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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Survival of the fiercest: Wildebeest takes on 18ft killer crocodile... and there can be only one winner

By Daily Mail Reporter

..As regular as the seasons themselves, herds of wildebeest make an annual migration across east Africa - following rainfall and the growth of new grass.

Exploiting this predictability, each year predators lay in wait until the migrating beasts come into their killing zone.

Day or night, death can come to the young, sick or simply unlucky members of the herd - swiftly from a single cheetah, or without mercy from a pride of lions or pack of hyenas.

Unsteady on his feet: The young wildebeest, already separated from the rest of the herd, is an easy target for the ever-watchful killers beneath the surface of the Mara River in Kenya

Under attack: An 18ft Nile crocodile has targeted the young beast and is using its teeth to injure its prey, as well as its weight and strength to drag it beneath the surface

Dance of death: The wildebeest tries to out-manoeuvre his attacker but has already been badly injured. At one point the crocodile's massive jaw span seems to be taking in the wildebeest's body

For this young male, the end came not on the plains but in one of Kenya's heaving rivers - delivered by one of nature's apex killing machines.

Like all in his herd, the doomed wildebeest was taking his chances crossing the Mara River in the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya.

Unfortunately for him, he walked straight into the path of an 18ft Nile crocodile - a species of predator so efficient that it has barely changed throughout evolution.

Dragged below: Exhausted and outweighed, the wildebeest eventually succumbs to the relentless onslaught

Horrific end: As more crocodiles join in the fight, the wildebeest is drowned and torn to pieces

The crocodile used its huge weight and strength to attack the beast as it was already caught off balance by the rushing water and uneven footing.

Its enormous jaw span virtually took in the entire wildebeest's body as the victim attempted in vain to escape the attack.

As more crocodiles joined in on the kill, the fight became hopeless.

At the end of the rainy season in east Africa, around May and June, wildebeest migrate to wetter areas in response to a lack of drinking water.

Circle of life: The majority of wildebeest would have safely forded the Mara River this year, but will have to take their chances with each migration

They travel hundreds of miles, crossing several rivers in a formation known as swarm intelligence - where they work together to cross the obstacle as safely as possible.

Casualities are inevitable, however, and this young male was estimated to be around five years old.

New Zealand photographer David Lloyd, 41, who captured the one-sided fight, said he was awe-struck by the sheer power of the killer.

He said: 'The crocodile is the largest in Africa. They're huge creatures that make many kills like this every year. The migration season really is feeding time for them.

'I estimate that the ones lurking in the river that day were between 15 and 18 feet. They're huge creatures.'



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