Monday, June 27, 2011

A Father's Love

Yes, I know. There hasn't much blog posting going on. Real Life has been handing out a fair few blows and so blogging hasn't been too high on the priority list. I needed cheering up so let me tell you something that touched my heart.

There has been much reading and television watching and, among the dross, there were some gems. This was one.

I was watching a documentary on the migration of herds of zebra and wildebeeste in Africa as they follow the grasslands, often for hundreds of miles, in vast numbers. They cross rivers where crocodiles lie in wait and are preyed on by lions and other predators but nothing short of death stops them. In the case of one zebra in the documentary death did stop her.

A mother with a young foal collapsed and died. The baby attempted to suckle and then tried desperately to rouse his dead mother. Meanwhile, the rest of his family continued on among the herds, soon disappearing into the distance, but there was one exception. The male, who we might have thought would only be interested holding his harem together, stayed close to the foal calling to it. The distraught foal was initially totally fixated on his mother but as time passed he started to look around. Then the male did something extraordinary. He began walking up and down in front of the foal, calling it and kept on for some hours. Slowly the foal's attention shifted from his dead mother to the alive and calling male and he began to move away from the body. The male then came over and shepherded him away and they moved off after the herds into which the male's harem had long ago vanished.

Whether they were ever reunited with the harem we don't know. Nor do we know how the foal would survive without being able to find milk. Perhaps another female would have been persuaded take him on. I would like to think, though, that the father was able to bring his family together again and raise his son. We are so fond of thinking we are superior to animals but I can't see this as anything but an act of love and self-sacrifice. Can you?

Edited to insert missing word.


Satima Flavell said...

That's a lovely, heartwarming story, Helen! Did you see the recent series on gorillas that showed a father raising his daughter? And another one took on the care of an orphan. I don't think compassion is a purely human attribute, by any means!

Helen V. said...

Yes, I did see that series, Satima. It was inspiring but somehow this seemed even more touching given how male herd animals are usually depicted only being interested in keeping together a harem.