Entries for our Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year 2016 competition are coming in fast and furiously before the 30 April cut-off date. But one particular entry recently piqued our interest. The entry, submitted by Vincent Gesser and entitled “Moment of Hope”, shows a large male lion and a young topi antelope staring square into each other’s eyes.
Vincent describes the scene…
As one does on safari in the Maasai Mara, we got up very early in the hope of finding one of the Big Five active in the golden morning light. Before long we spotted a big adult male lion with four semi-adults. We observed them for a time but all was quiet and we eventually started to drive back to the main track. As we did so, my eye suddenly caught sight of what looked like a tawny stone in high green grass in the distance.
As we drew closer I realised that the stone’s surface was furry and there was a slight movement to it, causing tiny waves in the tips of the grass. I looked back. I was not the only observer. The male lion’s keen eyes, missing nothing, were also drawn to the slight movement.
The lion stood slowly and started to walk silently to the area. Suddenly, the tawny furry stone stretched out a head – revealing a very young topi.
Its aim was to seek the comfort and protection of his mother, observing the scene from the top of a termite mount some hundred metres away. The topi made its first quick jump through the grass and the lion’s prey-predator reflex was instantly triggered.
Accelerating over the topi, the big front paw of the lion swept the baby off-balance.
The four younger lions started to show an interest, looking to play with the young topi or practice their killing techniques, but the dominant male’s expression made it very clear to them that he would not share his companion.
The lion observed the young topi, repeatedly pushing it with his paws and licking its fur. This went on for several minutes, during which time the topi’s cries were unheeded.
Then suddenly the scene changed; all became silent and still. The topi ceased crying and the lion laid down in the grass, doing nothing more than keeping a focused eye on his mute prey.
This moment of hope for the topi lasted exactly one minute, during which all outcomes still seemed possible. Sensing this hope, the topi broke the impasse and made a silent step towards its mother, who was still observing the scene.
The lion, however, similarly silently, blocked the hind legs of the topi, put his paw on the topi’s shoulder and closed his jaws around the topi’s neck.
Think you have what it takes to be our Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year for 2016? Enter here before it’s too late!