Lions are found in both Asia and Africa and are currently an endangered species thanks to the encroachment of man on their natural habitat.
Unusually for big cats, lions are also highly social animals. They travel in prides and care for their mates and offspring as part of their day-to-day lives.
This may be why, when this adult lioness found a baby baboon, that she did something completely surprising.
10. Baboons Are Big Monkeys
The baboon lives in various regions of Africa and is a ground-dwelling species rather than a tree-dwelling species like most other types of monkey.
Baboons are mostly herbivores but are completely capable of taking up an omnivorous diet. In South Africa it’s not unknown for baboons to attack and eat sheep and goats.
In general, baboons are formidable monkeys and they travel in packs. But, of course, their babies are as vulnerable as babies of any other kind…
9. The Death Of A Mother
This isn’t uncommon behavior for baboons. While they are a social species, there is no system of adoption within baboon tribes and thus when a baby is too young to care for itself and its mother dies – the baby is simply abandoned.
This baby baboon was just old enough to flee for its life up a tree when the lioness arrived. Sadly, it wasn’t fast enough.
But the baboon wasn’t fast enough. The lioness knocked it from the tree trunk and the baby baboon landed on the floor next to the tree.
Evan Schiller, the photographer, and his wife Lisa thought that the baby must be doomed and their hearts sank as the lioness circled closer and close to the baby. You can see how frightened the baboon must be here.
7. Hold On…
But instead of ripping the baboon to shreds and then devouring it, the lioness did something completely unexpected.
She gently reached out her paw and began to play with the baby. Not in the way that a cat will sometimes play with its prey before eating it but in a tender almost human way.
Then ever so carefully she leaned out and her jaws closed around the baby baboon – you won’t believe what happened next.
6. To Safety?
The lioness brought the baboon a little distance away from the tree and placed it gently on the ground. Then she protected the monkey with her forearms and while the baby baboon looked a little distressed from the severity of its earlier ordeal; the lioness made no move to eat the baboon or to cause it any physical harm!
But was the baboon really safe or was there something else in store?
5. The Observer…
Evan Schiller, the photographer who recorded the moment between the baby baboon and the lioness said, “The lioness picked the baby up in her mouth and I was in agony watching the baby’s ordeal. I kept on turning off the video option on my camera because it was so hard for me to record.”
Yet, despite Evan’s fears, you can see that the baboon quickly becomes confident that it will not be harmed and begins to gently nip at the lioness – a gesture of play rather than hostility. If the baboon had felt threatened it would almost certainly have tried to flee.
4. Closer And Closer
Instead, the baby began to cuddle the lioness tighter and tighter and a bond of trust began to form between the monkey and the big cat.
She cradled the baby between her front paws as though she understood that this was a baby and that it was her responsibility to protect him from harm.
While mix-species animal relationships are not unknown in captivity this is very unusual in the wild.
But what would happen when the other lions found the baby?
3. Dinner Time?
Instead of surrendering the baby to the pride, the lioness quickly chased the other lions away. This is not unusual behavior in lion prides. While the male lions are the largest and most powerful cats of the pride, it is the female lions which generally run the pride, catch prey and decide how it will be distributed among the group.
The baboon had had his second lucky escape of the day.
2. A Brave Baboon
During the ruckus between the lioness and the rest of her pride, a canny male adult baboon approached the scene. He’d been keeping an eye on the baby throughout, it’s possible that the baby’s mother had been his mate.
When the lions began to bicker over the baby and the lioness was chasing off the adult male lions – the male baboon leaped into action.
He scooped the baby from the grass by picking him up in his mouth and headed for the safety of the trees. The lioness’s job was complete and the baby was back among his own kind.
1. All’s Well That Ends Well
We wonder if baboons can communicate effectively with each other and whether the father will tell his son of the day that a lion saved his life.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the father thought that the lioness was saving the baby as a tasty snack for later. After all that’s normally what a lion would be doing with a baby monkey – eating it. It’s an incredible thing to have witnessed.
Animals often form unusual friendships in captivity. There are dozens of examples online of goat-chicken or cat-dog or pig-cat style friendships but these come from being raised and reared together.
The lioness’s actions were unique because they took place in the wild. Nature normally has no room for sentimentality, a predator will devour prey because that’s the law of the jungle.
The baboon’s story shows that it’s important for all of us to never give up hope and that even when things appear really bad, they may just turn out alright in the end.