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The lionesses enjoy a feast while the elephants grieve over the loss of their cub

This was one of those wildlife sightings, which tugs sharply at the heartstrings, and leaves you breathless with disbelief.It’s awe-inspiring and staggeringly sad all at the same time, and we have to remind ourselves that we are exceptionally lucky to bear witness to the wild and untamed natural world in Kruger Park.In the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, the well-known Ross Breakaway lionesses were spotted on a scent trail, which was soon discovered to lead to a distressed mother elephant pacing around her stillborn calf.

The predators had found themselves an easy meal if they could just get past the agitated elephant cow…Africa on Foot and Shambo Tree Camp guests watched the scene unfold, mesmerized by the interaction between two of Africa’s most iconic and loved creatures.Clutching their hearts when the sorrow became too much, naturally sympathizing with the elephant mother who was torn between chasing the lions of her stillborn baby and shooing the vultures away in an angry stampede.

The undertakers of the bushveld perched, hunched over, in the surrounding trees, patiently waiting for an opportunity to descend on the still perfectly intact elephant calf.The scent of the afterbirth must have attracted the vultures and the lions, but they got more than they bargained for when the source of the scent was revealed: a whole carcass was now the object of interest.

Elephant calves are cherished by the entire herd, an addition to the bloodline, born into a family of aunts, cousins, mothers, and nieces, not to mention the young males who will eventually leave their natal herd in search of a life of their own.Recently, we arrived on the scene soon after an elephant birth and witnessed the celebration surrounding the new calf’s arrival.

Trunkfuls of dust and dirt were tossed into the air, and the wobbly baby was gently caressed by its mother and others.This time, we were shown an equally natural, yet devastating side of life.The rest of the herd was beginning to move off and while the new mother and her previous calf remained with the tiny stillborn body.

We must have missed the birth by a good few hours, but the mother was determined not to give up on her youngster, after carrying him in her womb for 22 months, and she fiercely defended it against both the vultures and the lions.She charged at the vultures, and then back to the carcass to chase the opportunistic lions away.

While photographer Kevin MacLaughlin was on the scene, he observed she constantly covered herself in dirt and would then charge at the scavengers in an impressive cloud of dust making herself seem even bigger and more intimidating.It was a raw and seldom seen sequence of events that we couldn’t have predicted we would see. Knowing how emotional and intelligent elephants are, and having watched their behavior over many years, our hearts were heavy as we watched her slowly give up on her babe.

Later on, as evening game drive commenced, the lionesses were found round-bellied and fully satisfied, and the mother elephant was nowhere in sight. The predators had feasted, and the vultures were growing ever closer to their patiently awaited reward.Sometimes nature is nothing less than tragic for us humans, as our sensitive sides get the better of us, but this was something most of us will never see again, and we have to count ourselves lucky to have been exposed to some of nature’s most primal performances.

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