The loneliest little lion: Heartbroken cub gets a pick me up from its brave mother hours after all three of its siblings are killed by stampeding buffalo
With all three of her siblings wiped out by a stampeding herd of buffalo, a morose baby lion cub hitches a lift on her mother’s back.
The heartbreaking scene, captured by a British photographer in Kenya’s Maasai Mara national park, shows the intimate bond between mother and daughter in the most tragic circumstances.
London-based wildlife photographer Margot Raggett spotted the youngster, a few weeks old, lying on a log and gazing into the distance after her siblings were crushed to death.
Poignant: The lion cub rests on her mother’s head in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, after her siblings were killed
Pick-me-up: The lioness rolled her surviving cub onto her belly and licked it playfully after the tragedy of nature
The sequence of photos shows her mother approach the lion cub and gently roll her onto the floor, licking her belly playfully.
The cub grabs hold of her mother’s legs before hitching a ride on her back.
Ms Raggett, who only bought her first professional camera in 2010, said: ‘When I took these photographs they were just playing together in the morning after the others had been trampled by buffalo.
‘The mother had lost her other three cubs and so this one was now her only cub. It was quite sad.’
Lion cubs are occasionally killed by crocodiles, leopards and hyenas – but the greatest danger can come from their own kind.
Sad: London-based Margot Raggett, who took up photography only four years ago, the captured the scene
Gnawing: Although lions are fiercely dominant animals, the cubs are small and vulnerable to attack
Comfort: The cub lay on this tree stump gazing into the distance before she was found by her mother
Ms Raggett said: ‘The mother had lost her other three cubs and so this one was now her only cub. It was sad’
Playful: Unlike males, who kill the offspring of rivals to eliminate their blood line, lionesses are fiercely protective of their young and sometimes work communally to give them better odds of survival.
When a male takes over a pride he is known to kill his rival’s cubs to remove the bloodline and make the lionesses fertile again earlier.
While male lions often operate alone and are anti-social, leading herds or being expelled from them, lionesses tend to work together more as hunters and do all of the raising of cubs themselves.
Females will often all give birth at the same time, giving their cubs more protection by other mothers in case they are away looking for food or get killed.
Buffalo, meanwhile, often stampede in the wild when one member of the herd is startled or begins running for no clear reason.
Others tend to follow in a response which, once under way, is almost impossible to control and eliminates everything in its path.
Cattle-like animals are not the only ones prone to mob behaviour, however. Scientists have observed similar stampedes among horses, walruses and humans – especially if there is an emergency in a crowded place like a sports match.
Lonely: The cub’s three siblings were killed by a stampede of buffalo, which can be triggered at any time