The lioness and her coalition executed a textbook-prefect ambush. They sprang from thick cover the moment their quarry surrendered their guard and dipped to drink.
A millisecond before her claws could sink into flesh, some sense alerted the zebra herd and sent them rocketing off in every direction.
Hooves and paws pounding the earth, panicked horses bursting one way, cats catapulting in pursuit. Utter pandemonium briefly obscured by dust. We were electrified; Some screamed encouragement to the lions, others willed fleetness to the zebras.
As the dust cleared, we saw this:
Contemplate this instant through this lioness’ eyeballs; it answers everyone’s recurring question; “Why do zebras have stripes?”.
In the crisscrossing mess of diagonal black and white streaks, the predator is confused. It is momentarily impossible to pick out and lock onto an individual.
When black and white bands from three near-identical animals zigzag across your field of vision, how do you briskly determine which of your targets flees to the left and which darts to the right? How do you quickly figure out what is head and where is rump?
Our lioness flew into the epicentre of the melange but paused a microsecond as she tried to pick a target.
Her caution was practised and wise; zebra are formidable prey - a mistimed pounce or misdirected bite could place a lion in the trajectory of a kick which could readily crack a skull or snap a limb.
One instant of indecision.
* That’s the time their stripes bought these zebra. That’s all the time they needed to elude the lions’ claws.
Now you know.