Changing Planet

Dramatic Lion and Elephant Encounter on the Chobe River

It was mid morning in the Chobe National Park in northern Botswana, when John Landos, a safari-goer from the USA, spotted a herd of elephants crossing the Chobe River.

What happened next was one of those sightings that you could never have predicted or even imagined.

Here he recalls the events that unfolded:

“One of the young elephants—3 or 4 years old—was lagging behind the herd.

Suddenly, we saw a flash of brown coming out of the trees. Several lions emerged and surrounded the young elephant, cutting it off from the rest of the herd. Two of the lions then leapt onto the young elephant’s back, and the calf headed into thick bush with the lions gripping onto her back.”

Photo by John Landos

“The other elephants turned around to help, but by the time they arrived, more lions had come in and managed to injure the young elephant’s underbelly.

The calf remained on his feet for about 40 minutes, but eventually it succumbed to its wounds.  The two lions remained on the elephant’s back until it fell. Shortly after, the rest of the pride joined the others. There were about 15 lions in the pride, including 4 or 5 cubs.”

Mum elephant coming to inspect carcass
Photo by John Landos

“The mother elephant then came into the middle of the pride where the young elephant was lying dead; and amazingly, the lions totally ignored her.

She touched her baby with her trunk and rocked in grief for several minutes.  Once she was satisfied that the baby was indeed dead, she turned away and re-joined the rest of the herd. It was a somber scene, as the whole herd then went back and crossed the river.

Although it was hard to watch, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to witness such wild moment in nature.”

Paul Steyn is a widely-published multi-media content producer from South Africa, and regular contributor to National Geographic News and blogs. Having guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent travel and wildlife magazine, and now focuses on nature storytelling in all its forms. In 2013, he joined a team of researchers and Bayei on a 250km transect of the Okavango Delta on traditional mokoros. In 2016, he accompanied the Great Elephant Census team in Tanzania and broke the groundbreaking results on National Geographic News . Contact: Follow Paul on Twitter or Instagram

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