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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Klaserie River Sands

Written by: Sherry McKelvie

Travelling back to our lodge after enjoying the wildebeest migration on a game drive in the Serengeti National Park, we came across an unusual sight.

A large male lion was lying with a little wildebeest calf between his front paws. The calf was only one or two days old, and was still very much alive.

lion-and-wildebeest-calf

As we approached, the lion got up, picked up the calf, and moved a little further away.

wildebeest-calf-in-lions-mouth
He stopped to stare challengingly at us. We could see that his belly was already tight with food.

lion-with-wildebeest-calf-in-mouth

Then he slumped back down, looking pleased with himself.

lion-and-wildebeest

The calf got up and tried to run away but the lion wasn’t having any of it!

wildebeest-tries-to-escape-from-lions

The poor little thing was bleating pathetically as it tried to move off several times, but each time a huge paw would reach out lazily and haul it back.

lion-bites-into-wildebeest

wildebeest-calf-with-lion

The lion acted much the same as a domestic cat would act with a mouse. It was enjoying the game of catch and release – pulling it close and putting his great jaws around its neck while kicking gently with his back legs. In the process, the lion seemed to not be harming the calf, although it did have a few small wounds, which were probably from the initial capture.

lion-rolls-with-wildebeest

lion-holds-wildebeest-close

The lion would then proceed to wash the calf, licking it as a mother would lick a cub, and the calf would settle back down.

lion-licks-wildebeest-calf

Sadly it was getting dark and we had to leave the unlikely pair. Did the calf survive? I doubt it, but I don’t think the lion would have eaten it either – there wasn’t a lot of meat on it and food was abundant. Our guide told us he had seen a similar thing once before. On that occasion the lion kept his ‘pet’ for three days before it quietly wandered off while he was asleep!

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