US photographer Gordon Donovan has recorded extraordinary scenes of a lioness tenderly licking, cradling and protecting an abandoned springbok fawn from other lions in the vicinity.
Donovan was advised by a guide at Etosha Pan game reserve in Namibia, where he shot the pictures, that the lioness was part of a pride that had been taken over by a new male which had killed her two male cubs in the process.
Although antelopes are natural prey for lions, on this occasion the grieving lioness adopted a baby springbok she came upon rather than devouring it.
Donovan said: “It was a bizarre yet stunning sight to behold. I was waiting for the kill but it never came and she started cleaning the calf.”
“That’s the mysterious ways of nature, never knowing what to expect next.”
He watched the scene play out for more than two hours, Donovan said.