There isn’t much of the zebra carcass left by the time a crocodile and a female lion—both apex predators—get down to a match of tug of war. Essentially, it’s just a rope of zebra hide with a few bits of meat attached. But it’s still fun to watch. The video was shot in South Luangwa, Zambia by field guide Wayne Nel and later posted to Instagram by Nature Is Metal.
According to Nature is Metal, the lion initially brought down the zebra. In an act of anthropomorphizing, the Instagram account described the croc as the bad guy — “a lumbering, uninvited interloper.” But the croc is not an interloper. It’s just a croc, doing what crocs and lions both do, which is to scavenge kills made by other critters.
Regardless, the video is a sight to behold. The two animals are only a couple of feet — and sometimes just inches — apart. The tug-of-war looks like a bad decision by the lion. It’s pretty easy to imagine the croc taking a chunk out of the lion and almost impossible to imagine the lion doing much harm to the crocodile. Sure, Tarzan easily dispatches crocodiles in movies. He just gets in the water with them and knifes them in the belly. But in the real world, there’s a bit more to it.
The lioness is strong, however, and several times pulls the crocodile a foot or so in her direction. At a certain moment, the croc then executes a nice death roll and succeeds in pulling the carcass away. But the lion returns immediately to rejoin the tugging contest. Then they come to a standstill, the croc not moving but also not relaxing its jaws. The lion, maybe thinking the croc has given up, taps the reptile on its snout tentatively twice with its left paw, then twice with its right. The croc doesn’t even react.
Then the clip ends. But it’s pretty clear who the eventual victor will be. As one commentator put it, “I thought for sure that croc was gonna snap that lion’s face.”