I met Zoro when we brought the newborn wildebeest over to share her home. Zoro was also a rescue, only a month old herself. She was tiny and fragile, yet she still had these vast, protruding ears shooting out from her big, black eyes, making her seem much larger. She welcomed her new little visitor openly and instantly they were best friends; The kudu and the wildebeest, nature having fun. Our little beest, “Bilike” (bil-leh-kee) as she was aptly called, (I believe it’s an Afrikaans word for sweetie, or something similar) had been rescued the day before just after her entrance into this world.
"Come Shelly!! Hop in the car!” Andre yelled as he grabbed the keys, running to the fence to slide it open. As we bolted down the narrow dirt road that led to the main lodge, he explained that Casper had called to say there was a newborn wildebeest just across the road that seemed to have been abandoned by its mother. We were going to get him. Sometimes, when we would hurry off for something like this, it would be too late and we'd miss whatever was there; a herd of eles, a cheetah sighting, etc., but not this time. As we pulled up, I could see a tiny little animal standing in the brown grass, looking at us in fright, bleating, “beeh-eh!… beeh-eh!” No mother in sight. Andre hopped out and went straight for him, I froze in awe. This was a little thing, but he was still a wild thing. I thought it would be a struggle, but he was captured quite easily. There stood Andre, this big, bald, Afrikaaner man, with four tiny, long legs in his arms. It was such a beautiful sight that I'll never forget... This large, intimidating man softly holding a delicate creature in his arms... “This is why I chose Africa”, I thought to myself, “This is my world, how lucky am i?” Then, breaking out of my silent gaze, I noticed that Andre was splattered with blood. The umbilical chord was still fresh, and it was spurting out red drops at an alarming rate. We ran to the lodge to get a first aid kit and some water. I rinsed the blood, and then found a compress to hold against the bleeding chord. Together, we brought her to an enclosure outside the maid's quarters. Happiness let out a yelp and ran inside her room. We sat and watched as the little beest maneuvered his way around, testing out his legs and his meek voice. “ beeeh-eh!”, scuffle, stare, “beeeh-eh!” I had fallen in love. Fascinated, I walked around with him, staying by his side so he wouldn't be too afraid, and also so he wouldn't hurt himself by getting his twiggy legs stuck in the debris around the yard. Soon, he laid down, and I sat there beside him, stroking his head. The others moved to the bar where they made a few gin tonics as they decided what they would do with him. I stayed there on the ground next to my new friend, savoring every moment I had with him; me and a newborn wild animal who looked at me as mum. If I moved, he got up and moved right back next to me. I waited until he was asleep and then rose to join the others… “beeeh-eh!!!” he popped right up and stood by my side, stuck to my leg in protest. I learned later that wildebeest attach to the first thing they see after they are born. Although Andre was technically the 'thing', I was the human now who was in his sight, therefore, I was mum.
Soon, Hendrik and Jeske arrived with a baby's bottle and milk. They said they would take him back to their farm to join the new Kudu they had just rescued the week prior. They were used to raising baby animals on their farm, and explained to me just how much work it actually is. They must be bottle-fed every 3 hours, day and night for months. It is a chore of love, one that you must be 100% committed to, or else your little beasts will die. I was happy Bilike had a home, yet I was secretly sad that Andre had not taken him, as I wanted to be around him, I wanted to raise her, be this frail creature's 'mum'. But I knew it was impossible, and when I went to Hendrik and Jeske's farm to visit a few days later, I saw he had a new best friend named Zoro. The two dashed around the enclosure together, always one right behind the other. When I entered, I heard my favorite new sound, “beeeh-eh” and smiled, calling him to me to see if he would still remember I was one of his humans. “Beh-eh” he said as he came closer to me, and I got to feed him one of his bottles there under the hot afternoon sun.
These are the things I miss about Africa… The unexpected mornings where you come across a surprise, and fall in love with life, where nature and humans are not so separate after all.