national news when pictures of him wandering up to tourist cars in the Kruger hit were picked up by the press. Despite their trials, both lads are now thriving at Khulula due to their many doting human mummies and are winning hearts with their personalities and antics: Don is quite the cheeky little poser, while Oz plays the role of big brother to Don and Warren with perfection.