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Warning: This article contains images which some readers may find distressing
An antelope is believed to have been spotted allowing itself to be eaten by a lion.
Heartbreaking images have been released showing an oryx calmly facing a lion as they both share the shade of a tree in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, last month, moments before the powerful cat kills it.
Photographer Johan de Wet says many who have seen his tragic photos believe the injured animal intentionally let the lion pounce on it because it had hurt its leg and wouldn't have survived anyway.
But despite a number of people sharing this theory, the 55-year-old photographer himself remains sceptical and is dubious whether animals have the 'capacity to reason like this'.
In the photos, the cat is pictured attacking antelope's neck, killing its prey in a matter of minutes.
Speaking about the series of images, Johan, from Centurion, South Africa, said: "I decided to take pictures when I realised this was an unusual scene with predator and prey being so close in a standoff. I knew there was going to be action.
"My initial reaction was that the lion probably had eaten recently and wasn't hungry. It appeared as if the oryx cow realised this and did not feel threatened by sharing the same shade of the tree.
"This rationale did however not make sense as the lion is a predator and will catch its prey out of instinct. So I was puzzled..."
The father-of-two later posted the images to Facebook, leading some to share their own theories as to what was happening.
One commented: "Well, I've seen something similar a couple of years ago in Botswana. A wounded hyena was killed by a lion, and it really looked as if the hyena just wanted to die... The hyena was waiting for the lion to come and get him, and the hyena didn't even fight."
Another said: "Probably better for her [to be killed by the lion], with a broken leg, she would have suffered. It looks like she even went towards the lioness."
Johan said: "Some have wondered if the oryx knew she was going to die... but I am not sure animals have the capacity to reason like that.
"Most people reacted with empathy and sympathy for the oryx because of the suffering and violence of the attack.
"We should, however, guard against attaching human emotions to the situation and appreciate this is nature where survival of the fittest is key.
"We are human and we tend to attach our human emotions to the event.
"Others, with a deeper understanding of nature, reacted with a level of amazement at how quick and efficient the kill happened with minimal effort from the lion and minimal suffering from the oryx.
Johan, who has been photographing wildlife for seven years, said his timing to capture the sequence was just 'pure luck'.
He said: "I am pleased that I was able to capture the interaction. It is by no means the first or last sequence recording of a lion kill. However, these kills are usually preceded by a stalk, a chase and eventually a takedown.
"Here, the lion did not need to do any of that. It simply had to wait its chance for the oryx to turn and then pounced with minimal extension of energy. Much like a person walking up and picking an apple off a tree.
"I am not sure [how the oryx injured its foot]. My theory is that it had probably slipped on the rocks that are cemented in around the waterhole."
Johan added: "[The encounter lasted] no more than five minutes from when the lion attacked until it was all over."
Featured Image Credit: Kennedy News and Media
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