The animal kingdom can be full of unpredictable twists and turns. When a pair of photographers went to a park in Botswana, they couldn’t believe what happened when a pride of lions surrounded a helpless baby baboon.
A family of baboons could only look on in sheer terror when one of their babies got caught by a lion. All they could do was look on in despair. But then, something extraordinary happened that would turn this seemingly one-way scenario completely on its head…
The Chase Is On
A pair of photographers were completely flabbergasted when lions burst onto the scene to hunt down the baboons. Whether this was in order to simply intimidate the monkeys or to have them for dinner was about to be revealed. Preparing themselves for every eventuality, they pulled out their cameras and started to snap away at the scenes that unfolded before their very eyes. Then, when a baby baboon was surrounded, they hesitantly clicked away at their cameras, fearing the worst…
Behind The Camera
The photographers happen to be happily married. Lisa Holzwarth and Evan Schiller are not only in love with each other, they are also in love with the art of photography. Together, the snappy couple created a blog cleverly titled The LEO Chronicles. “The LEO acronym…stands for Lisa, Evan (my photographer husband) and our three little rescue cats, Ernest, Emma & Oliver,” Lisa wrote on her blog. “I am passionate about saving the Big Cats (and little cats) around the world.”
Holzwarth and Schiller’s collective goal is to spread their photos in order to raise awareness about the plight of the many beautiful safari animals. Originally a golfer, Schiller turned to photography and with Holzwarth, the couple embraces the shared passion in photography and writing to paint a clear picture of how Africa’s big cats are under particular threat of extinction. In one of their more recent endeavors, their understanding of animal life was completely transformed. But why do they care so much?
Their shared devotion to the cause is mainly because of the dwindling number of lions in Africa. The numbers say it all. Only a century ago, there is believed to have been over 200,000 lions living in the African continent. In the present day, that number has shrunk to a mere 30,000. What’s even more worrying is that out of 54 of the countries that lions have lived in, only 28 of them are still home to the creature. Why is this, exactly?
The Curse Of Man
A variety of factors have a huge part to play in the rapid decline in the lion population over the years, but they all seem to have man involved. These include misplacement, illegal hunting, and deforestation. There are only seven countries that still have more than 1,000 lions in each of them. These are Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. And it’s not just lions that are dwindling. The dip in the number of leopards is also a serious cause for concern.
Saving The Cats
This is where Lisa and Evan come in. After making a name for themselves in the online community as a well-respected pair of photographers/bloggers, the couple was ready to travel to Africa once again to explore another avenue of its precious wildlife. This time, their mission took them to Botswana, one of the aforementioned homes of one of the biggest lion communities in the world. But they could never anticipate the amazing scenes they would end up capturing on camera…
Trip To Botswana
Their life-changing experience came in November 2013 during an incredible trip to the Selinda Camp in northern Botswana. This particular park stretches over 320,00 acres and is set in one of the most untouched spaces in not only Africa, but the entire planet. On her blog, Lisa wrote about her many stunning experiences in this picturesque environment. Then, one day, after observing a mesmerizing leopard, Lisa and Evan noticed something troubling that started to take shape before their very eyes…
The moment that kickstarted this surprising encounter involved just a couple of unassuming creatures, minding their own business. Schiller and Holzwarth were enjoying their penultimate day on their safari adventure. They felt like this was the perfect way to complete their trip, observing a cheerful pack of hyenas and even a leopard. However, the leopard would soon be startled by a loud commotion coming his way and like a bolt out of the blue, retreated to safety. But what could have scared it off like that?
Suddenly, the married couple spotted a group of baboons who looked like they were running away from something. “There was a troop of 30-40 baboons heading in our general direction,” Holzwartz wrote in her blog. “The baboons settled on another ‘island’ of trees a safe distance from the leopard. Then the baboons started screaming…They [were] sounding the predator alarm.” At first, Holzwarth wasn’t sure what caused the baboons to be so stressed. But soon enough, the image became much clearer.
