My office manager Lilian Meerveld came to me on Friday with a big grin on her face.
“Want to take a photo of me releasing a baby goose?” she asked.
“A what?” I asked.
“A baby goose.”
She then told me the story.
She had been out in the bush jogging with her dogs the previous afternoon when she spotted her dogs around something on the ground.
She ran up and saw a dead gosling and another that seemed to be paralysed on one side.
Horrified that her dogs might have been responsible, Lilian took the injured baby bird to the veterinarian who said if it didn’t recover, they would euthanize it so it didn’t suffer.
After some time, the vet phoned and said the baby was doing fine and suggested that Lilian should let it go where she had found it, or at the Quatse River Estuary. The vet explained that geese often adopt other goslings.
They will often even kidnap the young of other geese and it is not uncommon to see a pair with more than 10 chicks, even though geese typically lay only between four to six eggs. Sometimes, adult pairs will even form a creche where the young are cared for by all the adults. Biologists believe there are many reasons why they do this such as increasing the survival chances of their own young, and having access to better feeding grounds.
After work Lilian and I met at the estuary.
When we first arrived I saw a pair of geese with about six young and I was excited at the possibility that our gosling might join them. When they saw me they started moving up the river towards the ocean.
Lilian walked up towards the group and set the adorable baby I nicknamed ‘Ryan’ down on the ground.
As she walked away, the gosling looked like it was going to follow her.
I hoped it hadn’t imprinted on her.
As it walked, the baby loudly squawked and cried seemingly looking for its mother.
Then it went down to the water and started swimming. It kept crying and crying and all of a sudden a pair of geese flew up and landed beside it.
The adults checked the baby out and one appeared to be goosing it with its beak.
Then they started swimming off together.
Lilian and I could not believe the amazing thing that had just happened and the wonder of nature that we had just been witness to.
We were giggling like schoolgirls and so happy. We watched, all smiles, as the geese made their way up the river together.
Suddenly, both adults jumped sideways and we watched helplessly as an eagle snatched the baby out of the water and flew away with it.
We were crushed by this harsh example of the circle of life.