This is one of the most remarkable wildlife interactions that I
have come across in my time. The photographs are amazing, but it’s the
touching behaviour of the animals involved that makes this story so
Photographer Evan Schiller and Lisa Holzwarth
were on a game drive in the northern Botswana’s Selinda area when they
came across a big troop of baboons charging through the bush.
“30-40 baboons were heading in our general direction making a lot of noise,” Lisa recalls.
The baboons were obviously frightened by something and they all
scampered up trees, shouting, alarming, and making a big scene. It
quickly became clear what the problem was: two large lionesses came out
of the tall grass and rushed the baboons into the trees, soon joined by
two more lionesses.
“Between the baboons shrieking and the lionesses communicating with deep guttural roars, it was a mad scene,” Lisa says.
But then the real chaos began! One brave baboon descended the dead
tree and tried to make a run for it… but got snapped up in the jaws of a
lioness grabbed a female baboon on the run. But there was something
else there… As the baboon lay dying in the jaws of the lioness, a little
baby (less than a month old) slowly disengaged from its mother’s body.
Photograph by Evan Schiller
took over and the baby tried to make a go for a tree, but did not have
the strength to climb. At this point the lioness noticed the “little
guy” and went over to investigate. Photograph by Evan Schiller
Instead of snapping the baby up in a deadly movement, she started to play with the baboon. Photograph by Evan Schiller
The lioness was inquisitive and gentle at the same time. Photograph by Evan Schiller
“The baby was showing signs of physical harm and
fatigue from the whole ordeal. The lioness picked the baby up in her
mouth—it was in agony watching the baby’s ordeal—and I kept on turning
off the video option on my camera because it was hard to record.”
a while she picked up the baboon softly in her mouth and walked away,
then settled down with the baby between her paws. Photograph by Evan
In a strange behavioural twist, the baboon started to try and suckle the lioness. Photograph by Evan Schiller
What happened next blew our minds – the baby, in another instinctual moment, held onto the lioness’ chest and tried to suckle…
Photograph by Evan Schiller
lioness got distracted—this time by two male lions who arrived on the
scene. Their advances, however, were met with aggression by the lioness.
Was she defending the baby baboon? Or just uninterested in their mating
advances? Photograph by Evan Schiller
Here’s where it gets interesting: Waiting in a nearby tree is a big
male baboon, who is obviously intent on saving the baby. The male lions
were causing such a ruckus that it presented a short window of
opportunity for the brave hero to descend the tree, grab the baby and
head back to safety.
“I was touched by how gently the father baboon held this little baby who was in tough shape after its ordeal.”
The heroic male baboon, having just saved the baby from the lions, cradled him in his arms. Photograph by Evan Schiller
father baboon had to make a move. Holding the baby, in all sorts of
contorted positions, he tried numerous times to climb down the tree. He
tested the lionesses’ interest with each descent. Photograph by Evan
The baby baboon was really struggling with the heat and the father
baboon really needed to get him into the shade. Finally, with the
combination of daring courage and the lions own desire to take cover in
some shade, he was able to dash to the safety and shade of a
And what happened to the baby? It seems the little guy survived with
the help of his troop. He was alive and safe in his father’s arms when
Evan and Lisa left.
“No matter what,” Lisa says. “The young baboon remains an inspiration
to me—and a reminder, that life is fragile and no matter how much we
fight to control its outcome, all we can do is live in the moment.”
is a widely-published travel journalist from South Africa. Having
guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent
travel magazine, and now writes about and photographs unique experiences
around the world. Follow him on twitter.