There have been a few fun reports about baby animals lately. Click the pictures for a larger view.
The first report is about a six-month-old elephant in South Africa.
It’s as close to the lion lying down with the lamb as you are likely to see – exceot the lamb is a full-grown sheep and its snoozing partner is a baby elephant.
The unlikely bond between Themba the elephant and Albert the sheep has taken nature reserve wardens by surprise.
The six-month-old elephant was orphaned after his mother died in a fall down a cliff.
Vets at South Africa’s Sanbona wildlife reserve monitored the young elephant for a week, hoping he would be adopted and suckled by another elephant cow.
But that did not happen and staff from an animal hospital were forced to take him in so he did not starve to death.
Here at the Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, in the Eastern Cape, he was introduced to Albert.
The first meeting was not propitious.
Filmmaker naturalist Lyndal Davies, 41, said: ‘All hell broke loose. Themba made a dash for the sheep and chased him around his watering hole.’
Albert dashed into the safety of a shelter at the far end of the enclosure and stayed there for the first 12 hours.
But Themba’s gentle curiosity must have reassured the sheep.
Ms Davies, who is filming the pair for a documentary, said: ‘Themba was very curious and kept coming up and sticking his trunk through the poles, touching Albert on his woolly back and having a good sniff.
‘The next morning Albert was clearly bored and started venturing out into the main enclosure.’
She said: ‘Themba wouldn’t leave Albert’s side and the two were seen exploring their enclosure together, with Themba’s trunk resting on Albert’s back.
‘Ever since that moment Themba and Albert have been inseparable.’
Dr Johan Joubert, the centre’s wildlife director, said the robust sheep could handle rough-and-tumble with Themba much better than the human staff.
He added: ‘Albert is like a brother to Themba and he is definitely an important member of Themba’s herd.
‘We were a bit concerned to start with that we may end up with en elephant that thought it was a sheep, however, it’s turned out to the other way round.
‘Albert copies everything Themba does. In fact, they have almost the exact same diet. Albert is the first sheep I have ever seen eat a thorny acacia bush.
‘He has been studying Themba and worked out the best way to get his mouth around the long, sharp thorns to reach the juicy leaves.’
The next is of a serval kitten: also an African breed, but this one’s in Germany.
Peeking out from among these puppies this tiny kitten may look a little out of her depth but in fact she is right at home.
Shakira, the five month-old Serval cat, was welcomed into this unlikely clan after she was rejected by her mother from a local zoo near Munich, Germany.
‘Shakira came to us when she was just 14 days old,’ says animal carer Roland Adam.
‘A friend of mine contacted me from a local zoo and told me how Shakira’s mother had not produced enough milk for her litter and her other brothers and sisters had died.
‘When I heard this I decided to take her in.’
Acting as a surrogate mother, Mr Adam spent two hours each day feeding the tiny kitten who only weighed 1000 grams.
After six weeks of care and attention, Shakira became strong enough to be introduced to her new family – a pack of Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs.
Bearing 11 cubs in July of this year, mother Katijnga accepted the spotted cat into the clan straight away.
‘I wanted to provide Shakira with some animals that could be a substitute for her own brothers and sisters and for her mum,’ says Mr Adam, 53.
‘It turned out that Shakira was integrated immediately into this dog family. She plays hide and seek, catch and even play fights with the dogs.
‘When they tire from playing with each other, the cubs lie down together.’
And it looks as though Shakira is happy with her new mother too.
‘You see a strong bond between Shakira and her foster mom,’ says Mr Adam. ‘When they play, Shakira did not even for a moment push out her claws – it is a loving family.’
Serval cats are native to the grasslands of Africa. Weighing an average of 40 pounds they can grow 24 inches in height and up to 36 inches in length.
Despite being wild cats, the Serval cat has been kept as a pet by Europeans for hundreds of years.
Of course, when Shakira grows up, and realizes that puppies are made out of meat . . . all bets are off!
The third baby animal of the evening is a miniature pony, in Australia.
Toy horses are usually pink and plastic – and aimed at young girls.
But this little pony is 100 per cent natural – and ready to make friends with anyone her size.
Born ten days ago at a stud in the southern state of Victoria, Australia, the 15in miniature horse – which is yet to be named – has already formed a bond with Sam Leith, 12.
Silver dun tovero in colour, she was given a clean bill of health – and should reach 24in when grown.
The birth has generated such excitement in the community that local people are entering a competition to give the horse a name in time for Christmas.
Owner Lee Scown said she wanted a name that reflected the tiny, unique nature of the horse.
‘It’s the smallest horse I’ve ever had and she’s so gorgeous,’ Ms Scown said.
The horse, currently only a little taller than this book, is expected to grow to about 24 inches.
‘It’s amazing to see a horse so tiny, and she’s about the size of a week-old lamb.’
The horse is the smallest born at Riverdance and its arrival surprised even its breeder.
‘We got told the mare wasn’t due for another four weeks but on Sunday morning I walked outside and called her, and out ran the little foal behind her.’
Go on, you know you want to! All together now . . . Awwwww, cute!