Watch: Buffalo fights off lions and croc before herd rushes to the rescue
At 900 kilograms (2,000 lbs), an adult Cape buffalo bull can weigh as much as a small car. That's a tough target for even the most ambitious of predators. A group of tourists in South Africa's Kruger National Park recently witnessed the buffalo's steely resolve first-hand when they watched an old bull survive an attack from a pride of lions and a croc.
On a game drive in the south of the reserve, Thuli Khumalo, head of Atamela Tours, steered a vehicle full of eager tourists to the banks of Transport Dam – a favourite drinking spot for grazers like buffalo, zebra and impala. With plenty of prey in the area, predators are never too far away and it wasn't long before the group spotted a pride of lions hiding in a patch of shade overlooking the water. "If you spot lions hiding in the shade at a waterhole, it is often a good idea to stick around," the team from Latest Sightings explain over on their blog. Lions are opportunistic and will take on just about anything that wanders too close.
After an unsuccessful hunting attempt on a herd of impalas, the cats turned their attention to an old buffalo bull standing near the water's edge. The bull, wise to the intentions of the lions, retreated to the water in an effort to escape, but was quickly sent back to shore by the snapping jaws of a crocodile. While it's unlikely that a croc would typically target prey as large as an adult buffalo, these prehistoric predators will take on just about anything in the hopes of tearing off a morsel of meat (not even elephants are safe!).
Back on dry land, the buffalo was forced to defend itself from repeated charges by the lions. The cats had numbers on their side and had surrounded the buffalo making retreat almost impossible. And then the cavalry arrived. A huge herd of buffalo were making their way to the dam when they spotted the commotion and charged in to see off the threat.
For lions, attacking an adult buffalo is a calculated risk. If the hunt is successful, the spoils can provide a feast for the entire pride, but a buffalo is no easy target. Even if the lions succeed in bringing one down without getting skewered by its horns, distress calls often draw the rest of the buffalo herd to the scene.
Battles between lions and buffalos play out quite often in the African wilds, and, although they are not often witnessed, this isn't the first time we've seen these massive herbivores taking on their feline rivals. Footage from Timbavati Private Nature Reserve shows a buffalo herd successfully saving one of their own from a pride of lions on the hunt, and the well-known Battle at Kruger clip (which was filmed at this very dam) is a perfect example of a herd working as a unit to protect an individual in peril.
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Baby buffalo's escape: the movie
David Budzinski, a Texan on his first visit to Africa, was riding in a four-wheel drive across the Kruger National Park in South Africa in September 2004. His group spotted a few lions and a herd of buffalo near a watering hole, but it wasn't long before the lions charged the herd, singling out a buffalo calf, which they overwhelmed by the water's edge.
What followed has become the stuff of internet legend and will form the core of a dramatic wildlife documentary, Battle at Kruger, which will be screened by the National Geographic channel in Britain tonight at 5pm.
As Budzinski watched the drama unfold through his video camera viewfinder, the lions brought down the baby buffalo, tumbling into the waterhole. Just as they dragged it from the water to kill it, a crocodile leapt up and snapped the calf's hind quarters in its jaws. Budzinski, a supply manager for oil giant Chevron in Houston, Texas, was about to turn off his camera - 'I didn't want to see a bloody mess,' he said later - but persisted, capturing one of the most striking wildlife encounters ever recorded by an amateur, or professional, photographer. The lions - after struggling with the crocodile for possession of the calf, tearing at its head and legs - eventually won out and the calf was dragged on to dry land. At this point, the buffalo herd began returning in force to reclaim the calf.
One large male charged the lions, flicking one over his shoulder, and the rest of the herd moved in closer and closer until the lions were all chased off. Amazingly, the little calf that had been the subject of a tug-of-war between the crocodile and the pride of lions then stood up rather shakily, and trotted off to join the herd.
Frank Watts, the safari guide, later compared the experience to a meteorite striking Earth. 'They probably hit Earth quite regularly, but nobody sees them, and no one photographs them. And I don't know of anybody who's ever seen anything like this before.'
After returning home, Budzinski tried, unsuccessfully, to sell his eight-minute video of the battle at Kruger to the National Geographic and Animal Planet channels, but was turned down. We don't take submissions from amateurs, he was told.
