By Charlotte Regen
This hungry lioness is really going for the kill – by stealing a catch from the clutches of a male leopard.
The daring mother was clearly in need of a good meal when she spied the leopard guarding a carcass in a tree.
In an incredibly risky move, the lioness left her three small cubs on the ground and climbed five metres to take on the leopard in the branches.
Despite taking several blows, she eventually saw off her competition and released the carcass to the ground.
South African Vernon Cresswell captured the scene on camera as it played out in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
Vernon said: “I have been travelling to the bush on a regular basis for many years and I have never seen a lioness climb a tree – especially so to steal a carcass from a leopard while the leopard was still there.
The lioness had decided that afternoon that she would bring her cubs to the carcass and she would climb the tree.
“She waited until the evening and then came back after dark. She got up the tree fairly easily.
“You could hear her cubs calling to her, and it was a real risk versus reward scenario. She left them unattended on the ground for a while in order to get food for herself so she could continue to feed them.
“When the lioness approached the leopard there was a lot of snarling and hissing.
“She took three swats on the head from his paw and she couldn’t respond because she needed her claws to hold on.
“She wasn’t interested in the leopard – she just wanted the carcass.
“The interaction between both animals was fascinating. My friends were in awe, but my wife was in tears. Maybe it was motherly instincts, but she was terrified the lioness might fall out and injure herself, leaving the babies very vulnerable.
“It was a hectic and emotional sighting and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”