A male baboon carried a lone lion club up a tree and held it aloft in South Africa’s Kruger National Park – in scene’s reminiscent of Simba and Rafiki in The Lion King
A male baboon rescued a lion cub from danger by carrying it up a tree to safety before tenderly ‘grooming’ its fur in scenes reminiscent of The Lion King.
The rare sighting was captured by safari guide Kurt Schultz on Saturday in Kruger National Park, South Africa, while he was photographing lions.
As Kurt, 43, sat with his finger poised on the camera, he at first feared a group of baboons would ‘viciously kill’ the helpless cub – as he’d witnessed many times.
Thankfully he was mistaken.
To his surprise, one of the males ran over to the baby, scooped it up in its arms and began scaling a marula tree, as the defenceless lion watched its enemies circling underneath.
The baboon carries away the lion cub
The baboon continued hopping from branch to branch as dad-of-one Kurt and other safari guests winced – worried the lone lion would fall from its grip.
But eventually the monkey settled with the rival baby predator in its arms, before stroking and caring for it like a loving father.
In the hit Disney movie, Rafiki is a wise old monkey, thought to be a mandrill or baboon, who looks after young Simba and often gives him guidance.
The lion is carried up the tree
Kurt, from White River, South Africa, said: “It was a strange experience. I was worried the cub would fall because it would not survive that height.
“The baboon was grooming the little lion cub as if it was a baby baboon.
“The baboon moved from branch to branch grooming and carrying the cub for a long period of time.
The little lion rested in the baboons la
“The males do a lot of grooming but the care given […] was the same care given by a female to one of her own young.
“In 20 years of guiding southern and east Africa, I have witnessed baboons viciously killing leopard cubs and have heard of baboons killing lion cubs.
“But I have never seen the care and attention given to a lion cub in this manner.
The baboon watches out across Kruger National Park from its vantage point
“This will remain one of my most interesting sightings.”
While Kurt and other animal lovers watched on, they feared the baboon would bring the cub back down to its ‘excited’, ‘playful’ and potentially deadly troop.
The photographer had to leave to give other guests a chance to watch, but was told the primates eventually took the cub away and its fate remains unknown.
Kurt Schultz witnessed the rare cross species interaction
Kurt said: “I don’t see a chance of this poor cub surviving. The troop of baboons was large and a lion would not be able to get the young back.
“Nature is cruel at most times and survival of young predator cubs is not easy.
“The lion cub poses a threat to the baboons when it gets older.
“I heard the baboons left the area with the cub, as I had to give other people a chance [to take photos for themselves].”