The True Story of a Momma Giraffe Who Fought a Lioness to Save Her Child


There is always something especially captivating about wilderness videos of animals who fight one another. Most of us spend our lives only seeing exotic animals in zoos, where professionals help to keep them safe and–most importantly–keep them apart. In the wild, though, anything can happen with these majestic creatures, especially when one of them finds some easy prey to eat!

One of the best examples of this occurred last year after a mother giraffe gave birth to a calf. Instead of being lovingly tended by zookeepers, this mamma giraffe had to suddenly contend with a lioness who was hungry to feed on her newborn.

Ready to learn all the details of this insane wildlife encounter? Keep reading to discover everything you need to know, including a shocking video that captured the entire incident! 

A truly “wild” sighting in Kenya

Like most of the best stories, this wildlife battle occurred when the observers were least expecting it. In this case, Don Heyneke and his safari consultant Rustom Framjee were visiting the Olare Motorogi Conservancy in Masai Mara, Kenya, and likely thought this would be just another day of soaking up the amazing sights around them.

However, this wasn’t just any day, and they didn’t encounter just any sight. Before they knew it, the two of them witnessed a giraffe giving birth to a calf, and almost right away, hungry hyenas and an equally ravenous lioness appeared on the scene. This would be a scary sight for any giraffe, but it was particularly terrifying for the calf who was effectively defenseless against an attack.

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Why the newborn calf was so defenseless

You might remember that many animals in nature mature much faster than humans, and giraffes are no exception. With that being said, you might have a big question on your mind: why was this giraffe so defenseless, and why couldn’t it easily run away from the circling predators?

The short answer was that the predators appeared on the scene way too soon. Within half an hour of being born, this calf would have been able to walk, and after about 10 hours, it would have been able to run. But since the hyenas and the lioness showed up right after it was born, the only protection the calf had from the attack was its protective mother.

A frantic attempt at escape

For the mother giraffe and her baby calf, there was suddenly good news and bad news. The good news is that the hyenas quickly gave up on the idea of chowing down on the giraffe, possibly due to the presence of the lioness. The bad news, though, is that the lioness didn’t give up, leaving the giraffes to try to run away.

But their escape didn’t work very well in large part due to the newborn calf having very little independent mobility. You can see the mother accidentally knocking the calf over several times as they traveled nearly four miles. There, they witnessed a horrifying sight: a riverbed cutting off their only escape route.

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The lioness makes her move

By this point, the lioness had been very patient so far, stalking her prey several miles and waiting for her moment to strike. Now that the two giraffes were effectively trapped near the riverbed, though, the lioness began moving closer, getting ready to sink her teeth into her helpless prey.

At this point, several things happen in relatively short order. In her attempt to help them escape, the mother giraffe accidentally knocked her calf down a cliff, effectively trapping it in the riverbed. The baby giraffe was too weak to get out on its own, and the lioness grabbed the young giraffe and began dragging it toward the water.

A miraculous recovery…

If we’re being honest, we assumed that the baby giraffe was a goner at this point. After all, it couldn’t even really walk well on its own, and it was now gripped in the jaws of a fearsome apex predator. What, then, could possibly save it from the jaws of the lioness?

The mother giraffe, that’s who! Not giving up on her calf, the mother giraffe kept running at the lioness and eventually managed to chase it away. The witnesses recording all of this thought that the baby giraffe was surely dead by this point, and they were pleasantly surprised to see that it stood up on its own. Unfortunately, this pleasant surprise turned unpleasant just as swiftly as the attack had started.

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…And a tragic ending

By now, the baby giraffe was understandably exhausted. Keep in mind that it hadn’t even had a chance to nurse from its mother before it was caught in a wild and lopsided fight for its very life.

Tragically, all of this stress and exertion proved too much for the young calf. While it was briefly able to stand on its own, it ended up falling asleep in the river due to exhaustion. And it died in that river, proving once and for all that nature is far more vicious–and far, far more merciless–than the average person can even imagine.