Conflict between wild animals are no uncommon, but we first-hand experienced just how bad it could get if a hand reared animal turned rogue.
We were very pleased when one of our wild zebras gave birth to a small foal and on the specific morning when a tragedy took place the mare and foal was photographed with the mare grazing peacefully with her foal near her kingship group.
Only a couple of hours later one of the rangers called in and reported a badly injured mare with a small foal. To our absolute horror we realised when we arrived on the scene that it was the same mare photographed earlier on, that had been badly injured by a hand reared eland bull. He was standing close by; his face and horns covered in blood. What happen between the two animals and why he attacked the zebra mare remains a mystery, but we can only presume that because he was the only eland bull in the reserve he needed to show his strength in a territorial fight and the zebra unfortunately was on the receiving end of his anger. It is also highly likely that she defended her foal instead of running away. I guess we will never know the answer.
Our immediate concern was for the zebra mare that stood under a tree with her foal in obvious discomfort and great pain. We knew even if the mare was darted the foal would remain close by as it was way too small to survive on its own.
The wound was truly horrific, but we had hope that if cleaned out properly and fighting off any infection with aggressive antibiotic treatment we may just get lucky. The wound was cleaned and stitched after which the zebra mare was loaded onto the back of a vehicle for transportation to the rehabilitation bomas.
As mom was loaded onto the vehicle the small foal ran up to us and it was quite easy to grab and catch her by hand. A sedative was administered and Sugar (as we named her) was loaded onto a 2nd vehicle that followed the one with her mom on the back.
The pair was put in one of our holding pens and the mare allowed Sugar to drink. We were hopeful that all was going to be okay. Sadly the mare died during the night and the little foal was inconsolable; nudging her mother and calling for her to get up. At around 04h00 Sugar was moved to another pen and I settled down to spend the rest of the night with her. Early in the morning the staff would remove the mare’s body and she would be fed to the lions in our large predator sanctuary. I was heart broken, but fortunately we had raised a number of zebra foals in the past and I knew that within 3-4 days the foal would have accepted her loss and life would continue.