It was indeed like Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” …. It was one icy cold afternoon in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana. We were on the Photo Mashatu open vehicle and I had a blanket over my knees. We stopped at a sighting with two lionesses with small cubs – the one had two very small cubs. The interaction amongst them was becoming quite intense and I decided that I should also video it on my iPhone X. I set my iPhone up on a small gorilla grip and started the video and then carried on taking photos on my Canon 7D. After a while, I saw out of the corner of my eye that my iPhone was becoming unstable. I put my Canon down on my lap to remove iPhone and the next thing my Canon slipped off my lap and fell on the ground with a thud. The lionesses with the bigger cubs, without hesitation, approached us immediately without us having a chance to pick up the camera. The camera fell with the lens facing up. She gently flipped it over and picked the camera up by the barrel of the lens. After I got over the initial shock of seeing my uninsured camera in a lioness’ powerful jaws, I picked up my Canon 5D MK IV and carried on shooting. She carried it for quite a way whilst her cubs jumped up against her eagerly wanting to have what she had ….
She eventually dropped it and the three cubs started playing with it – dragging it around in the dirt. They eventually, like all kids, grew tired of the new toy and we could retrieve the camera. Apart from two huge teeth marks on the focus ring and many small teeth marks on the plastic lens hood, there was nothing wrong with the camera. Needless to say, it was very dirty. One often see photos of cameras in the mouths of animals or even worse – being eaten or trampled by animals and one then rolls your eyes and thinks “how stupid can one be” …. Let me tell you – it happens in a heartbeat … AND I regard myself as a seasoned wildlife photographer and there I was staring at my camera in very protective lioness’ mouth …. After posting the photo on Facebook and Instagram it went viral. It was reposted more times than I can remember but the downside is that for as many times that it was “honestly” reposted, it was just as many times plagiarised. But 2018 ended well by the Modern Metropolitan (www.mymodernmet.com) choose the close up of the lioness with the camera in her mouth as one of the top 36 photos of 2018 worldwide! It is in good company as the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year is also one of the photos chosen ….
-Barbara Jensen Vorster
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