Most antelope species are well-equipped to evade attacks from predators. The steenbok – a large-eyed, satellite-eared buck from southern Africa, Kenya and Tanzania – is a master at staying hidden and, if spotted, can accelerate with blistering pace, turning and twisting away from any would-be attackers.

One steenbok in South Africa’s Kruger National Park had its defensive abilities put to the test recently when it had to avoid not just a pair of jackals charging at it through the undergrowth, but also an aerial onslaught from an opportunistic eagle.

Footage of the attempted hunt was captured by field guide Shaun Etsebeth back in June. Etsebeth was on a game drive in the reserve when he stopped to admire a tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) perched in a tree. These sizeable raptors are fairly common in Kruger’s semi-arid savannahs where they dine mostly on carrion and occasionally hunt for meals.

“We stopped for a minute when the eagle suddenly dove and started chasing after a steenbok in the grass,” Etsebeth told Latest Sightings. “It was surprising enough to see the eagle hunt such large prey, and I was lucky to have been able to catch this on video – as the action was very short-lived.”

Before long a pair of black-backed jackals burst onto the scene and joined the chase. These highly adapted canines are better suited to the task of hunting an adult steenbok, which would likely be too big a meal for a tawny eagle.

“Neither the jackals nor the eagle managed to catch the steenbok,” Etsebeth explained. “The steenbok managed to outrun both predators and survived to live another day.”

According to bird expert Aldo Berruti it’s more likely that the jackals instigated the hunt and the raptor joined the chase in the hopes of landing an easy meal. An 11kg steenbok is more than likely too big an animal for even a large tawny eagle to overpower.

Luckily for this little antelope, its avoidance strategies proved just enough to keep it out of harm's way.

Header image: Derek Keats