Wildlife fans everywhere will love the stunning photography of French naturalist Sabine Bernert, who captured a beautiful scene of an adult male lion and his cub in the Maasai Mara National Park in southwestern Kenya.
“I was amazed by the way this huge lion was playing so gently with the cubs,” the 53 year-old photographer and children’s book author said. “They really looked like they were enjoying themselves and have fun. With the delicate light of the sunrise, it was a pure moment of grace.”
Bernert happened to be scouting the savanna for material for her next children’s book when she stumbled on the inspiring scene. Her efforts were rewarded with an incredible sight of a lion cub sneaking up on its father to pounce and play. ‘The lion pretended he hadn’t seen the cubs until the last second,” Bernert explained. “Then they started to play joyfully.”
Bernert’s pictures show the father and cub locked in a tender embrace, a beautiful display of maternal instinct from one of the world’s great predators, the king of the African savanna.
For the nature photographer, who has dedicated her life to preserving biodiversity, it was a particularly touching encounter. “I especially love the moment when the male lion is hugging the cub softly,” she said.
She noted that there was incredible “contrast between his brute strength and his gentleness, the huge size of his paw very softly holding the little cub.” Her pictures reveal that it wasn’t all cuddles, as the cheeky cub tried to pounce on its dad. However, while he was incredibly tolerant of his cub’s hijinks, the father eventually showed him who was boss.
The world lion population has diminished in the last several decades; in 1994, there were about 50,000 lions left in the wild, while 25 years later, the population has nearly been halved, according to the International Union for Nature Conservation. Lions are now listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN’s red list.
Pictures like Bernert’s show just how incredible these animals are and how important it is to protect them to make sure they continue to reign over the animal kingdom.