Once the baboons retreated to the trees, the couple had a better idea as to why they were running away so quickly. “Then the baboons started screaming – again, we had no idea the reason,” Holzwarth said. “But from their elevated position in the trees, they had a much better vantage point to take in the overall surroundings.” It was clear that something was chasing them. Something was forcing them to find a vantage point. But what was it exactly? And how many?
Pride On The Hunt
As they looked beneath the tree that the baboons had retreated to, the photographers spotted what had forced them there in the first place – a pride of lions. Two had pounced from a hidden spot and were also joined by two more. There was no question why the pride had chased after this group of primates; they were hungry. As the lions furiously clawed at the tree trunks, each baboon could only tremble in fear hoping that the pride would give up.
The Great Escape?
Eventually, some of them tried to defy the odds and flee the tree. After agreeing on the escape plan, the group jumped off the branches in unison and braced themselves for the chase that would immediately recommence. Evan and Lisa were astounded by the pulsating chase, praying that all the baboons made it out alive. Amazingly, it seemed at one point like every single one escaped to safety. However, there was one particular baboon that was not so lucky…
Sting In The Tail
One baboon took the ultimate risk, which didn’t pay off. Despite getting close to safety, one of the lionesses pounced on this straggling baboon, who met its fatal end. It was like a scene out of a movie; when one of the gang sacrifices himself for the others’ collective safety. Before Holzwarth and Schiller had the chance to collect themselves after witnessing the tragic death, they were in store for some more horrors. Then they saw a baby baboon who was clasping onto the corpse…
One Baby Baboon
Holzwarth couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “As the third baboon lay dying on the ground, we noticed a little baby (less than a month old) slowly disengaging from its mother’s dying body,” she wrote in her blog. Eventually, the baby realized that something was wrong and like the rest of his tribe, took to the trees. The question was: Was the baboon fit enough to take care of itself in this perilous situation? It seemed unlikely…
Although the baby baboon desperately tried to ascend the tree, his climbing skills were still somewhat lacking. “Unfortunately it did not know how to do this quickly or quietly,” Lisa said. “While its instinct was good, it hadn’t yet mastered speed or agility.” And one lioness quickly took notice of the little thing that was trying to avoid the same fate as its poor mother. Effortlessly, she blocked the baby from escaping. This tiny creature was surely about to meet its doom too…
Amazingly, the lioness was not quick to pounce on the baby baboon. She simply walked slowly towards it and observed it as it pathetically tried to ascend the tree. “They were obviously intrigued, but did not go for the kill,” Holzwarth said. “[It] would have taken less than a nanosecond if they had been so inclined.” In an incredible turn of events, the lioness decided to just toy with him. Although the baboon was terrified, the lioness was particularly nonchalant.
Instead of attacking the baby baboon, the lioness decided to play a game of cat and mouse with it. “The baby was jumping up and down screaming, and hitting the lioness on her nose,” Holzwarth said. “Meanwhile, the lioness was gently knocking the baby off the trunk of the tree every time it seemed to make a little bit of progress in its vertical attempt of escape.” It got to a point though when the lioness decided to put the infant in her mouth…
Dinner Is Served?
The lioness didn’t decide to eat the baby baboon. She simply picked it up and nestled it in front of her. The lioness wanted to keep the baboon for herself, away from the rest of the pride. Lisa and Evan looked at each other in absolute bewilderment. They couldn’t understand what was happening before their eyes. Despite their sheer amazement, they knew that they needed to keep on snapping away. However, the best was yet to come…
“What happened next blew our minds,” Holzwarth said. “[Then] the baby – in another instinctual moment – held onto the lioness’ chest and [tried] to suckle.” It was a truly incredible moment. Once again, the married couple was struggling to hold onto their cameras. Soon, after letting the baby baboon latch onto her, the lioness picked it up in its mouth again. A variety of emotions were racing through the photographers’ minds. Why was the lioness so gentle with it?
