Tiny Crab Fends Off Pride of Curious Lions in Viral Video

Footage of a small crab appearing to take on a group of large lions circling around it has gone viral online, impressing thousands of viewers.

The video, obtained by safari outlet Latest Sightings, was shared on social media Tuesday. A brief clip on Facebook, which has been viewed over 83,000 times, shows one lion approach the small crab at the MalaMala Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

The outlet estimated that while the crab was only about four inches, each lion stood about three feet tall and weighed about 275 pounds.

The crab shows off its small claws as the curious lion lays in the sand and watches the crab back away. Just as the crab thinks it is in the clear, another lion approaches with more interest than the last. The lion follows the crab as it scurries off.

The video then cuts to the moment the rest of the pride jogs over to investigate the crab. Although some lose interest, three lions circle the crab and sniff around it.

Additional footage posted on YouTube shows how one of the lions nearly smashes the crab with its massive paw before it scurries away, and concludes with the three final lions watching as the crab attempts to burrow itself in the sand.

A representative for the reserve confirmed with Newsweek the video was filmed on its grounds. "MalaMala Game Reserve is world renowned for its high density of predators, particularly that of lions and leopards. We are privileged to view lions frequently and witness about 15 different prides and coalitions [of lions] on the property—some are seen more frequently than others.

"These specific lions belong to the Kambula Pride, which currently consist of [give or take] 25 lions in total," they added, noting one of the lionesses recently gave birth and a more accurate head count has not yet been done.

The park rangers who recorded the video, Ruggiero Barreto and Robyn Sewell, told Latest Sightings they had set out that day hoping to find at least one large cat.

"We left the camp at sunrise with the hope of finding lions and were lucky enough to find a pride at a riverbank," the duo said. "They were sheltering from the wind in the Mlowathi Riverbed and were sleeping so we thought we would drive on and look back a little later.

"But suddenly we noticed one of the sub-adults get up and start staring at something and at first we thought it was a scorpion but it was a crab."

As crabs typically come out after dark in the area, the rangers noted the lions were understandably curious.

"Most guests visit MalaMala to photograph, film and bear witness to resident predators at close quarters, but interaction of this nature is most uncommon," a representative for the MalaMala Game Reserve told Newsweek.

"Many animals are attracted to MalaMala because of the 20km of water frontage along the Sand River...and although there are many crabs in this river, we don't see them as often as we see lions," they added. "This particular crab however, appeared in the Mlowathi River, a dry tributary of the Sand River, in the midst of the Kambula Pride, about 1km from the Sand River."

"The lions were surprised by the appearance of perhaps something they had not seen before and the first lion went over to investigate what it was," Barreto and Sewell explained to the Latest Sightings. "The poor little fella was trying to make it to the riverbank where its burrow was when more lions came over to check it out until there were five of them."

"What makes this sighting rare is not so much the reaction of the lions—these are sub-adult lions and naturally have a keen sense of curiosity—but rather the circumstances they find themselves in," a reserve representative told Newsweek. "Usually a crab would have a water body nearby to retreat to—if this were the case, the lions would probably not continue to pursue it. Unfortunately for this crab, there was no safe haven close by, and as a result, it chose to take cover in the nearby grass."

Barreto and Sewell reported that five lions in all came over to check out the crab, who "kept its claws up at the lions as it backed up until it made the bank and disappeared into a burrow."

"Not many betting people would have given the crab good odds on making it across the river past a pride of lions but this little fella was up for it," they joked.

Several viewers online also expressed surprise the crab came out of the encounter unscathed. "The crab is a fighter," one remarked on Facebook. "I was rooting for him. Plucky little fella!" another chimed in.

"I like how lions strike fear in the hearts of most land animals, but the creatures of the water don't take any crap from them. Hippos, crocs, turtles, now crabs," one YouTube viewer even joked.

Indeed, many were surprised at the gentle approach these lions took with the crab, especially in light of recent lion attacks making headlines. One circus lion was caught on video savagely attacking its trainer during a routine performance last month in Russia. In December, two lions mauled a girl to death in an Indian village.

"They could have easily crushed that crab but they didn't. This shows that animals kill others only for food and not for greed, lust and entertainment like humans," one remarked on YouTube.

A representative at the MalaMala Game Reserve also shared with Newsweek that, with the impact COVID-19 has had in South Africa, they were thrilled to see the video go viral online.

"COVID has just about decimated the tourism industry in South Africa and upon initial lock-down [in March 2020]...Thanks to Robyn and [Ruggerio's] intuition, they decided to film this interesting situation and the video has since gone viral," they said.

Updated on 7/1/2021 at 12:30 p.m. to include statements from the MalaMala Game Reserve to Newsweek.

Correction 07/1/2021, 2:07 p.m. ET: This article was corrected to reflect the updated spelling of Mlowathi River.

Tiny crab fends of lion pride
A brave little crab held its own when a group of inquisitive lions were caught on video surrounding the tiny critter. Left to Right: Tim Graham/Getty Images, Christian Ender/Getty Images