Sabi Sands Photographic Safari

The lions and the fox

Written by Graham Dyer

One day in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve I came across some members of the Sunday Pan lion pride at their namesake, the Sunday Pan. There were two lionesses, one with three young cubs, and a single male present. Some of the pride drank rain water around the waterhole and others moved slowly southwards away from the pan. 


We waited with the lioness and cubs and then followed them from a distance past the waterhole. Just as we were getting some photos we heard urgent alarm calls up ahead. When we got there the lead lioness had caught a bat-eared fox and had evidently injured its pelvis/spine as it was dragging its hindquarters when it tried to stand. The lioness had received a bite to her nose for the trouble.

lion and fox

The male arrived hoping to get some food but wasn’t keen to tackle the fox.

lions fox

The plucky fox was alarm calling and chattering at the lions for the first 5-6 minutes, then later only when any lion approached. The male lay off to one side for a while but the mother lioness was intrigued, as were the cubs.

lion cubs and fox

The cubs and their mother approached, curious and cautious.

lion cubs and bat-eared fox lion cubs and bat-eared fox lion cub and bat-eared fox

The lioness didn’t really know what to do with the fox but was defensive of it even striking out at the male when he approached too closely.

lion and bat eared fox lion and fox lion vs fox kalahari lion vs fox in kalahari

Roaring ensued, sparked by the lionesses’ violent reaction.

lions roaring over bat-eared fox

The cubs were very curious but never went too close. The male suddenly approached his cubs with interest.

lion cubs

Their mother came over quickly to distract him. It seemed then there was a bit of a stalemate.

lion cubs with fox lion cubs meet bat-eared fox

Suddenly all the lions heard what sounded like other lions fighting over food in the distance. They paused for a second and then all quickly ran off in that direction. The lioness with cubs lagging behind being held up by her playful, gambolling youngsters.

lion cub lion cubs kalahari

We followed the lions but they were unfortunately soon out of sight.

The bewildered fox was left alone on the track. Although at first it appeared to have a broken back or pelvis, it eventually was able to stand up unsteadily on its back legs so it may have just been badly bruised. Two jackals approached it when we checked up later but it was aggressive so they left it alone. The fox was last seen lying head up in the grass, hopefully recovering.

Two different, well-fed, bloody-faced lionesses were sleeping at the waterhole that afternoon.

Rani Bazaruto

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  • Lynne

    Beautiful pics & an interesting account ! Hope the little fox survived eventually.

  • General Dube

    I hope the poor little guy made it.

  • God

    Whoa tis fox has nine lives indeed, similiar to the jackal who nearly trampled by a male lion at a waterhole…lions have shown remarkable inqusitiveness and tolerance and evn mercy, befitting the title of King of BEast…if it was a leopard the fox would surely end up as dinner

  • Diane Anderson

    Incredible pictures but feel so sad for the little fox, truly hope he survived, he so deserved to

  • Stéphanie

    I’m really SAD because of you….to show something unusual you are very strong but to ACT for life you are the Last one. You should have help this little fox or at least you should have alert an association of protection of wildlife!!!!!!!

    • Vicky

      As bad as compassionate humans would wish help for creatures in the wild, it is general consensus to leave nature to itself. We are only observers. If a human had not been there, things would have progressed as it was meant to be…people were just privileged to witness nature at work. Most places only interfere if the problem is man-made, like snares, wells, etc. Sometimes nature seems cruel, but there is a reason for everything.

      • Shivakumar Selvaraj

        I dont agree with this
        The very presence of people affects the animals. The presence of the vehicle, its noise, its smell affects them too. Not to mention the loud noise that comes from DSLR cameras (which many tourists and photographers use). I have been on safari and i know how noisy, smelly and visual humans are from a vehicle. I saw a video where Kim volhuter chased off some lions that were getting too close to some cheetah cubs he was watching. A guide told me that lions often use the tarmac road to catch hooved animals, since they slip and fall over more easily. Others use the fences to trap prey animals. Cheetahs are often known to jump on safari vehicles in East africa to get a better vantage point.

    • Humpty Harper

      The lion should have had the fox for lunch.

    • bamboodread

      I love your accent Stephanie 🙂 x

    • Bambi

      You are not supposed to interfere. You are an observer, not a savior.

  • michael chait

    Amazing pictures and story, thanks.

  • Manik Barbhuiya

    Beautiful story and a classic observation.observation. I think lioness was not serious or was not in the mood to kill the little fox but just wanted to make fun .

  • Humpty Harper

    Eat the little morsel already and put it out of it misery.

  • Henry Ballard

    That ole sly Fox

  • Socks

    Hello, are you aware that a number of clickbait/advertising websites are using this photoset?

    • Adam

      Just came here to read the original commentary, as the click-bait ones were so terrible.

      • Miranda v

        Yes same, I always look for original articles rather than all the click bate websites who like the steal other’s hard work

  • Merit Basha

    Eventually the motherly love survived

  • Cheryl

    Yeah I don’t care whether we are supposed to help or not, the human heart should want to help and if I had been there, I would have taken the fox somewhere to be helped. Leaving it there, was tantamount to giving it a death sentence for the next predator. It seems funny to me that you would follow the Lions, but refuse to help an animal in need. Disgusting.

  • Gorla Bot


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