A Connecticut photographer has captured a thrilling encounter. Between a baby baboon and a 350lb lioness in a game park in Botswana.
The baboon’s mother is killed. Lion leaved the baby face-to-face with the roaring predator.
A tender moment ensues. Where the baby baboon attempts to suckle the lioness. The big cat plays along.
The little one is plucked to safety by his brave father.
Pro golfer-turned golf course photographer Evan Schiller took the spectacular shots in November. While he and his wife Lisa Holzwarth were on a game drive in northern Botswana’s Selinda Camp. Holzwarth later wrote about the experience – the highlight of their trip. The big cat enthusiasts were watching a leopard. When they noticed it becoming anxious.
That’s when a big troop of baboons. They came bounding through the bush making a racket. Then the baboons started screaming – again. We had no idea the reason. They had a much better vantage point to take in the overall surroundings,’ Holzwarth wrote. It quickly became clear: two large lionesses had emerged from the tall grass and rushed at the baboons. They were soon joined by two more lionesses.
The baboons shrieking. The lionesses communicating with deep guttural roars. It was a mad scene, adding that the lionesses were clawing at the trees. But then the real chaos began.
Three baboons attempted to ‘make a run for it’ to another group of trees.
Two arrived unscathed but a third got snapped up in the jaws of a lioness. As the third baboon lay dying on the ground. We noticed a little baby disengaging from its mother’s dying body,’. She explained of the little cutie.
The baby baboon’s instinct was to flee the danger. It tried to find safety in a tree. It did not know how to do this quickly or quietly,’ she wrote. ‘While its instinct was good. It hadn’t yet mastered speed or agility.
At that point, the lionesses noticed the baby baboon.
They didn’t go in for the kill. They were intrigued, and one of the lionesses began playing ‘cat. The baby was jumping up,’ Holzwarth recalled. ‘The lioness was knocking the baby off the trunk. It seemed to make a little bit of progress in its vertical attempt of escape.’
The lioness took the baby baboon into its mouth. Lion put it down on the ground in front of her.
What happened next blew our minds,’ she wrote. ‘The baby held onto the lioness’ chest and tries to suckle… Evan’s pictures say it all.
The lioness again picked the baby up in her mouth. She watched its ordeal in agony. But then the lionesses became distracted. Lion give the baboon’s father the opportunity to rescue the helpless infant.
The lionesses busy trying to ward off the amorous advances of the brothers. Which had been trying to no avail to rescue the baby. Lion was now able to climb down the tree”. She said the little guy was ‘alive and safe in his father’s arms’ when they left ‘and that’s how I like to remember it.’ She added that brave baby baboon remains an inspiration to her in her life.
No matter what, he remains an inspiration to me – and a reminder, that life is fragile and no matter how much I fight to control its outcome, I am at the mercy of the universe. All we can do is live in the moment.
Holzwarth says that their encounter with the lionesses was all the more precious because of the dwindling number of prides still living in Africa.
Panthera estimates that almost a century ago, there were 200,000 lions living in 54 countries across Africa, but now that number stands at fewer than 30,000 – and in 26 countries the species is extinct altogether.
Lions have disappeared from 80 per cent of their historic range due to illegal hunting, loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation. Just seven nations: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, are believed possess more than 1,000 lions each. Leopard numbers too are falling fast, having disappeared from large parts of their historic ranges in Africa and Asia. To donate money to big cats in Africa go to Panthera or National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.