Lion and Deer Forge Playful Friendship, Rewriting Nature’s Rules

You might be forgiven for thinking this lioness is just playing with her food.

But these remarkable photographs capture the powerful beast caring for a young springbok as if it were her own offspring.

For although the antelope species are her natural prey, this grieving lioness adopted the calf after her own cubs were killed by a rival male lion.

Photographer Gordon Donovan recorded the extraordinary scenes of her tenderly cradling the antelope, licking it clean and shielding it from danger.

She even protected the bok from a pair of pregnant lions who approached in search of food at Etosha National Park in Namibia.

Photographer Mr Donovan, from New York, said: ‘It was a bizarre yet stunning sight to behold. I was excited about the lions, and when she captured the springbok I was waiting for the kill.

‘But it never came and started cleaning the calf. That’s the mysterious way of nature, never knowing what will happen next.

‘Then she protected her adopted springbok cub from the other lions. These are the moments I seek when I go to Africa.’

The fascinating set of images show a grieving lioness apparently adopting the baby springbok as if it were one of her very own cubs

The shots show the lioness holding the young springbok back from running away, cleaning it, pushing it around playfully – while refusing to allow other members of her hungry pride anywhere near it, after her own cubs were killed by a rival male lion

Photographer Gordon Donovan, from New York, claims that the bizarre scene played out for more than two hours when he visited the pride in Namibia’s Etosha National Park

Gordon, 53, was informed by a guide that the lioness was part of a pride that had been overtaken by a new male, and, in doing so, the dominant male had killed the lioness’ male cubs

Although the antelope species are her natural prey, the lioness protected the bok from a pair of pregnant lions who approached in search of food

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