Spurred on by his passion for animals, the outdoors, and natural history, Ateeb Hussain has been photographing wildlife for over a decade. Based in Dubai, Hussain has a particular interest in African animals and often visits the continent to hone his photography skills. And in 2021, during a trip to Kenya's Maasai Mara, he witnessed something incredible.
While there, Hussain and his group noticed a jackal mother anxiously moving across the terrain with her pup in her mouth. As she appeared stressed, they began following her from a distance in their vehicle. After a short time, one of the rarest and most dramatic animal interactions Hussain had ever seen began to unfold.
“A Tawny eagle made a swoop and tried to grab the pup from the mother’s jaws. The jackal had ducked and avoided the eagle. The eagle landed some distance away and kept a watch,” he tells My Modern Met. “Following this, the jackal kept moving forward, stopping and scanning around.”
“The eagle would make a few more attempts, but each time the jackal would outmaneuver it. After a few failed attempts, the eagle finally managed to grab it; the action was fleeting and lasted perhaps a couple of seconds,” Hussain recalls. “The eagle grabbed the pup, the jackal lunged after it, and the pup was dropped mid-flight. The pup seemed rather OK for all its troubles.”
The story itself is thrilling, but the images take it to a whole new level. Hussain's photograph of the jackal pup falling from the eagle's claws is incredible. The poor pup has its mouth open and is likely crying out in shock. At the same time, it's clear that its mother is racing at full speed to be there for the pup. Though Hussain appears to have captured the conclusion to this tale, there was still more drama before the mother and pup could get back to their den safely.
“After resting for a few minutes, the eagle tried again a couple of times with the jackal on the move. It was not successful, and finally gave up and flew away. We followed the jackal for a kilometer or so until we saw it reunite with its partner at a new den site.”
Hussain's quick thinking and photography skills allowed him to capture this fleeting interaction that proves just how tough life is out in the wild. Through this photo and others like it, he hopes that people will take an interest in the natural world and learn more about our place as humans in this world.