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The Bible speaks of paradise as a place where “the Lion shall lay down with the Lamb”. In the wilds of Samburu Game Reserve in Northern Kenya, these words have seemingly rung true.

Images of a lion lying side by side with a tiny oryx calf have been broadcast around the world, astonishing international wildlife experts. The first reports seemed hard to believe. In early January a large lioness had been seen by Rangers and Tourists roaming through the wilds of Samburu, alongside a tottering, newborn oryx calf.

The oryx is common throughout Northern Kenya, a large browsing antelope with distinctive long pointed horns. Lions in Samburu prey on Oryx, often ambushing them in the thick riverine bush around the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro. Newborn calves are particular vulnerable, as they are easily separated form the herd and killed. (For more information on Oryx , see the Related links above)

As pictures began to appear, the Reserve Warden, Rangers and naturalists were baffled. The lioness had separated the calf from the herd, and seemingly adopted the young animal as her own cub. For the next 15 days, visitors to the reserve watched in disbelief as the unlikely pair roamed through the bush at the foot of the beautiful Koitogor Hills.

The lioness, later named Kamuniak (Blessed One) by Rangers, spent her days protecting the calf, chasing off hyenas, jackals and other predators. She treated the calf as she would a lion cub, lying in the grass with the young oryx at her side.

Incredibly, she allowed the calf to return to its mother to take milk, before again taking the infant into her care.

Guests at nearby Safari Lodges and Camps returned with unbelievable photos and video of this miraculous relationship, as their guides struggled to explain what they had seen.

The most common explanation was that the lion had mistaken the tawny coloured calf for a juvenile lion during a hunt, and was acting through misguided maternal instincts.

The story took a new twist as a male lion began following the pair, tracking the calf. Experts were unsure whether the lion regarded the oryx as prey or as the lioness’ cub. Either way, the calf was in great danger, as a male lion will always kill the cubs of a lone lioness straying into his territory. The lion was larger and more powerful than the lioness, and she was unable to protect the calf. Inevitably nature took its course, bringing the unique relationship to an end.

The story was dismissed as a freak occurrence, albeit an unusual and touching story that would become a source of local legend.

Then, just two weeks later on Valentine’s Day, the story took a new incredible turn. After the death of the calf, Kamuniak began tracking and following herds of oryx. She finally managed to ambush an oryx cow and separate her from her calf.

As witnesses watched in disbelief, the miraculous “once in a lifetime” events began to repeat themselves, as the lioness protectively led the calf into the bush.

She continued to care for and protect the calf for several days. Perhaps having learnt from her previous experience, she appeared to be avoiding contact with other lions. Unlike the other calf, this young oryx was completely separated from its mother, and began starving. Even Kamuniak herself was unable to hunt as she remained standing watch over her adopted “cub”.

The situation was threatening the lives of both animals, and the decision was made by the Reserve Warden to intervene. Rangers captured the calf, which was transported to nearby Lewa Downs sanctuary.

Kamuniak is now being monitored to see if she will again try and adopt a young oyrx.

This story has sent the scientific and conservation community reeling, with many experts now debating exactly why the lioness is behaving this way.

For visitors to Samburu, this has been a unique opportunity to witness one of nature’s miracles first hand. The Samburu Game Reserve is a beautiful tract of pure wilderness in Northern Kenya. Homeland of the Samburu people, this is an area of stunning beauty, where the waters of Ewaso Nyiro River bring life to an arid landscape populated to large herds of big game. (For more information on Samburu, see the Related links above)

This region recently received global media attention when the Hit Series “SURVIVOR AFRICA” was filmed on location in the neighbouring Shaba Reserve. (For our feature on the production of SURVIVOR AFRICA , see the Related links above)

Keep coming back to for more updated news on this incredible story.
Related Links
News Archive
See Samburu Travel
See Oryx Info
See Survivor
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