Towering above the trees of the savannah and constantly snacking, giraffes often appear unfazed by life around them — as few predators pose a threat to these impossibly tall animals. But as recent footage from Kruger National Park shows, they aren’t as untouchable as one might think.
In the incredible video, a lioness can be seen practically riding on the back of an adult male giraffe, while four others attack its hind legs. But the whole encounter was so calm that it almost looked like a dad giving his kids a piggyback ride.
Francois Pienaar, the safari guide who captured the encounter at the Klaserie Game Reserve called it “the best sighting in my guiding career!”
Pienaar and his group had been following the lions that morning when they spotted the giraffe. He described the scene to Latest Sightings:
“We sat quietly in the vehicle as we watched the lions stalking this old bull. After about 20 minutes of stalking, the chase was on! We raced in behind the lions, to see the action happening and hoping the lions would catch the big animal and bring it down.”
“As we tried to stay with these lions we saw some of the individuals grab at the legs and one female jumping on the back of the giraffe. With a big struggle and to our amazement, the lions finally got the giraffe to a stop and [continued to try] to bring it to the ground.”
The old bull giraffe, fighting to stay standing, managed to throw the lions off his back and fought his way out by trying to stomp on the lions.
After about 5 hours the lions finally gave up and the old bull lived to see another day.”
Lions are just about the only predators that can take down an adult giraffe — but doing so is no easy feat. With fully grown males standing up to 19 feet tall, giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animals. Their necks alone can stretch up to 8 feet long!
A single lion has absolutely no chance of taking one on by itself, though a coordinated pride has a better chance of getting one to the ground where they can access the jugular. If they succeed, the massive meal can last for up to a week. But it’s risky business as giraffes defend themselves with kicks powerful enough to kill a lion.
While this old bull managed to fend off the hungry predators, younger giraffes aren’t always so lucky. In fact, lions (as well as hyenas, leopards and wild dogs) regularly prey on giraffe calves, and only 25% of newborn giraffes survive to adulthood.