By Alexander Greensmith
THE SHOCKING moment FIVE YOUNG LIONS tenderly PLAY with a BABY GIRAFFE before savagely turning it into lunch has been caught on camera.
Images and video footage show a pride of cubs as they disregard table manners and play with their prey by calmly brushing and stroking the neck of the poor giraffe before finishing it off with a sharp gnaw in the neck.
The young giraffe is eaten alive and continues to spasm long into the video recording as the hungry lions tuck in.
Heart-breaking images show the giraffe’s mother forlornly watching on as her dead-eyed child, along with a big cat’s blood-eyes stare down the barrel of the camera lens.
The dramatic family feast was captured by amateur photographer and doctor, Desmond Chu (47) from Sydney, Australia.
Shot in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa, on a Nikon D800 and Nikon D500, Desmond was remarkably only 16 feet from the kill.
“On the emotional side, I was conflicted. A young life was being killed, and it was distressingly graphic – in sight, sound and smell,” said Desmond.
“And yet there was a sense of majesty to see the lions – the king of the beasts – doing what we know they can do.
“It was more shocking than I expected because of the age of the cubs. They were inexperienced hunters, and so struggled to kill the giraffe quickly. The ordeal took almost ten minutes.”
While the morality rate for adult giraffes is very low, babies aged under six months in the wild have an infant mortality rate of almost 50 per cent.
Dr Chu estimates the cubs were four to six months old, while the giraffe was a few months younger.
“The photo of the mother giraffe was taken before we witnessed the kill. She looked like no other giraffe we had seen – uneasy, and tense on her feet. Clearly her eyes were fixed on something afar,” he said.
“It was only when we investigated the sound of her calf that we realised the anguish she was experiencing. At the time, it was just a picture of an animal with an unusual expression. But when the context was clear, it was indeed heart-breaking. We were brought to tears.
“Those in our jeep were initially excited with anticipation, coming across what was expected to be a thrilling kill. But then there was horror realising that the life of a cute young giraffe was about to be literally torn to shreds before our eyes.
“To some, it was dreadful. Another nearby jeep turned away, as its guests could not bear to witness this gruesome sight. To others, it was a fascinating process of nature taking place.
“Regardless, it was a captivating moment that aroused diverse emotions in all.
“What made it difficult for us humans to watch was that the giraffe was cute. There was a droning low-pitched moan by a young giraffe about to be devoured that I will never forget.
“But yet on the other hand, there was a loving lioness that would be proud of her four cubs, learning to feed themselves through this kill. The lions struggled to work out how to kill this young giraffe by biting the neck, and once finally achieved, feasted on their meal.
“This process took an agonising nine minutes. Agonising, yet it is the intricate balance of the circle of life.”
You can follow the part-time photographer on Instagram @drdeschu.