If there’s one thing you probably remember from The Lion King, it’s the scene in which Rafiki the baboon presents a young Simba atop Pride Rock to the animals waiting below. And in an instance in which life imitates art, photos have emerged of a male baboon holding a lion cub just as Rafiki did.
Kurt Schultz, the director of Kruger National Park in South Africa, was the photographer who captured this unexpected sight. In a series of candid shots, Schultz witnessed the baboon break away from its troop and carry the cub (with its hands and mouth) high in a tree. Once there with the youngster in tow, the baboon proceeded to groom the cub. “Male baboons do a lot of grooming,” he tells My Modern Met, “but the care given to this lion cub was the same care given by a female baboon to one of her own young.”
While it’s surprising to see this level of treatment between a baboon and cub, Schultz recognizes the harsh realities of the situation. He has guided educational tours in southern and east Africa and been at Kruger for almost two decades. “I don’t see a chance of this poor cub surviving,” he laments. “The troop of baboons was large and a lion would not be able to get the young back. Nature is cruel at most times and survival of young predator cubs is not easy, as the lion cub poses a threat to the baboons when the lions get older.”
Calling this “one of his most interesting sightings,” Schultz, like the rest of us, wishes that the lion cub could grow up to live a “free and wild” life. “However, nature has its own ways,” he explains. “We (the Kruger team) cannot get involved and we need to keep Kruger simple and wild. These were the wishes of founder Stevenson-Hamilton, where nature wanders freely amongst the cars that contain you.”