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Buffalo vs Lions: The Battle at Kruger

Updated on January 22, 2018
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy explores several topics in between juggling college with work and his passion for writing!

Buffalo vs Lions
Buffalo vs Lions | Source

The Battle at Kruger

Shot by an amateur photographer, the titular Battle at Kruger records several amazing minutes of an African safari. A passenger chronicles a young water buffalo's capture by a pride of lionesses and ensuing rescue. With enough "twists" to fill an action movie, the battle entails many exciting moments and unexpected appearances.

Considering everything that takes place during the young herbivore's imprisonment, onlookers were amazed the calf managed to escape the encounter not only alive, but able to walk away seemingly uninjured. See the action for yourself in the clip below.

Video Highlights

Time
Event
2:00—2:10
The buffalo calf is chased and captured by lionesses.
3:29—4:12
A crocodile wrestles with the lionesses over the calf.
4:30—7:15
The buffalo herd returns and battles the lionesses.
6:25
The calf (miraculously still alive) is rescued!

Video Summary

In case you're adverse to a video of such length, here's a quick summary. A herd of African buffalo approach a watering hole to drink, ignorant to the nearby presence of a small lioness pride. Eventually recognizing the felines' proximity, the buffalo flee but are pursued, and a young calf is captured in the chaos.

As the lioness drags the calf out of the water hole they had plunged into during the chase, a crocodile emerges and bites the calf, initiating a brief tug-of-war which the mammalian predator eventually wins.

Finally, the lionesses crowd around their would-be newfound meal, but the massive buffalo herd returns, surrounding and charging their tormentors, who flee after realizing the futility of fighting. Astonishingly, the baby buffalo returns to the herd very much alive despite being ragdolled about by multiple carnivores.

Nile Crocodile
Nile Crocodile

The Crocodile's Odd Surrender

Although Kruger's crocodile appears only for a brief portion of the overall skirmish, I was surprised to see it relinquish its prey during the tug-of-war. Sure, the lioness snares the calf first, but crocodiles have notoriously strong bites, being almost impossible to remove once latched onto a victim. Thus, its surrender of the calf astounds me, especially considering it likely would have won the clash.

Perhaps the presence of other lionesses deterred the aquatic tyrant, although its scales provide a hefty defense against claws, or the struggle was simply more trouble than the meal was worth. Either way, we rarely witness this intimidating reptile lose its prey once captured within its jaws.

Water Buffalo with its Calf
Water Buffalo with its Calf

Altruism in Animals

Parents in the animal kingdom, especially females, are often protective of their young, but very few species intervene on the behalf of non-blood relatives. Yet buffalo break the trend, often going out of their way to defend and reclaim lost herd members, even if its puts themselves in harm's way.

Is there an undiscovered self-serving benefit to this mindset? Other than the knowledge (as far as animals can possess it) that help may arrive if needed, most biologists are stumped as to the origins of this altruistic behavior. Although it's possible there may be a missing link to explain the selfless act, the deed still warms our hearts, as we see creatures risking their own hides to save a friend.

Buffalo Save Companion from Lions

An Anomaly? No!

Above is another brief video detailing water buffalo rescuing their ally from a pair of lions. Expert biologists claim such behavior is not uncommon among herds, uniting even male buffalo (who tend to compete for dominance and mating rights) to save their kin.

Heck, we've even witnessed members of separate species rescuing fellow animals, as a fascinating video where an elephant saves a buffalo from lions details. Poor lions, they just can't catch an easy meal, eh?

If forced to defend your life, which animals would you least like to face?

See results

Legacy

Despite the unsophisticated and often-bumpy footage, Kruger went viral after being posted in 2007, bringing unexpected fame to videographer David Budzinski, and earning the "Best Eyewitness Video" in the annual YouTube awards. Time Magazine featured an article about the spectacle and National Geographic aired a corresponding documentary on their channel. Clearly, despite some grainy moments, few videos depict the savagery and drama of the savannas like Kruger.

African Lioness and Lion
African Lioness and Lion

Implications of the Battle at Kruger

Let's recap the significance of Kruger:

  • Provides evidence for selfless behavior in certain animals
  • Showcases competition between crocodile and lionesses for prey
  • Implies crocodiles may surrender food, even if confident of victory, under the right circumstances
  • Proves having a camera handy can give you your fifteen minutes of fame


In all seriousness, the Battle of Kruger rightfully earns a spot as one of the most dynamic and viewed skirmishes in the animal kingdom, and (if you'll pardon the pun) provides plenty of food for thought.

© 2018 Jeremy Gill

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    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      This is a great post. One of the best I have read. Well done

    • Jeremy Gill profile image
      Author

      Jeremy Gill 2 months ago from Louisiana

      @Dr Mark

      Hello, I'm afraid I haven't read that specific book, although I did come across similar ideas in my research! I'm certainly no expert in the area, but my understanding indicates this remains a controversial topic. Some behavioral scientists seem to think it was a matter of expecting the same services given to be returned in the future, opponents countered by citing animals' tendency to "cheat" such systems. Others wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Dawkins, which is where I'm definitely leaning.

      Insects, such as bees, with a hive mentality perform similar selfless acts, but I have to admit I'm more surprised with mammals. That said, perhaps you're right, and the preservation of (admittedly distant) genetic material fuels the behavior.

      And yes, I'd be very curious to learn what became of the poor calf!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Jeremy thanks for writing about this. Very interesting, and I would have not seen it if you had not posted this.

      Have you read Richard Dawkins book on the selfish gene? Animals in a herd are usually related in some way, so altruistic moments like this indicate the animal is saving his own genetic material, even if it is just a herd member and not an offspring.

      Sadly, many of the small animals that are traumatized by predators (like baby rabbits that are tossed around by house cats) usually die later from stress. I wonder about all that little calf went through, and would be interested in whether he survived at least a few days after all of this happened. We can be sure he suffered from some PTSD! (At least us weakling humans would, right?)

      Thank you again.

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