Male Baboon Kidnaps Lion Cub in South Africa Safari Park, Starts Grooming and Caring for It

A male baboon was photographed kidnapping a young lion cub at Kruger National Park in South Africa this weekend, before grooming and caring for it as though it were a young baboon.

The monkey was caught in the act by Kurt Schultz, Director of the Kurt Safari company, who witnessed the unusual encounter on his way to a meeting.

Schultz arrived early on February 1 to take some photographs in the park before his appointment, when he came across a troop of restless baboons.

Baboon kidnaps lion
A male baboon was photographed kidnapping a young lion cub at Kruger National Park in South Africa this weekend. www.kurtsafari.com

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"I went to an area very active with lion sightings recently and came upon a troop of baboons really excited and playful," Schultz said in a press statement. "This is normal for early mornings."

Schultz said he waited half an hour for the kidnapper to come into view, after being told it may be carrying a lion cub.

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At first, Schultz thought it was a female baboon but it turned out to be a young male. It was seen crossing the road and climbing a marula tree.

The rest of the troop began to settle and relax in the presence of the lion cub, while the kidnapper was seen "grooming and caring" for the young lion "as if this was a young baboon."

"Male baboons do a lot of grooming but the care given to this lion cub was the same care given by a female baboon to one of her own young," he said.

Baboon takes lion cub
"Baboons are really strong animals," Schultz said. www.kurtsafari.com

The cub appeared exhausted but uninjured, he continued, though it is possible that it sustained internal injuries which were not immediately visible.

After an hour or so at the site, Schultz left to attend his meeting and allow other visitors to take a look. He said it is not unusual for baboons to kill young lions or leopards, but the circumstances of this encounter were different.

"In 20 years of guiding southern and east Africa, and being in the Kruger for close on 20 years, I have witnessed baboons viciously killing leopard cubs and have heard of baboons killing lion cubs but have never seen the care and attention given to a lion cub in this manner," he said.

"I don't see a chance of this poor cub surviving. The troop of baboons was large and a lion would not be able to get the young back. Nature is cruel and survival of young predator cubs is not easy."

Despite Schultz's concerns for the cub, he said it was important not to intervene: "Nature has its own ways. We cannot get involved."

Baboon kidnaps lion
The baboon moved with the cub from tree to tree, said Schultz. www.kurtsafari.com

The incident appears reminiscent of Disney's The Lion King, specifically the moment when the character Rafiki holds up a baby Simba. But updates suggest Schultz's more somber take may be a more accurate reflection on what went down over the weekend.

Latest Sightings is an app that enables visitors to document their experience at the park in real-time. According to sightings reported to the app, the cub did not survive.

While the involvement of a lion cub is unique, kidnapping in itself is not an uncommon behavior among baboon species, and monkeys more generally.

"Adolescent and adult males kidnap baboon infants (as buffers against aggression in olive baboons) and baboon juveniles (as a new member of a male's harem in hamadryas baboons)," Shirley Strum, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at San Diego, told Psychology Today in 2015.

Baboon kidnaps lion cub
"I have witnessed baboons viciously killing leopard cubs and have heard of baboons killing lion cubs but have never seen the care and attention given to a lion cub in this manner," Schultz said. www.kurtsafari.com
Male Baboon Kidnaps Lion Cub in South Africa Safari Park, Starts Grooming and Caring for It | Tech & Science