Lions attack giraffes

Video shows risky lion attack on bull giraffe

The scene is reminiscent of a group of children clinging to an adult: a lion is sitting on the back of a giraffe while two others are each clinging to a hind leg. The giraffe, who doesn't seem very impressed, trots through the bush.

In fact, the images that were taken in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve show a pride of lions trying to bring down an adult male giraffe. The safari guide Francois Pienaar, who shot the footage, says the whole incident lasted about five hours. For him it was the most spectacular observation of his career so far.

The attack tactics are part of the standard repertoire of the lions, as David O’Connor explained in an email. He is a researcher at the Institute for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo. Commonly, lions grab their prey by the hind legs first, then aim for the back and finally the throat. But with giraffes - especially if they are still standing upright - you have to skip the last step: O’Connor says that the long giraffe neck prevents a throat bite. That's why the awkward stalemate in the video came about.

Therefore, if the lions want to kill an adult giraffe, they must bring it down.

The big cats have several options for this. Either they try to stumble the giraffe at full gallop, or they try to jump on it as a whole group and push it to the ground with their sheer weight, explains Luke Hunter, the president of Panthera. “It looks like the lioness [on the giraffe's back] is trying to do the latter, but she has no chance of success on her own. That might have worked if the other pack members had helped her. "

Lions are usually more likely to hunt young giraffes, but they do occasionally try a full-grown specimen, Julian Fennessy, director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, wrote in an email. What is unusual, however, is that the lions tried for five hours. There is no shortage of easy prey in Klaserie and the nearby Kruger National Park, and "a full-grown bull giraffe can easily kill you with a single kick," says O’Connor.

This hunting marathon “shows considerable stamina,” says Fennessy.

For the Lions, however, this perseverance did not pay off in the end. After about five minutes, the giraffe was able to shake off the attackers and for the next few hours kept them at bay by repeatedly stomping on the ground as they approached, reports Pienaar. O'Connor and Fennessy weren't surprised that the giraffe won.

"The old cop must have done a few laps [with lions] and obviously learned a few tricks in the process," says Fennessy. "So this time it's 1-0 for the loot!"

The article was originally published in English on NationalGeographic.com.