A baby baboon in the Selinda region of northern Botswana, Africa, was lucky to escape with its life a few days ago, after being cornered by a group of hungry lions, one of whom had just killed its mother. Amazingly, however, is the lioness in question. Wildlife photographer Lisa Holzwarth, who, along with fellow photographer Evan Schiller, witnessed the incredible incident, recalls that “30 – 40 baboons were heading in our direction making a lot of noise,” before scrambling up the nearby tree trunks as fast as they could, as they were being chased by a pack of lions!

“Between the baboons shrieking and the lioness communicating with deep guttural roars, it was a mad scene,” Holzwarth remembers. But what happened next really shocked her. One lioness grabbed a female baboon in her mouth … who happened to be holding her baby.  As the mother lay dying in the lioness’s jaws, the baby baboon (less than a month old), slowly moved away from her … and that was when Holzwarth and Schiller witnessed an unbelievable twist in the tale that they had never expected to see.

First, the lioness grabbed the baboon in her mouth, prompting the baby to make a break for it…

Evan Schiller

The baby tried to get away from the lioness by climbing a tree, but did not have the strength to pull itself up. The lioness went to investigate.

Evan Schiller

Instead of responding to her predatory instincts, she starts to play with the baboon!

Evan Schiller

After a while, the lioness picked up the little baboon and walked a short distance away, settling the baboon between her paws.

Evan Schiller

Amazingly, the baboon began trying to suckle from the lioness’s chest!

Evan Schiller

Two male lions then came along to try to hit on the lioness – but she would have none of it! Defending the little monkey? Or just not interested in their games? Who knows?

Evan Schiller

And here comes yet another twist in the tale – it turned out that a male adult baboon (the baby’s father) had been waiting in a nearby tree, obviously determined to save the little one. As soon as the lions were distracted, he swooped down, grabbed his child, and headed back to safety.

Evan Schiller

Holzwarth says, “I was touched by how gently the father baboon held this little baby who was in tough shape after its ordeal.” 

Evan Schiller
 

So what happened to the baby in the end? His father was able to dash to the safety and shade of a neighboring tree, where the little baboon was able to recover from the effects of being in the heat for too long.

“No matter what,” Holzwarth says, “the young baboon remains an inspiration to me – and a reminder, that life is fragile and no matter how much we fight to control its outcome, all we can do is live in the moment.”

Lead image source: Evan Schiller