A zebra mare was spotted by our rangers standing over a small foal that seemed unable or unwilling to walk. On closer inspection they realise that the little one had a break in the one front leg.
When our team approached to help the little foal, the mare refused to leave and stood her ground determined to defend her foal. Her determination to not give up her foal prompted us our attempt a unique rescue in which we decided instead of darting the foal and removing her from her mother, we would dart both animals and take them to the rehab centre and place them in a wooden stockade called a boma.
Our biggest concern was that the mare would reject her foal in the confinement of a man-made structure, but we were still willing to take the risk because if she did reject the foal returning her to her kingship group would be as simple as just opening the gate and setting her free. She knew the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary well as she was hand-reared after being caught on a barbed wire fence on a farm in Limpopo Province when she was only about three months old. Gummies, is one of the original zebra foals hand reared by our founder. She would quickly find her kingship group again so we decided to proceed with this unique rescue.
The mare was darted first and soon afterwards the foal; that remained by her mother’s side could be darted. The pair was then loaded onto two separate vehicle and relocated to the holding boma where the mare was placed inside and then given an antidote to wake up. Once we knew the mare was okay, the veterinarian started to realign and set the foal’s broken leg.
The break was just above the ankle joint and the veterinarian was confident that the young animal could make a full recovery with proper care. The big question was to find out if the mare would accept her back and allow her to suckle or if the darting and capture as well as the forced confinement would prove to be too much for her.
Fortunately as the photographs below illustrate, the mare immediately accepted her foal back and allow her to suckle without any problems. The next day both zebras seemed quite okay and the mare was eating well.
To our astonishment the entire kingship group found the mare and foal on the forth day of their temporary confinement and remained around the holding boma. One should never underestimate the family bonds and intelligence of animals many people regard as “just dumb animals”.
The mare and foal will remain in temporary holding for at least 8 weeks to allow the leg to heal properly and we will bring you an update on them asap.