Nile crocodiles are thick-skinned animals capable of withstanding some abuse, but for one croc in Zambia's Kafue National Park an onslaught by a pride of 13 lions proved its undoing.

This remarkable footage, recently uploaded to the Latest Sightings YouTube page, was captured by experienced safari guide Newton Mulenga who filmed the encounter on the Busanga Plains, a vast wetland in northern Kafue. During the rainy season, Busanga attracts a diversity of species from semi-aquatic lechwe antelope to herds of sable and roan. The area also boasts healthy populations of predators like lions and cheetahs that take advantage of Busanga's abundance of prey.

For the 13-strong resident lion pride – renowned for their hunting prowess – almost everything is on the menu. While prowling for a meal, the pride cornered a sizeable crocodile in a small swampy area far from the safety of deeper waters. Under the leadership of two dominant lionesses known as 'Killing Machine' and 'Princess', the pride overpowered the croc by repeatedly attacking the reptile from behind. 

According to Newton the pride typically preys on lechwe, but like all cats they are opportunistic predators and will readily take on unusual prey if the reward is worth the risk. Princess – recognisable by her tracking collar – made the crucial move, jumping on the crocodile's back and sinking her teeth into its neck. Despite its size and resilience, the reptile succumbed to the multi-clawed attack.

As hatchlings, Nile crocodiles face several threats especially from predatory birds like herons. But as they grow in size and strength the list of potential predators thins out. They are, however, still vulnerable to attacks from big cats. A pride of lions in Zimbabwe developed a reputation back in 2016 for their croc-hunting tendencies, while leopards have also been recorded taking on these hefty reptiles. In other cat-vs-croc battles outside of Africa, jaguars are expert caiman catchers.

Header image: alcuin lai, Flickr