So Budzinski's video gathered dust until, last year, he agreed it could be shown on YouTube. Within days, it was being watched around the planet, drawing more than 30 million viewings and becoming one of the most popular videos in YouTube history.
It was then that the buyers came calling. Last year the National Geographic channel, which had sniffily rejected Budzinski's handiwork, agreed to purchase the video's television rights and will devote an hour tonight to a documentary deconstructing the drama.
'We look at YouTube, too, just like everybody else,' said Michael Cascio, senior vice-president for special programming at the National Geographic channel. The end result, Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger is believed to be the first hour-long documentary to be inspired by a YouTube clip.
In fact, the producers say they found it easy to fill an hour talking about the footage. The documentary dissects the primal behaviour of the animals and answers a question that aspiring filmmakers have asked: how did he get that shot? 'It's a feel-good story,' Budzinski admitted. 'It's like watching a Disney story.'
To make the programme, National Geographic producers took Budzinski back to Kruger National Park to film the scenes needed for the television version: the group riding in the Jeep, the tour guide pointing toward the watering hole, the cameraman zooming in. But the documentary ends with the real action: the original YouTube clip.
Enhanced by professionals, the television video is clearly superior to the blurry and heavily compressed version available online. In the documentary Richard Goss, a wildlife filmmaker for National Geographic, admits he would have loved to have been there with a high-definition camera. But, he adds, 'any film sequence that is as revealing and as spectacular as that, I just admire, whoever it's shot by'.
Cascio called the documentary 'complementary' to online video. 'We were able to add depth and context,' he said. Wildlife experts analyse the methodology of the lions' attack, discuss the herd behaviour of buffalo and predict whether the buffalo calf will survive the attack. While some YouTube viewers were fascinated by the behaviour of the animals, others marvelled at Budzinski's ability to train his wife's small Canon camcorder steadily on the action. He was equally surprised: he had little experience with the camera and said later he was very lucky that day - though not as lucky as the buffalo calf.
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‘Battle at Kruger’: The Ultimate Game Drive Footage
‘Battle at Kruger’ is perhaps the most epic homemade safari video ever filmed. It’s also one of the most viewed, having raked up 83 million views on YouTube!
The now-legendary video was caught on camera in South Africa’s Kruger National Park in autumn 2004 by an amateur whilst on a guided safari game drive, just meters from the action.
Chevron employee David Budzinski was on holiday in Kruger National Park with his friend Jason Schlosberg, and ended up filming what any professional wildlife cameraman would see as the pinnacle of their career. It’s no wonder that the clip has so many YouTube views, and been featured in TIME magazine, National Geographic, and countless other wildlife websites and publications.
If you’ve not yet seen it, set aside eight minutes right now to watch this epic animal confrontation. Not for the faint-hearted, the eight-and-a-half-minute clip shows a graphic struggle for survival between a herd of buffalo, a small pride of lions, and some opportunistic crocodiles in the water.
Watch the full ‘Battle at Kruger’ video:
Most viewers will be rooting for the buffalo calf, but it’s also a powerful vision of the relationships between different animals and within a herd. Could you imagine the feeling of actually being there while this tale played out in front of your 4×4? It’s dramatic enough on the computer screen!
The video starts with a pair of adult buffalo with a calf leading a large herd alongside a river. From a distance, a group of four lions are resting and watching, and quickly assume a stalking position. Moments later the lions ambush the buffalo, sending them running, and pulling the baby buffalo into the water shallow water.
The lions quickly surround the baby buffalo in the water, biting its neck in an effort to kill it. They calmly pull the buffalo onto the riverbank but are ambushed by a pair of crocodiles, one of which bites the buffalo’s rear end, and a tug of war between lions and crocodile ensues. The lions eventually win and drag the buffalo on to dry land, where they settle down to tuck into a meal.
At this point, a large buffalo herd in formation slowly approaches the lions, and a couple of the braver males make charges at the lions. At one point a lion is flung high in the air on a buffalo’s horns, and one of the lions runs away.
A group of buffalos then advances to touching distance of the lions, at which point – miraculously – the baby buffalo stands up and runs back into the herd, seemingly OK. The remaining lions are then chased off one by one, and the video ends.
Still from ‘Battle at Kruger’ – the buffalo herd takes on three lions to get a calf back
What do you think of the ‘Battle at Kruger’ video? Share your thoughts (and even your own safari related videos) below in the comments section!
