Lion vs otter isn't a battle we see very often, but in South Africa's Mala Mala Game Reserve, just about anything goes. 

Tough as it may be tough to watch, the intense clip, filmed by seasoned ranger Brendan Cole, offers up a unique view of a hunting behaviour many don't associate with lions: fishing. 

"This sighting was a first for me," says Cole. "We set out early in the morning in search of lions. It wasn’t long before we eventually found the pride on the banks of the Sand River, where they were paying close attention to various prey species within the riverbed itself."

Even when your claws are an impressive 1.5 inches (38mm) long, capturing scaly prey like fish can be a challenge. After several failed attempts, the pride gave up on the venture, opting instead for a nap in the shade (fun fact: lions sleep between 15 and 20 hours per day!). 

"With little activity coming from the lions, we were about to leave the sighting when all of a sudden, movement from downstream attracted our attention. Closer inspection revealed that it was an African clawless otter," says Cole. "In all my years spent in the bush, I had never seen one."

Unfortunately for the furry passerby, its presence also caught the attention of the youngest lioness in the bunch, who managed to corner it in a deep pool. And despite a vicious counter-attack by the otter (which included a painful bite on the lion's muzzle), in the end, size won the battle. 

With their burrowing skills and agility in the water, African clawless otters (Aonyx capensis) are not easy prey to catch, and their more usual enemies are crocodiles and pythons.

As for these hunting cats, they didn't just have their own hunger to think of. The otter was carried back across the river, where cubs were patiently waiting for lunch. "We left the sighting feeling incredibly privileged to have witnessed such an event," says Cole.  


Top header image: Arno Meintjes/Flickr