These amazing pictures show two lions working to bring down a giraffe.
His images show the lions risking their lives as they leap onto the animal – and even get crushed underfoot by its hooves.
A pair of lions risked their lives in an attempt to take down a giraffe – and possibly get crushed underfoot by its hooves
The amazing images were photographed by Michael Cohen, from New York, who was shooting at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – shared by South Africa, Botswana and Namibia – when he came across the hunt
‘I noticed a large giraffe several hundred yards away running in our direction. Just seeing a giraffe running got my heart pumping,’ said Mr Cohen. Above the lions try to go in for the kill
Mr Cohen, from New York, was shooting at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, shared by South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, when he came across the hunt.
He said: ‘Male lions average over 400lb; giraffes, over six times that much, with well over a ton of power behind their kicks. Just their height alone is intimidating.
‘I noticed a large giraffe several hundred yards away running in our direction. Just seeing a giraffe running got my heart pumping.
‘Then the adrenaline really kicked in as I could see predators chasing it. [My colleague] said, “Probably hyena” – to which I replied when they got a bit closer: “Those hyenas have manes!”.
The front hooves of the giraffe seemed to be misshapen -and it was perhaps this defect which slowed its ability to flee
Mr Cohen said: ‘For me, no other event in nature is as compelling and emotionally packed as seeing a big predator hunt and take down its prey. It’s also the hardest thing to photograph. The giraffe was running for its life, only once stopping to look behind it’
‘There are mixed emotions when watching a predator hunt, pulling both for the prey and the predator and responding viscerally to the brutality of nature. For me, no other event in nature is as compelling and emotionally packed as seeing a big predator hunt and take down its prey. It’s also the hardest thing to photograph.
‘The giraffe was running for its life, only once stopping to look behind it. The lions were still at least 200 yards behind the giraffe, not running hard but trotting.
‘However, just as the dark-maned lion approached our position, still about 75 yards behind the giraffe, it broke into a full sprint. The lion quickly closed the gap and circled in front of the giraffe, stopping it in its tracks.
‘The giraffe lifted its hooves menacingly, facing the lion head on. In what to me seemed a courageous but futile act, the lion leaped onto the right shoulder of the giraffe.
‘The giraffe, bucking its legs caused the lion to slide down its leg, attempting in vain to hold on as the rear leg of the giraffe struck it hard on its back causing the lion to grimace in pain. As the kicks and dust flew I remember thinking that the giraffe would severely wound or kill the predator.
One of the lions leapt onto the back of the giraffe in what the photographer assumed was a futile attempt to bring it down
‘However, the giraffe seemed to avoid stepping on the lion, perhaps to obtain secure footing, or maybe just lacking a predatory instinct, and the lion was able to move away from danger.
‘After that, the lion took a position a good 30 feet from the giraffe in the direction that the giraffe was previously running; holding its attention away from the direction its companion would be approaching. I imagine both lion and giraffe were exhausted, the lion bruised from its first attempt and the giraffe in fear for its life.
‘The giraffe, never taking its eyes off the lion, continued to threaten another kick by raising its hooves toward the lion and slowly, almost imperceptibly, moving toward it. Perhaps too tired to run and having given the lion a good blow this was its best strategy to survive the encounter.
‘The outcome was very much in doubt in my mind and it looked like even two lions had no chance to take on such large prey.
The weight and ferocity of the lions was eventually too much for the mighty animal, and its legs buckled
‘Time passed slowly as we waited to see if there was a second act to this drama.
‘We kept looking back for the second lion and eventually, a good 40 minutes later, it began its approach, slowly stalking from behind in the low grass. The first lion must have seen it as it got up as if to distract the attention of the giraffe.
‘Despite the distraction the giraffe must have sensed what was happening because as the second lighter maned lion began its charge, the giraffe kicked back with its rear leg, just missing the target as the lion, jaws agape, sprang through the air onto its rump.
‘However, it too was thrown off by the desperate giraffe and rewarded with a strong kick or two as it went tumbling onto the dusty ground.
‘Had I placed a bet at that time, it would have been even money on the giraffe. It towered over the lions and seemed fully capable of protecting itself.
The lions tore into the abdomen of the giraffe and not once during the meal did they show any aggression towards one another
‘However, we noticed, as can be seen in the photographs, that the front hooves of the animal seemed to be misshapen. Possibly this defect slowed its ability to flee and attracted the attention of the lions in the first place?
‘The lions circled the giraffe and together tackled its hind quarter, one leaping on the rump and another on the rear leg. The weight and ferocity of the lions was too much for the giraffe and slowly its leg buckled.
‘Immediately, the dark-maned lion attacked the abdomen, and its companion [attacked] the giraffe’s face, gripping its mouth and nostrils to suffocate it. It only took a few minutes for the giraffe to die.
‘From our position we could only see the lion by the head of the giraffe, and as the giraffe expired, the lion licked it, probably for other reasons but it looked to me like it was almost in thanks.
‘The lions wasted no time tearing into the abdomen of the giraffe and engaging in their gruesome feast. They never during the meal showed a hint of aggression toward one another, sometimes pulling on the same piece of flesh.
‘Of course there was plenty to go around. After they were fully satiated, eating, resting, and eating again, the lions moved away from the carcass, and as cats do, rubbed heads securing their bond and the end of a successful but dangerous hunt.’
‘After they were fully satiated, eating, resting, and eating again, the lions moved away from the carcass, and as cats do, rubbed heads securing their bond,’ the photographer noted