Young lions learn the meaning of inter-species competition.
It was an uncharacteristically cold and rainy day in the bush, my family arrived to visit me from England after one of my photographic safaris and we decided to make the most of the visit. Even though the weather resembled that of England rather than Africa, we went on a drive to look for some animals, even bringing our cameras! The drive started slow (animals were not keen on the weather either), but eventually we came across two young lions at the edge of a dam.
Many would think that a cold overcast day would be bad for photography, it’s actually quite the opposite, it makes metering and exposure much easier. So I started snapping away.
Whilst watching the youngsters we noticed something approaching on the opposite side of the dam. “Yes!” we all shared the same excitement. A cheetah, this was amazing, we had two big cats right in front of us.
Before long the lions had noticed the cheetah’s approach as well, they immediately became interested in the other cat, focusing on their speedy cousin intently. I move to get a better vantage point, one of the lions take to a nearby rock, looking very much the king of the castle and soon catches the attention of the cheetah.
Now I was assuming that the cheetah would flee the scene in a cloud full of dust, for fear of the adult lions being around but to prove me wrong he did the opposite and continued his course in a bold fashion. This sparks a reaction from the lions and we soon see a confrontation fast approaching. “Get your cameras ready folks, this is going to be good!”
Things where fast becoming interesting as we watched the event unfold unsure of what was going to happen. This is where my passion for wildlife really comes from, seeing animals in unusual circumstances and watching it all play out in front of your very eyes. We watched in anticipation…
The lion and cheetah soon get within a few meters of each other and the Cheetah shows signs of submission, crouching he senses the danger of her younger, but much stronger stranger. The larger of the two lions makes the first move. She rushes in with a sudden burst of energy, showing her superior strength and gives the Cheetah (and us) quite a fright. From the ground the cheetah looks to be in trouble, but with a swift movement he swipes at the young female lion taking her by surprise and highlighting her inexperience in such conflicts.
Within a few clicks of the camera I spot the second, smaller lion who rushes onto the scene to help his sister. Now the cheetah is outnumbered and overpowered, seems like the only option here is to forget the fight and consider flight.
We are still silently watching the scene unfold in front of us with open mouths and white knuckles. I am trying my best not to burn out my cameras shutter but to stay calm in order to get the images I want.
The Cheetah has a moment of confidence (or madness) and stands his ground against the male cub, snarling and hissing.
The stand off lasts a few moments before the Cheetah puts on his running shoes and exits the scene with the lion hot on his heels but soon realises the game is over. The cheetah flees into the bush leaving the lions and us in his dust.
This all happened so fast and looking through the camera eyepiece, I found it hard to comprehend what actually happened till I looked at the images. Relieved that the confrontation turned out with no injuries, a good lesson was learnt by both cats. This experience also taught me a lesson, to always pick up my camera no matter what the conditions.