Johan Kloppers's image in the People's Choice shortlist

Johan Kloppers's image in the People's Choice shortlist

The stare of death

This image shows one of the most harrowing moments of South African photographer Johan Kloppers's career.

A lion and his cubs end the life of a young wildebeest the same day it was born.

Johan captured a series of images documenting the short life of the calf in December 2015, in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which straddles the border between Botswana and South Africa.

One of them earned him a place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice shortlist.

A birth in the morning

Johan says, 'I started this series around midday when I was driving back from a waterhole called Kij Kij to our campsite in Botswana.

'On the way I passed a small herd of wildebeest. I was just a few minutes late to witness the birth of this little calf.

'When I passed, it was still wet and lying on the ground. I saw it get up take its first few steps.'

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After taking a few shots of the newborn, Johan went back to his camp and returned to the waterhole that afternoon.

A death in the evening

'Later that evening I saw that this same little calf was caught by lions close by,' recalls Johan.

'The wildebeest herd had gone down to the waterhole to drink when they accidentally walked right past the lions.'

The series of photographs shows the male lion and the cubs playing with the calf.

Johan says, 'Eventually the male lion licked the calf for about five minutes, to break the skin before taking the final bite. I will never forget that final scream from the dying calf.

Lions eventually caught and killed the newborn calf

Lions eventually caught and killed the newborn calf 

 

'It was quite traumatic to photograph the whole event. I stayed until there was virtually nothing left of the little calf.

'Perhaps the saddest thing for me was when I returned to the scene early the next morning. I found the mother walking around, calling for her missing calf. She sounded so sad.

'This is an experience in my long photography career that I will never forget. It was not easy to stay focused and not let emotions take over.'   

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