‘A Mother’s Desperation’ Captured in Powerful Wildlife Photo

A wildlife photographer in Africa captured a photo that powerfully illustrates “a mother’s desperation” in protecting her offspring from harm.

39-year-old photographer Ateeb Hussain was on a trip to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya when he witnessed an eagle grab a jackal pup from its mother.

“High drama in the plains of Maasai Mara,” Hussain writes of the shot. “A jackal mother somehow manages to pressure a tawny eagle enough for it to drop its quarry, moments after it had managed to grab the jackal pup from right under the mother’s nose.”

Originally from Kolkata, India, and now based out of Dubai, UAE, Hussain works as a retail operations manager by day but has been traveling to wilderness areas for wildlife photography for over 12 years. His current “keen area of interest” is in African wildlife.

The Story Behind the Shot

The tense moment between the eagle and jackal family occurred back on September 19th, 2021, while the annual wildebeest migration was at its peak.

“It was around 8 am when we were heading to a specific place,” the photographer tells PetaPixel. “We had received some info about a leopard and a potential crossing. As we were headed in that direction, we spotted this jackal mother with a pup in its mouth moving briskly.

“We had stopped at a distance to watch. Our guide explained to us that in all probability this jackal family was moving dens. This particular area was rather busy with the migrating herds and hence with many hyenas. Initially, we had thought to watch for five-odd minutes and move on.

“After watching for a while we realized the Jackal was very cautious and tense. There were many Hyenas in that area, perhaps one of the reasons to move dens. She would stop, keep the pup down and scan the area every couple hundred meters or so. Usually jackals are least bothered about safari vehicles and allow a close approach, this individual was already looking rather stressed and so we decided to stay some distance away and follow parallel.”

The group’s patient waiting and observation suddenly paid off as an unexpected moment began unfolding before their eyes.

“After about ten to fifteen minutes was when suddenly a tawny eagle made a swoop and tried to grab the pup from the mother’s jaws,” Hussain continues. “The jackal had ducked and avoided the eagle. The eagle landed some distance away and kept a watch. Following this the jackal kept moving forward stopping and scanning around. The eagle would make a few more attempts but each time the jackal would outmaneuver it.

“After a few failed attempts, the eagle finally managed to grab its quarry, the action was fleeting and lasted perhaps a couple of seconds. The eagle grabbed the pup, the jackal lunged after it, and the pup was dropped mid-flight.”

A crop of the photograph showing the frantic look on the jackal mother’s face as it tries to save its pup from the eagle.

The jackal pup appeared to be unharmed from the near-capture, and the eagle apparently couldn’t secure a firm enough grip on the pup with the mother jackal fiercely defending it. After a couple more attempts, the eagle gave up and flew away.

“We followed the jackal for a kilometer or so until we saw it reunite with its partner at a new den site,” the photographer says. “The entire sighting must have been an hour and a bit.

“In all my years of exploring the wild, I don’t recall encountering a more rare and dramatic interspecies interaction. The pup was quite lucky that it was dropped and it survived the attempted grab.”

You can find more of Hussain’s work on his Instagram.

Image credits: Photograph by Ateeb Hussain and used with permission.