Animals, just like humans, are very compassionate creatures by nature. Recently, photojournalist Krishan Kariyawasm at The Morning Brunch captured a sequence of images from a touching incident at the Yala National Park. The incident beganwhen a leopard, fondly known around the park by the name Megha, attempted to attack a baby buffalo, who was then saved by his mother. This display of loyalty and affection is not very frequently seen in nature, as most animals bow down to the laws of the jungle, but they have natural instincts to protect their young.
The tour guide informed photojournalist Kariyawasam that the leopard had not yet eaten for the day, and was prowling the area, hiding in the grassy fields searching for his next meal. Upon setting sights on the young one, he punched, grabbing it by the ear and dragging it into the forest. Once the calf’s mother realised she could no longer see her baby, she charged at the leopard with the intent to kill. This situation is the exact definition of an animal’s motherly instincts.
The Morning Brunch spoke to renowned conservationist and Leopocon Sri Lanka Country Director Shashikalana Rathwaththa, who has a vast knowledge of animals and their habitats, with a focus on elephants in Sri Lanka, on his thoughts on this display of affection.
The fierce and protective maternal instinct in different species is at least equal to, and in some cases maybe even stronger, than ours. They are biologically programmed to preserve their species by protecting and caring for their young; some species go to incredible lengths to do so. “In a family of animals, any female will have the natural instincts to protect the young at any given moment. Usually, if there are many animals in a herd, the weakest gets attacked by predators – that’s just how nature works. But if the herd is small, they are more prone to attacks,” he explained. He further added that if the herd is large, the herd will protect the weak, unless they see it as a threat to their own life, in which case, a sacrifice will be made.
Rathwaththa stated: “When the herd travels, the smaller, younger, and weaker buffalos stay in the middle, and the stronger males lead and form the protective outer ring of the herd. In this case, since the herd was small and scattered, their mother did her job and protected her child.” He also added that the herd’s first instinct when faced with a leopard attack is to turn tail and run. In this incident, although the herd was small, the mother’s instincts shone through and she stood up for her calf, which is why it’s such a fascinating incident, as this situation does not occur too often.
Rathwaththa elaborated that motherly instincts are strongest in elephants, but it is not uncommon to see it in other mammals, as they take after human behaviour. He added that elephants may be the most protective moms on the planet. Herds of females and children usually travel together in a circle with the youngest member on the inside, protected from predators. If one child becomes an orphan, the rest of the herd will adopt him.
“This ability to nurture and protect the young is information passed down from generation to generation of animals. Whatever hindrances they face, they are prepared because of the knowledge passed down over generations.”
After this incident, our team watched as the mother successfully escorted her unharmed baby away from danger, leaving the leopard to run away in fear.
Photos Krishan Kariyawasam