By Mark McConville
GRUESOME pictures and video have captured nature at its cruellest as a group of lions kills a pregnant African buffalo before eating her unborn calf.
The horrifying footage and images show the lions take down the female buffalo before one latches onto her throat to strike the killing blow.
The other lions focus on the buffalo’s bottom and rip and tear at it until they drag the unborn calf from its mother’s womb and feast on it.
The brutal shots were taken in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe by UK-educated wildlife photographer and tour leader Jez Bennett (43).
“The lions had been lying up in some thick bushes,” he said.
“I had been with them all morning and they had failed to make a kill earlier in the am. Normally lions will hunt in the cool of the day but being opportunistic and hungry I knew the if an opportunity presented itself they would oblige.
“Sure enough a small herd of buffalo appeared and started to walk towards the lions, oblivious to their presence. It didn’t take long for the lions to notice this and as the buffalo got within about twenty-five-metres the lions made their attack.
“The buffalo was clinically killed by the dominant lioness, through suffocation. The final twist in the tail was when an unborn calf was pulled out of the buffalo.
“Lions will typically go for the soft tissue and organs first and so one lioness had started eating the back end during the suffocation.”
Jez, who shot the pictures with a Canon 7D, was shocked at the attack but said it was the lion’s lucky day.
“It was pretty gruesome, and sad for a life to be taken before it has a chance to begin, especially when you see the hardships the mother will endure to try and create a new life,” he said.
“The rest of the herd turned and ran when the lions attacked but one broke its leg about twenty-metres away. The lions noticed this, seemed rather surprised, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to kill another.
“The next ninety minutes turned into a gruesome blood bath which was hard to watch as the second buffalo was slowly eaten alive.
“The lions had no real interest in it so made no attempt to kill cleanly so just ate it from all sides. The buffalo continued to bellow for over ninety gruesome minutes.
“You could say they got three buffalo for the price of one.”
African buffaloes are usually highly capable of defending themselves and have few predators to worry about except humans, large crocodiles and lions.
The African buffalo is also a much sought-after trophy in hunting, being a member of the big five game.