Baby Animals - Is There A Quota On Cuteness?
Baby animals are cuteness personified. But is there an actual reason for this cuteness besides giving us much to go gaga about over these adorable little things?
Let's start with the hyena. While adults are often maligned and fall into the ‘only a mother could love them’ category, their babies are little black fur-balls of the cutest kind.
Another creature with a sloped spine but a lot loftier, a baby giraffe has to literally drop into this world (from a height of about two metres!) when it is born, then struggle to stand on those long, matchstick legs.
Zebra foals? Almost carbon-copies of their mothers (although each zebra's stripes are as individual as a human's fingerprints), only in miniature form.
Or if you prefer spots to stripes, cheetah cubs with their blackened fuzz which helps keep them camouflaged and safe from predators (think polecat and honey-badger impersonations). They're adorable – cavorting with their siblings and chasing insects.
It is just impossible to resist. In baby season, there's an astounding array of wobbly legs, fluffy coats, big-eyed wonder and adorable antics while on safari.
Spring is in the air
November is the peak cuteness month. Spring is sprung once the first rains arrive. Rains are often dramatic afternoon thunderstorms, closely followed by sunshine.
Almost overnight, the parched earth, tree skeletons and brown grasses transform into a 40-shades-of-green wonderland with lush new shoots, tender leaves and bright blossoms.
It’s birthing season for many, especially the plains game like impala, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and many antelope species.
The science of cuteness
Konrad Lenz, an Austrian zoologist, proposed in the 1940s that infantile features cause us to see baby animals as cute –things like large heads, rounded faces, big eyes, common to most baby animals.
Later scientists proved that the cuteness factor of all young is directly related to the amount of care and nurturing it receives. It all boils down to the survival of the species. Babies are at their most vulnerable – they are slower, smaller and still have lots to learn to survive – like not putting its snout down a honey badger's burrow, or venturing close to a lion's den.
But even better, the green/rainy season is often far more affordable (especially in Botswana), is less-crowded and is the most spectacular time for birders.
See our earlier blog, Kruger Secrets: The best month to visit for the scoop.
About the author
Briony Chisholm has been travelling the back roads of South Africa for as long as she can remember – she’s from one of those families. The safari writing, however, only started a couple of years’ ago, and she loves it. She can even tell you the difference between safari vehicles now. Briony lives in Cape Town from where she does much armchair travelling and as much real travelling as she can fit in.