After a hiatus from the bush waiting to renew his visa, our ecologist Axel Hunnicutt returned in South Africa on Wild Tomorrow Fund’s Ukuwela Conservancy to a one in a million, heartwarming surprise caught on camera trap: the birth of a baby impala.

What appeared to begin as a series of mundane photos of a lone female impala, the scene quickly escalated to reveal a beautiful moment rarely caught on camera: the birth of a lamb. Impalas are beautiful creatures that are often seen in herds of females, sometimes up to 100 together, so seeing one female isolated alone was a bit abnormal and seemingly irregular.

The motions of the mother and her newborn lamb triggered the capture of 130 camera images beginning at 6:46 am and continuing until 9:10 am on the morning of November 13th, 2018. As you’ll see in the video below, the impala shifts from standing to lying down several times as labor begins, with her lamb emerging feet-first at Wild Tomorrow Fund’s Ukuwela Conservancy in KZN, South Africa. The final frame shows the mother and wobbly-legged lamb walking away together.

“Coming across these photos from the camera traps I was in awe that the impala had actually stayed within the frame for the whole birth. It’s such a slim chance that you catch something like this on camera!” says ecologist, Axel Hunnicutt.


Because impala are so vulnerable in the wild, the mother is very quick to urge her new lamb onto its legs (see photo to right) and clean up the afterbirth, a survival strategy used to keep predators (such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, etc.) away.

"Ukuwela welcomed 20-30 new impala lambs this year, several leopard cubs, together with at least 3 zebra and 3 wildebeest births", said Clinton Wright, Wild Tomorrow Fund's Senior Conservation Manager, based at the Ukuwela Conservancy.

We are delighted to welcome the birth of a baby impala onto our ever growing conservancy. Ukuwela Conservancy was purchased in 2015 to prevent this wild space from being converted for agricultural use. Part of our focus on habitat conservation and rehabilitation is understanding the existing biodiversity while working to restore it. Camera-trapping is our primary method to record and measure biodiversity together with verified sightings. To date, 42 mammal species have been confirmed at Ukuwela…and over 680 species (growing by the day!) in total.

"Watching biodiversity return to this former farmland is deeply satisfying, a positive story of rebirth that gives us much hope for the future. We are excited to see what other secrets the camera trap survey reveals of the many lives that are blossoming at the Ukuwela conservancy", says Wendy Hapgood, co-founder of Wild Tomorrow Fund, based in New York City.