By Alex Jones
HEARTBREAKING images show a mother giraffe accidentally breaking her newborn calf’s neck with a misguided kick after attempting to fight off a savage attack from a hungry lioness.
The brutal encounter shows a frantic mother wildly kicking out at the deadly lion but tragically, and fatally, striking her own child in the melee rather than the apex predator.
Aware that the blow was lethal, and that the hours-old calf had no chance of surviving, the lion strategically retreated to a safe distance before waiting for the baby’s inevitable death to occur.
As her calf lay dying, the distraught giraffe frantically tries to revive her baby before mournfully traipsing away, circling back to look at her lost child every few metres.
The distressing encounter was captured on film by South African wildlife photographer, Mike Dexter (33). He’d spent hours tracking the proud mother and her newborn take its first fumbling steps across the Maasai Mara, Kenya.
The acclaimed photographer, who also acts as a safari guide, was taken aback by the traumatic sighting of nature at its most unforgiving.
“We had been following the two giraffes for some time as they made their way across the plains, the calf was just a few hours old so they were moving slowly, not much going on,” says Dexter, who uses the Instagram handle @mikedexterphotography
“Out of nowhere a lioness stuck her head up out of the grass not more than 50 metres from the giraffe, it was entirely unexpected for me, the giraffe and the lion. I also did not expect the lion to actually take on the giraffe calf alone as adult giraffe are known for their formidable kicks and predators usually err on the side of caution. On this day, the lioness decided to try her luck.”
Dexter watched in horror as the previously bucolic scene erupted into violence.
“The giraffe lashes out with a lethal kick as a lioness tackles her newborn calf,” adds the 33-year-old photographer, who fell in love with the African Bush as a youngster before getting his dream job guiding at the world famous Malamala Game Reserve in South Africa.
“Tragically her aim is slightly off and it is her baby’s neck that receives the full force of the blow, rather than the lion’s. The mother giraffe continues to pursue the lion for a while but her attempts are futile. The lioness lies down a little way off, comfortable in the knowledge that she just has to wait it out. The mother giraffe mills about for a while, apparently unsure of what to do next. Her baby is still alive but its neck is clearly broken. Eventually she starts moving off, stopping every 20 metres or so to turn and look back.
“Once she was about 100 metres away the lion sauntered back onto the scene and minutes later the baby’s short life had gone full circle in just one morning.”
Although savage, Dexter believes that his impressive shots show the reality of life on the plains.
“It was tough to watch, particularly the evident distress that the mother was in after her fatal error,” he admits.
“But it’s important to tell the full story. I think people appreciate it when they see my photos, they think the shots are great but the situation is tragic. Usually it’s an ‘Oh my God!’, hand-to-mouth reaction.
“Nature isn’t all cute and cuddly, behind every majestic portrait of a lion looking regal is a hefty body count.”
For more of Mike Dexter’s photography, please visit: www.mikedexter.com