Being caught between a pride of lions and a crocodile almost certainly means impending doom. But thanks to help from some friends, this lucky buffalo managed to escape the jaws of death, proving that Cape buffalo may be the toughest animals on the African continent.
The encounter started out normally enough. The lions had been unsuccessfully pursuing a herd of impala when they spotted the lone buffalo at the watering hole. As one of the lions approached, the old bull entered the water for safety — but as it turns out, he was swimming right into the jaws of another predator.
As the buffalo tried to swim across, a hungry crocodile saw an opportunity for its next meal and began lunging and biting at the bull several times as it once again headed back to land, where at least five lions stood patiently waiting.
At this point, Thuli Khumalo, the tour operator who captured the video, can be heard saying, “Its chance of survival is going to be very slim.”
But miraculously, the buffalo managed to keep the lions at a distance until backup arrived and saved the day. Even predators as notorious as lions fear for their lives when facing a herd of buffalo, as those massive horns can gore and kill anything animal that gets too close.
The epic showdown unfolded before a group of tourists at Transport Dam in Kruger National Park. The watering hole is famous for being the site of another epic lion-buffalo-croc faceoff, famously known as the Battle at Kruger.
Vs buffalo vs crocodile lions
Battle at Kruger
|Battle at Kruger|
|Part of Wildlife Battle|
|Herd of buffalo||Pride of lions||Two crocodiles|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Buffalo herd alpha male||Unknown lioness||No clear commander|
|several dozen adult buffalo||6-10 lionesses||two crocodiles|
|Casualties and losses|
|One buffalo calf wounded||Several lionesses wounded||N/A|
Battle at Kruger is an eight-minute amateur wildlife video that depicts a confrontation between a herd of Cape buffalo, a small group of young lions from a pride, and two crocodiles. The video was shot in September 2004 at the Transport Dam watering hole in Kruger National Park, South Africa, during a safari guided by Frank Watts. It was filmed by videographer David Budzinski and photographer Jason Schlosberg.
Since being posted on YouTube on 3 May 2007, Battle at Kruger has received 87 million views as of 2021 and has become a viral video sensation. It was widely praised for its dramatic depiction of wildlife on the African savannah. It has since become one of YouTube's most popular nature videos, and has won the Best Eyewitness Video in the 2nd Annual YouTube Video Awards. The video was also the subject of an article in the 25 June 2007 issue of Time magazine, and was featured in the first episode of ABC News' i-Caught, which aired on 7 August 2007. A National Geographic documentary on the video debuted on the National Geographic Channel on 11 May 2008.
Taken from a small game viewer vehicle on the opposite side of the watering hole with a digital camcorder, the video begins with the herd of African buffalos approaching the water, unaware that a small group of lionesses are lying nearby. The lions crouch as the herd nears; it is uncertain if the lions attacks first, or the lead buffalo becomes startled and turns to run, but the buffalos flee and the lions charge and disperse the herd, with a lion picking off a buffalo calf, both of them falling into the water. As the lions try to drag the buffalo calf out of the water, the calf is grabbed by two crocodiles, who fight for it in a brief tug of war before giving up and leaving it to the lions. The lions then lie down and prepare to feast, but the fully regrouped buffalo herd approach and surround the lions. One of the buffalos starts the confrontation by swiping at and chasing off a lion, followed by a second buffalo charging and tossing another one of the lions into the air before chasing it away. While the remaining lions are intimidated by the initial engagement, the still alive buffalo calf struggles free of the lions' restraint and escapes into the herd. The buffalos then aggressively proceed to scatter and drive away the remaining lions one by one.
Two veterinarians and animal behaviorists interviewed by Time assert that the behavior exhibited by the buffalo is not unusual. Dr. Sue McDonnell of the University of Pennsylvania (School of Veterinary Medicine) said of the video:
"The larger herd is broken down into smaller harems, with a dominant male and many females and their babies. If a youngster is threatened, both the harem males and bachelor males—which usually fight with one another—will get together to try to rescue it."
It is, however, rare for such events to be captured on film even by professional wildlife photographers. Indeed, Dereck Joubert, a photographer and writer for National Geographic said of the video:
"There is no doubt at all that the tourist who shot that scene ... was unbelievably lucky. I mean, we would've considered ourselves lucky to have had that whole scene happen in front of us."
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