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Photographer Captures A Villainous Lion Turning Into A Hero

By Joseph Cha on May 22nd 2014

Wildlife Reality

When you observe wildlife you get a raw visual on the economy of life and death, and the cycle of predator and prey. There are times when wildlife steps out of their viscous food chain, and that’s when things get fascinating.

Photographer Evan Schiller and Lisa Holzwarth were travelling through the northern Botswana’s Selinda Camp when a group of baboons emerged from the bush.

“30-40 baboons were heading in our general direction making a lot of noise,” Lisa recalls.


The lioness grabbed a female baboon on the run. But there was something else there… As the baboon lay dying in the jaws of the lioness, a little baby (less than a month old) slowly disengaged from its mother’s body. Photograph by Evan Schiller



Instinct took over and the baby tried to make a go for a tree, but did not have the strength to climb. At this point the lioness noticed the “little guy” and went over to investigate. Photograph by Evan Schiller



Instead of snapping the baby up in a deadly movement, she started to play with the baboon. Photograph by Evan Schiller



The lioness was inquisitive and gentle at the same time. Photograph by Evan Schiller

The baby was showing signs of physical harm and fatigue from the whole ordeal. The lioness picked the baby up in her mouth—it was in agony watching the baby’s ordeal—and I kept on turning off the video option on my camera because it was hard to record.



After a while she picked up the baboon softly in her mouth and walked away, then settled down with the baby between her paws. Photograph by Evan Schiller



In a strange behavioural twist, the baboon started to try and suckle the lioness. Photograph by Evan Schiller


The lioness got distracted—this time by two male lions who arrived on the scene. Their advances, however, were met with aggression by the lioness. Was she defending the baby baboon? Or just uninterested in their mating advances? Photograph by Evan Schiller

Waiting in a nearby tree was a big male baboon, who for all intents and purposes may have been the father. The male lions became distracted and opened an opportunity for the male baboon to come down and rescue the baby baboon.


The heroic male baboon, having just saved the baby from the lions, cradled him in his arms. Photograph by Evan Schiller



The father baboon had to make a move. Holding the baby, in all sorts of contorted positions, he tried numerous times to climb down the tree. He tested the lionesses’ interest with each descent. Photograph by Evan Schiller

The baby baboon was struggling with the heat and desperately needed shade. In the end the lions decided they needed shade too, and the male baboon was able to dash to a neighboring shady tree with the baby baboon.

“No matter what,” Lisa 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.”

[Source: National Geographic]


I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jacob Jexmark

    Nice story :)

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  2. Bill Sisk

    “I kept on turning off the video option on my camera because it was hard to record”. I find that puzzling. Surely it would be easier to let video run on than keep viewing and clicking stills!

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  3. WeiPhotoArts

    Wonderful set of images–and the words to go with the story. Must have made your trip well above worthwhile.

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  4. Kishore Sawh

    Nice story and captures

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  5. Gonzalo

    Beautiful story!

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