As a pride of lions prepared to tuck into the spoils of a successful wildebeest hunt for breakfast, one plucky hyena had other ideas.
The hungry hyena was photographed biting a lioness’s tail as she tried to defend her kill at Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve.
The lioness appeared to roar out in pain as the hyena’s sharp teeth sank into her behind.
The wildebeest’s huge carcass was quickly surrounded by a whole cast of hungry animals who all wanted their share of meat – and were prepared to take on a eight-strong pride of lions to get it.
A brave bite: A plucky hyena was photographed sinking its teeth into a lioness’s behind as it tried to meddle in on her breakfast.
Paws off my food: The lioness was part of an eight-strong pride that had killed the large wildebeest and were forced to share their food.
Hyenas, jackals and even some seemingly vengeful wildebeest all encroached on the scene.
The fascinating photographs, which were taken just after sunrise, show the normal hierarchy of the animal kingdom called into question.
Eyewitness Alun James described the scene as a ‘high stakes game of poker’ in which ‘the lions blinked first’.
‘The two young adolescent males [were] unable to support the mature lionesses in a hand of buffalo bluff,’ he said.
‘The cats were driven off and the hyenas advanced like Russian ‘Ultras’: ripping into the carcass with uncontrolled glee,’ Mr James recalled.
Outnumbered: The lioness suffered painful wounds as the hyenas tackled her out of the way so they could get to her food.
Tagging along: Eyewitness Alun James said the scene at Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve was like a ‘high stakes game of poker’ in which ‘the lions blinked first’.
‘However the lions did not flee far, confused whether to remain or exit, but their stomachs and pride said remain. The hyenas were cunning in retreat, isolating individual lions to turn the tables.
‘Ever the opportunists, a dozen or so jackals arrived to join the drama. Lions return again; buffaloes charge; hyenas skirmish; lions attack; jackals nip in – the battle ebbed and flowed with no animal in possession for more than a matter of minutes,’ he added.
The eldest female lioness with a fresh wound on her thigh did not give up a spare rib for anyone but she was not allowed to eat in peace, as buffalo bulls surrounded and watched her devour her kill.
After an hour the older pride male arrived and scared off the rest of the animals so the lions could enjoy their food.
‘The fighting lost its conviction. The buffalos shuffled away with the odd baleful glance over the shoulder; the hyenas and jackals dispersed to the edge of the battle zone. And the lions finally had their meal, albeit not as full a breakfast as had earlier been promised,’ Mr James said.
Feeding frenzy: Despite the pride’s hard work, they were forced to share their kill with a greedy gang of hyenas and jackals.
‘My turn’: The lioness refused to give up and fought off the smaller animals for a bite. ‘The battle ebbed and flowed with no animal in possession for more than a matter of minutes,’ said Mr James.
Opportunists: Sensing an opening, a dozen or so jackals arrived to join the drama and tucked in alongside the hyenas.
Watching on: Buffalo bulls surrounded the carcass and watched the animals devour the kill.