After the photos began to circulate around the internet, many speculated as to why these two animals, at very different parts of the food chain, struck such a naturally warm bond. Many assumed that it was a pure coming of instincts. You had a baby, oblivious to the horror that had just ensued who simply wanted affection and a lioness’ maternal instinct kicking in. “A mother’s protective instinct has been observed many times to cross the boundaries of different species,” one person said.
Despite many believing that the lioness and the baby baboon had reclaimed the mother/child bond that had previously been stripped away from the little one, many were skeptical about this idea. Many considered the wild cat’s behavior to be purely predatory. One person wrote online saying, “that baby would have eventually been killed by the lioness. Cats will play with a mouse until the mouse is worn out.” However, one thing remained true about the situation that was currently playing out…
Signs Of Danger
Whatever the truth may have been behind the lioness’ motives, Holzwarth couldn’t hide the pain she felt at watching the baby baboon looking so vulnerable. She could tell that it was in a stressful situation. Also, regardless of its intentions, there was no denying that being handled by the lioness was wearing down the monkey. But it wasn’t just Lisa who was struggling to watch the dangerous scenes. Her husband Evan Schiller was also finding it difficult, hoping that nothing terrible would come of this…
Agonizing To Watch
There was no denying that Schiller was finding the situation extremely uncomfortable behind the camera. “He was in agony watching the baby’s ordeal,” Holzwarth said. “And [I] kept on turning off the video option on my camera, because it was hard to record.” This was when the lioness picked up the baby baboon in her mouth again. But this time, it was because she noticed something that was going to disrupt her peaceful time with the little one…
Clash Of The Titans
All of a sudden, a couple of lions came rushing in, in an effort seize the baby. They had finished looking at its mother’s dead body and were now poised to pounce on the next vulnerable baboon. However, the lioness who had been calmly attending to the newfound orphan didn’t take to her fellow lions’ advances. For whatever reason, she wanted the baboon all to herself and was quick to fight back. However, this would only thicken the plot…
Little did the lions know, one of the baboons who got away was the father of the baby. In an amazing turn of events, while the lioness got distracted after fending off the rest of the pride, the father swooped in and snatched his child from under her nose. In true opportunistic fashion, the dad took his chance, willing to sacrifice himself to save his baby’s life. But did his huge risk pay off? Or, would he share the same fate as the baby’s mother?
Daddy To The Rescue!
Out of nowhere, the baby’s dad dropped out of the tree it was watching from and swooped into the chaos to snatch the baby from the pride. Before the lions had a chance to retrieve the baby baboon, the dad was already halfway up the tree, holding the baby by its tail in his mouth. Lisa could not believe the monkey’s heroism and his stealth to burst through so quickly and surgically extract the baby from the situation.
Hanging On For Dear Life
Lisa and Evan couldn’t believe what they were seeing. In a wild rollercoaster ride, they had witnessed tragedy and triumph all in one go. “With the lionesses busy trying to ward off the amorous advances of the brothers, the Big Male Baboon, which had been trying to no avail to rescue the baby all the while, was now able to climb down the tree, grab the baby and then head back up for safety,” Holzwarth wrote.
What Lisa and Evan were impressed with the most was the baboon’s determination to save his child. “I was touched by how gently the Father Baboon held this little baby,” Holzwarth said. “[It] was in tough shape after its ordeal. After watching these human-like emotions and actions, it’s pretty hard to doubt Mr. Darwin and his theories. And what happened to the baby?” Although they didn’t get a definitive answer in regards to the baby’s fate, they had a good feeling that he was in safe hands…
The Power Of Family
“I like to think that the little guy survived with the help of his troop,” Lisa wrote. The couple could take a lot from this epic story, realizing that they could see a lot of their own values in Father Baboon. “He was alive and safe in his father’s arms when we left, and that’s how I like to remember it. He remains an inspiration to me – and a reminder that life is fragile. All we can do is live in the moment.”