What happened shocked us all, including the guide, Bob, with his many years of experience at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The tram hauled us through the African Safari area of the park attracting the attention of our two grandsons focusing on the white rhinos, oryx, gazelles, giraffes, red deer and other wildebeests. The day was partly sunny and the animals were active and the tram ride line had been long.
The guide with the gravely voice and hint of joy in his job stopped the tram providing a distant but broad view of a hillside inhabited mostly by giraffes and oryx, a small sleek animal with long, sticklike horns. Our attention was drawn to a baby oryx walking as Bob had noted on still wobbly legs. The baby must be a newborn or perhaps a day old. This was the guide’s first sighting. We watched for awhile as the mom oryx watched her baby’s tentative march toward her.
Enter a straight and tall adult giraffe advancing seemingly without purpose toward the teetering baby oryx. The giraffe’s advance threatened the baby and raised the ire of the mother. She expectantly stood in a defensive pose near the giraffe. The unexpected happened, the giraffe kicked the baby who fell to the ground and remained still. There was a loud gasp among the tram riders and Bob expressed his disbelief at such a happening .
He managed to say that he would report the incident and the tram continued down the way. Needless to say, the mood on the tram had changed. We were all saddened and curious about the incident but tried to pay attention to the remainder of the sights in this part of the park.
(NOTE; thanks to our daughter in law, Miriam’s persistence, we learned a few weeks later that the baby oryx was doing well).
Our two grandsons were aware of the seriousness of the incident and later in the day, quizzed a staff member about the event. He had not heard any news but assured the boys that the welfare of the baby oryx would have been observed by the surveillance devices in the park. Decisions are constantly made when to interfere or when it is wise to avoid human intervention and let nature take is course.
Such strange encounters, probably common in nature, are beyond our comprehension. It seems so unlikely that such dissimilar creatures, a giraffe and an oryx would be inclined to clash. Perhaps this is a simile for all life on this planet, spontaneous cruelties and attacks, planned battles and war being as incomprehensible as the incident seen from the tram. Can we define the boundaries of what is natural? Human intervention on all accounts remains a fragile course. The staff member acknowledged that the outcome of the incident would not be public knowledge.
Ann Carol Goldberg