"I don't see a chance of this poor cub surviving," the photographer said of the event
baboon grooms lion
Credit: Kurt Schultz/AP/Shutterstock

Safari operator Kurt Schultz came across an unusual sight at South Africa’s Kruger National Park on Saturday — he spotted a large male baboon carrying a tiny lion cub on a tree.

But, what makes the occurrence even more surprising is that the baboon was grooming the cub as if it were one of its own babies, he explained to the Associated Press.

“The baboon was grooming the lion cub as if it was a baby baboon,” Schultz told the AP. “Male baboons do a lot of grooming but the care given to this lion cub was the same care given by a female baboon to one of her own young.”

Schultz said he had never seen anything like it during his two-decade career, and he quickly took photographs of the rare display.

A video of the sight was also posted to Instagram and has since received more than 126,000 views.

baboon grooms lion
A baboon grooms a lion cub

The baboon was part of a larger troop that was in an area with granite hills and boulders where lions and leopards typically hide their cubs when they go hunting, he told the outlet, and this is how the cub was likely found.

When he initially spotted the baboons, they seemed “excited” and were likely fighting over the cub. He believes the cub may have been injured during the commotion.

baboon grooms lion
A baboon grooms a lion cub
| Credit: Kurt Schultz/AP/Shutterstock

“[Baboons] are really strong animals and when they were all excited and fighting over the baby in the beginning, it could have been injured internally,” Schultz said, adding that the cub showed signs of dehydration that morning.

“[The baboon] moved from branch to branch, grooming and carrying the cub for a long period of time,” he recalled. “The cub seemed very exhausted.”

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Taking into consideration its weakened state and the nature of baboons, Schultz believes the cub will not survive for long.

“I don’t see a chance of this poor cub surviving. The troop of baboons was large and a lion would not be able to get the young back,” he told the AP. “Nature is cruel at most times and the survival of a young predator cub is not easy. The lion cub would pose a threat to the baboons when it gets older.”

“I have witnessed baboons viciously killing leopard cubs and have heard of baboons killing lion cubs,” Schultz added.