I remember my Mother telling me that everything happens for a reason although we may not understand the reason at the time and this has come true on a number of occasions – asking Clover for her contact details and for the ele milk formula for example. This week has once again proven the old saying. My saga started 2 weeks ago when little Poley the duiker was picked up and brought to us by Darren. My initial plan was to stabilise her and get her drinking well and then to take her to the Centre as per our “gentlemen’s agreement” whereby we each specialise in the animals were we have the greatest strength.  Poley (thanks for all your great suggestions for names by the way made it even more difficult to choose as we had so many great suggestions but settled on Poley as she arrived on the same day as the poles) recovered very well from her ordeal and very quickly got the hang of the bottle. She was so confident with her bottle and built up a bond within the first few hours with Catherine and so Catherine helped me with every feed, in between trying to have the odd sip of Poleys bottle – after all we need to “share share” . She was quite a bit older than most babies that we have had over the years and was already eating solids and just loved the dry leaves and ripe figs from the wild fig tree in the garden.


Last week I fully intended to take Poley into the centre as she was doing so well and they had other baby duikers in so would be nice for her to have some duiker companionship but was feeling really ill with severe headaches and chest pains and so could just not stomach the extra drive to the centre after work to take her round ( and I must admit I was rather enjoying cuddling a baby – nothing makes you feel better quicker than having a baby to love)  so decided to just wait until Monday and give myself time to recover. Early Monday morning I was demonstrating to Rose, Catherine’s nanny, why it was dangerous to let Catherine crawl headfirst down the steps and as I went down to demonstrate I somehow got my foot tangled in with a table and ripped my big toe nail off. It is rather painful and I have an irrational fear of doctors and needles so decided to just use my vet kit to treat myself – all is fine but I can’t drive myself at the moment as using my left foot to operate the clutch is just too painful so Louise is doubling up as my driver to drop me off at work and collect me so once again we delayed taking Poley in until the weekend when we had more time to fit everything in.  I was feeling rather sorry for myself until Wednesday evening when the reasons for me being sick and hurting my foot became clear.

We have a few duiker that we have raised and released over the years who come into the paddocks with the horses on a regular basis – think they know that they are safe there whilst their natural instincts have come into play and they no longer come up to us they are happy if we observe them from a distance. One of the females has a baby of a similar size to Poley and we have been watching her over the past few weeks as she has been a regular visitor and on Wednesday evening when we were taking Poley out for her run in the paddock the wild duiker and baby were in the paddock. As duiker are prey for various wild dog like species such as hyena, jackal etc. we don’t let them come into contact with our dogs or cats and only take them out to run in the evenings when the dogs are locked away for a an hour or so.  Poley was walking behind Louise and I (hobbling along) when she saw the wild duiker and baby and made a beeline for them, my initial instinct was to call her back but the mother started to come towards her calling and as she did not appear to be aggressive I decided to watch and see what happened after all if she did start to act aggressively I knew that if we shouted she would run away rather than concentrate on fighting. What transpired next was amazing and a real first for me. Poley approached the mother duiker bleating and she responded and then started to lick Poley and encourage her to suckle. The other baby approached with the sound of her mother calling and we stood and watched whilst both babies suckled on the mother duiker. I do know that in rare cases duikers do have twins but have never ever seen a mother take on another baby as they are normally solitary animals who come together to mate and then you will just see a mother and baby together during the suckling stage but perhaps with this mother having been hand reared with other babies she is more social than normal. We stood and watched this strange scenario for about 30 minutes when Poley started to run back towards us but stopped confused when the mother duiker called her back at which stage we decided to retreat a bit and observe what happened from inside a stable where we could see what was happening but Poley would not be torn between us. The little trio moved on together to and the babies lay down next to each other and fell asleep whilst Mum picked up leaves close by. It seemed a perfect scenario and so we decided to leave Poley with her new duiker mum as she seemed to have been totally accepted by her, was suckling and was being protected.  We checked on the little family twice more that night and in the morning that had moved onto where ever  they go for the day when the yard gets busy and then last night we spotted them coming into the paddock together again and saw both babies suckling, so a perfect ending to Poleys story and I really feel as if fate took a hand in the whole episode as if I had not been ill and hurt Poley would not have been going for a run at the exact time that the wild duiker and Mum came into the paddock and never in a million years would I have thought of trying to introduce them. Don’t know if something like this will ever happen again but it has all come together this time.