This real-life Rafiki might not be so friendly after all.
A viral wildlife photo of an adult baboon raising an infant baboon in the air like the iconic opening scene from Disney’s “The Lion King,” is actually depicting a “kidnapping,” said the photographer who took the photo.
“I’m sorry I’m ruining the fantasy,” Dafna Ben Nun told CTVNews.ca on the phone from Israel on Monday. “She was kidnapping the little one from another female.”
Though the event looks like a recreation of the “Circle of Life” scene in which Rafiki the baboon presents newborn lion Simba to King Mufasa’s pride from atop Pride Rock, the actual incident went like this, according to Ben Nun:
The photographer was on a sunrise outing with a group in a national park when they saw a large family of baboons. They spent at least 30 minutes watching the group to see their behaviour and to learn how they interact. That’s when Ben Nun heard screams and turned to see the adult baboon in the photo pick up the infant and lift it in the air. The Simba moment was just a “split second,” she said, and the next second the real mother took the infant back, which Ben Nun captured in a subsequent photo.
The 38-year-old photographer said that incidents like this are normal as baboons spar over the established hierarchy within a group. “I’ve seen it happen before,” she told CTVNews.ca, noting that she still needs to learn more about the behaviour. “I think they’re all raising the children together. I haven’t been there enough to learn about it,” she said.
The photo was taken on Ben Nun’s preliminary 10-day trip to Zimbabwe to prepare for a longer trip she has planned for next year. This was her first excursion back into wildlife photography after taking a break to have twin babies a few years ago. It was strictly a planning endeavour to check out the area and learn about the wildlife there.
“Just to prepare for the next trip. I didn’t plan on getting anything,” she said. But the photo of the incident, which lasted only a few seconds, has gotten widespread attention. She has heard from news outlets around the world, from India to Canada.
Though Ben Nun is currently based in Israel, the photographer’s “dream” is to move to Canada, where she has spent time photographing polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. “I love cold weather,” she said.