Locked in combat: Mother lion takes on deadly crocodile to give cubs safe swim across river
PUBLISHED: 10:56 EST, 24 July 2012 | UPDATED: 11:36 EST, 24 July 2012
Scanning the surface of the water, her amber eyes alight upon a threat to her pride - a deadly crocodile lurking in the river that the family of lions must cross.
The fiercely protective lioness did not hesitate, leaping into the water and grappling with the reptile to allow the rest of the pride to cross the river in safety.
These images show the magnificent big cat fastening her front legs around the crocodile's jaws and dunking it underneath the water before making a break for the river bank at the Okavanga Delta in Botswana.
The lioness' brave diversion tactics were witnessed by wildlife photographer Pia Dierickx, who said the creature moved with such incredible speed she did not realise what had happened until she looked back at the pictures on her camera.
The photographer, from Antwerp in Belgium, had been peacefully observing the lioness and her pride going about their business around the river when the sudden clash between the big cat and the crocodile occurred.
The 48-year-old said the struggle took place within one second.
'I watched a lioness carefully move out into the channel and then there was a huge splash in the water,' she said.
'The sequence of six pictures of the real action were taken in one second.
'Luckily for the lioness the crocodile did not have an opportunity to do the death roll because her mouth was kept closed between the front legs of the lioness,' the photographer added.
'It was only after checking my pictures on the camera viewer that I really realised what I had witnessed. Luckily the story had a happy ending because all the lionesses and cubs made it safely to the other bank.'
The crocodile swam away after the incident disturbed an otherwise peaceful day at the Okavanga Delta. READ MORE HERE