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Anjuly Mathai
Anjuly Mathai

LOVE ACTUALLY

Mum’s the word

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A mother’s love is the most powerful force among the wild animals of Kenya

A small baboon wags his pink bottom at us from a tree. Then he turns back and grins. He derives so much pleasure from our rapt faces that he decides to do an encore. But, he slips and slides off the branch and just as he is about to fall, his mother, a large baboon with a bored expression on her face, grabs his tail and pulls him to her. She hugs him close until he wriggles out of the comfort of her arms. The scene is so endearing that we spend many moments watching the duo.

We are at the Baboon Cliff View Point at the Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. To see the wild animals strolling in the savannah of Africa is a sight like no other. There is a serene peace about them, some of which rubs off on you as you watch them. It is the first time I am going on an African safari and I learn a lot about all sorts of animals that I hadn’t even heard of.

The Thomson’s gazelles, for example, can be distinguished by a black patch on their sides. Their flesh is the softest so cheetahs have a gourmet meal when they catch them. The wildebeest can smell rain in the air and use it as a compass to determine which direction to go. An African elephant cannot be tamed and its ears are shaped like the map of Africa.

What is common among all the animals is their love for their young ones. They protect them with their lives. A young elephant calf sticks with her mother until she is a year old. An elephant that has her calf with her is the most dangerous as she will destroy anything that she considers a threat to her baby. Wildebeest are terrified of water but they have to cross it during the great migration to find greener pastures. During the crossing, thousands of them are killed by crocodiles or hit the rocks and die. Despite knowing that death is just an inch away, wildebeest mothers will turn back if they reach the other end without their calves to save their young ones.

But, the most interesting method of protecting her cubs is of the lioness. A lion will kill cubs that are not his own to avoid competition in a pride. So, a lioness mates with all the lions in a pride in order to confuse the lion about which his offspring is.

While my father conversed with our guide about the mating rituals and life spans of the baboons, my mother couldn’t keep her eyes off the mother baboon and her little son. What can I say? Once a mother, always a mother.

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