Locked in combat: Mother lion takes on deadly crocodile to give cubs safe swim across river
Scanning the surface of the water, her amber eyes alight upon a threat to her pride – a deadly crocodile lurking in the river that the family of lions must cross.
The fiercely protective lioness did not hesitate, leaping into the water and grappling with the reptile to allow the rest of the pride to cross the river in safety.
These images show the magnificent big cat fastening her front legs around the crocodile”s jaws and dunking it underneath the water before making a break for the river bank at the Okavanga Delta in Botswana.
Struggle: The power and strength of the mighty lioness is clear to see, but the crocodile fights back, clamping its teeth around the big cat”s nose
The lioness” brave diversion tactics were witnessed by wildlife photographer Pia Dierickx, who said the creature moved with such incredible speed she did not realise what had happened until she looked back at the pictures on her camera.
The photographer, from Antwerp in Belgium, had been peacefully observing the lioness and her pride going about their business around the river when the sudden clash between the big cat and the crocodile occurred.
The 48-year-old said the struggle took place within one second.
“I watched a lioness carefully move out into the channel and then there was a huge splash in the water,” she said.
“The sequence of six pictures of the real action were taken in one second.
“Luckilyfor the lioness the crocodile did not have an opportunity to do the death roll because her mouth was kept closed between the front legs of the lioness,” the photographer added.
“Itwas only after checking my pictures on the camera viewer that I really realised what I had witnessed. Luckily the story had a happy ending because all the lionesses and cubs made it safely to the other bank.”
The crocodile swam away after the incident disturbed an otherwise peaceful day at the Okavanga Delta.
Watchful: The lioness can be seen surveying the water as her pride waits to cross the river in Botswana”s Okavango Delta
Lurking: The lioness spots the giant crocodile”s head partially submerged in the waters of the river
Menace: The lioness bares her enormous fangs after spotting the crocodile in the river in Botswana
Spring: The lioness springs from the water and into action as she prepares to battle to protect her cubs from the lurking crocodile
Head to head: The photographer who captured these images said the struggle took place within a split second
Protective: The lioness succeeds in forcing the crocodile beneath the water
Escape: Seizing her moment while the reptile is under the water, the lioness makes a break for dry land
Escape: The lioness emerges safely on the other side of the river after bravely battling the crocodile to protect her pride
Diversion: As the lioness struggled with the lurking reptile, the rest of the pride were able to cross the river in safety
Battle wounds: The lioness was left bleeding after the crocodile clamped its jaws around her mouth