You just never know what kind of wonder you’re due to experience when you’re out in the wild. It’s why thousands of tourists each year take African safaris – so that they can catch a glimpse of lions, giraffes and other big-game animals in their natural habitat. That’s why photographer Graham Dyer set off to Botswana, only he wanted to up the ante and capture photos of these animals as well. And when his tour group came across a wounded fox and lions in the area, the expectation is that they were going to have front-row seats to watch the lion finish the kill.
What they saw was equally breathtaking, but not at all what they expected.
30. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Situated in Botswana’s portion of the Kalahari desert, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a national park that measures over 20,000 square miles. It’s the second-largest game reserve on the planet, and home to creatures both big and small. Visitors at the reserve are likely to spot everything from aardvarks and porcupines to larger animals like elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions.
29. A Dog-Eat-Dog World
As you might imagine, the food chain principle applies at the Kalahari Game Reserve. And the kings of the jungle – the lions – are known for hunting their prey to feed their pride.
28. Meet the Fox
Usually smaller than a mid-sized dog, foxes are mammals that feed on the likes of insects, small reptiles and birds, and eggs and plants. But foxes can also be hunted by larger animals… like lions.
27. King of the Jungle
Lions are called the king of the jungle, but it’s actually the females that do most of the hunting. It wouldn’t be unusual to see a lion taking down an antelope or a zebra. A fox is certainly not off of a lion’s menu either.
26. Fox Down
A lion about to go in for the kill on a fox? This was the apparent scene when photographer Graham Dyer and his safari group spotted a lioness cornering an injured fox. He drew his camera and prepared to capture a lion finishing its kill. What he wound up capturing, however, was anything but.
But the lioness didn’t finish the kill – at least not immediately. In fact, more lions, including a large male, entered the area, clearly interested in the injured animal. Were all the lions sizing it up for a snack? Seemingly, yes.
24. A Family Affair
Now there was not only a male and female lion surrounding the fox, but also the pair’s three cubs. The cubs appeared to take a keen interest in the fox, though they kept their distance and also remained cautious.
23. A New Mom?
The cubs appeared to grow hungry and further sized up the fox, ready to eat. But instead of helping her offspring hunt, the lioness laid down around the fox. It was almost as if she was protecting it, just as she would her own cubs. It was almost like she could sense it was injured and needed help.
22. A Bum Back
While it was unclear how the fox was wounded, it appeared that the animal had some sort of a back injury. It had a hard time moving and was repeatedly howling in pain. Of course, some of this howling could have been out of fear of the lions surrounding it. Who could blame the fox?
21. Friend or Foe?
The fox likely assumed that it was an easy snack for the lions. But as time went on, it became increasingly clear that they meant no harm. The lions took a nap with the fox, almost including it as one of their own.
Whether the lioness prohibited it or whether he just lost interest, the male lion soon left the scene. The lioness and her cubs, however, remained with the fox.
19. Just Kidding, I’m Back!
If the male lion lost interest, he quickly regained it, as it wasn’t long before he returned to the lioness and their cubs. Maybe he was curious as to why the fox was continuing to be protected by the lioness. Or maybe he was just waiting until she lost interest so he could go in for the kill.
The latter seemed to be accurate, as the male lion let out a big roar in the fox’s direction. Like a mother protecting one of her own, the lioness went on the defense, swiping a paw at the aggressive male.
17. Not So Fast, My Friend
Just look at the picture. Look at how ferocious the lioness appears as she protects the fox. Her teeth are showing and she clearly means business. Meanwhile, the male lion clearly appears like he’s taking his medicine.
16. Protecting Her ‘Cub’
The lioness’ behavior in protecting the fox is similar to how she would protect her own cubs from predators or other lions.
15. Dinnertime, Finally
Dyer was watching all of this from a safe distance with his tour group, but he became concerned that the fox’s time had finally come when he heard the sounds of the lion family consuming some sort of meal. What’s more interesting is that the lions appeared to be fighting over the food. It had to be the fox, right?
But as Dyer soon learned, it wasn’t the fox at all that was being consumed. In fact, the fox was still alive and well (aside from its injury). It turns out the lion family had joined up with another pride who had brought back that day’s dinner.
13. Back on the Mend
As we previously noted, it’s unclear how the fox became injured or what the extent of the injury was, although it appeared to be something with its back. But miraculously, it wasn’t long before the fox was standing again. Perhaps it was just a bruised? Or maybe the lioness helped nurse him back to health?
12. Leaving the Lions
Soon, the unsteadiness of the fox back on its feet was replaced with steadiness. It looked good to go, and the fox and the lions mutually parted ways.
11. Jackals on the Prowl
Soon after the fox left the lions, it was eyed by a pair of jackals that appeared to be looking for a nice meal. But the fox escaped becoming dinner for a second time that day, this time by fending off the predators.
10. Still Going Strong
While it’s unclear what the fox is up to now, Dyer says that it was still alive for the duration of his visit to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In fact, he spotted it a few days after its lion encounter resting in the grass.
9. A Touching Story
Dyer took his story – and photos – to social media. He also shared it with Africa Geographic. As you can imagine, Dyer wasn’t the only one that was warmed by what he had experienced. Many more people read and shared the story.
8. Animal Moms
It’s said that caring for their young is instinctual, not just when it comes to humans, but to other animals as well. This was certainly the case with the lioness and fox, even though the fox was clearly not one of the cubs.
7. From Dinner to Survivor
The fact is that the lions could have quickly put the fox out of its misery and made it into dinner. Instead, the lioness helped give it enough time to recover from whatever injury had just occurred.
6. Another One of the Cubs?
Did the lioness think the fox was one of her cubs? Was she the one who injured it, and, if so, did she take pity on it afterwards? Was it not enough of a challenge to kill? We’ll never know the answers, but we’re left with one very cool story.
5. Nature at its Finest
Though we don’t know what originally happened to the fox, why the lioness protected it and what the fox is up to now, this story is one great example of how beautiful – and unexpected – nature can really be. An animal that’s seemingly an easy meal became a friend.
4. Only in the Wild
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is about twice the size of the state of Massachusetts. And though the land is large, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. We’re certain that things like this don’t happen too often.
3. Incredible Creatures
Lions and foxes are incredible creatures. Nature is an incredible place. It’s why so many people flock to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve each year for safaris and to see nature at its finest. Those who were with Dyer that day just so happened to get a bonus treat.
2. Risks to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Unfortunately, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve faces several obstacles. A brush fire broke out in 2008, burning nearly 80 percent of the land. A diamond mine is also in operation on the reserve. Both impact the wildlife.
1. The Next Time You See a Lion…
…Whether it’s in the wild or at the zoo, just think of this heartwarming story. It’s not every day that you hear about a lioness befriending a small little fox.
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