This is a story of courage! An epic tale caught on film, of one animal’s refusal to give up. A gigantic struggle against the odds; a fight from within the jaws of death.  Now, I have been privileged to have seen some sensational moments over the years: births, deaths and a plethora of torn emotions. Tears – of joy and sorrow – have been shed, but nothing has come anywhere close to what I saw on this day!

Splash! The wildebeest is caught in the frighteningly powerful jaws of a 9foot crocodile! James Tyrrell

Splash! A wildebeest is caught in the frighteningly powerful jaws of a 9-foot crocodile! – James Tyrrell

The Battle of Courage took place at Shingalana Dam, in the centre of Londolozi Game Reserve. We came across a large 9-foot long crocodile, clutching in its jaws the front leg of a adult wildebeest cow. At the time, both animals were on the gently sloping bank of the watering hole. The scene was surreal as not a single sound could be heard. For a moment the bush was in shock. Time oozed on and the surrounding animals began to return to their daily necessities. I would not say they were oblivious to the events taking place at the waters edge, but rather that they had all accepted that this was not their fight. Two of Africa’s iconic animals were locked in battle. The crocodile and the wildebeest were about to engage in one of the most epic struggles ever to have been seen.

A tug-of-war based on force, adrenalin and muscle lasted for close on an hour-and-a-half. Both animals were spurred on by the most primal of needs: survival. The crocodile wanted food and the wildebeest wanted life. In the water the reptile had the upper hand; it pulled, yanked and crunched down on the wildebeest’s leg. Powerful jaws snapped straight through, shattering the bone and leaving the gnu unable to walk properly. With the crocodile still attached, and at times barely above the surface of the water, the wildebeest refused to die.

Wildebeest pulls away from crocodile Adam Bannister

Wildebeest pulls away from crocodile – Adam Bannister

Admiration and respect are two words which do not even begin to touch on the emotions that were churning deep inside my very being. I was delighted to be watching such a spectacle, but saddened that it was so drawn out. I was riding on the grandest of emotional roller-coasters. People constantly mock and make fun of the wildebeest as being ugly, incomplete and dim. They assign it no value and write it off as cannon fodder. Well, here we were witnessing first-hand how courageous these beasts can be. Even as the crocodile tried its strategic ‘death-roll’, the wildebeest simply would not concede defeat. Its courage was raw and tangible.

The wildebeest jumps in panic as the crocodile tries to reassert its grip James Tyrrell

The wildebeest jumps in panic as the crocodile tries to reassert its grip – James Tyrrell

After the hour mark, and after seeing the wildebeest being bitten in the face, my emotions changed… I just wanted her to lay down her sword and die. With three legs she managed to drag the crocodile backwards and forwards across the dam. It was in shock and its body was shaking! I wondered if she was even feeling pain or whether she was functioning at another level completely. She was partially paralysed and was wrestling a large crocodile. I wanted her to give up. She was too courageous!

The wildebeest tries to break out of the water - Adam Bannister

The wildebeest tries to break out of the water – Adam Bannister

Is it possible to be too courageous?

Her courage took her further. The wildebeest was not ready to die. She would not die on that fateful day. In one final lunge she jolted forward and made a bee-line for dry land. She did it. She pulled herself away from the jaws of the crocodile and onto safety. Once she hit terra firma, the entire ball game changed.

Adrenalin pulsated through her body. The sight was horrific and the image will forever be etched in my mind. I felt sick inside. As hopeless as the situation was she was determined to die on her own terms. Although eventual death was certain for this female, she had won this battle.

She would survive through the night, only to die the following day. Her body would serve as much needed food for the Camp Pan Male leopard, numerous hyena and even the original crocodile, who ventured out from the water to feed on the carcass… Her spirit, however, was released into the ether, forever roaming free. For me, and all those who witnessed this colossal battle, it will be her memory which defines courage.

Written and Filmed by Adam Bannister
Photographed by Adam Bannister and James Tyrrell

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Adam Bannister

Guest contributor

Ranger at Londolozi Game Reserve

View Adam's profile


on Wildebeest attacked by Crocodile…and survives…

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Leon Marais

Great write up Adam, and what an epic sighting. Reminds me of the 45-minute battle between Samson the camp warthog at Idube and a Lioness, the most epic sighing of my guiding career thus far. Moments like these are never forgotten.


Adam and very well written story, it is very sad and yet… I am blown away! thank you…


I will never look at a wildebeest in the same way again. Adam & JT the video and images are painful and amazing. Adam you honor what you saw in her with your story. Thank you!

cindy tyrrell

This must have been more than somewhat hard to watch esp. with the length of time it carried on for……brilliant pictures guys, plus excellent video and writing of the event.
Huge respect for the amazing tenacity of the wilderbeest, who as you said, despite loosing his life…won that epic battle.

Warren Pearson

Fantastic pics and story guys. Thanks for sharing. It truly is amazing how much animals can endure.


So sad that although the wildebeast escape the crocodile, he didn’t make it. R.I.P. wildebeast. Thank you for the exclusive pictures.

Lisa Otten

Out of this world. What astounds me is how quiet the whole struggle was…the only sounds that could be heard were from the onlooking hippo’s and birds, quite eery! That’s something that will stay on the minds of all who witnessed it i’m sure!


I do not know what to say, amazing photography, what strength she had, and a will to live, poor girl

Simon Bellingham - Indri Ultimare Wildlife Tours

We all know crocodiles eat animals but unless you have been to the Maasi Mara and watched the wildebeest crossing the Mara river during migration, there is a good chance that you have never witnessed them catch a thing – snappity snap and it is all over!

What a sighting – thanks for sharing it with us Londolozi fans!

suzanne myers

I have seen them crossing the Mara river!!! that is something else!!!!I love the Wilde and the calves are so adorable!!!!

Tony Goldman

Amazing stuff ,thanks for sharing wish i was there !


she was dead, 🙁

Irene Nathanson

Amazing what you captured in pictures and words- Survival -the will to live even if for just the day-she won the battle. I don’t know if I can watch it again, but I most certainly will read your beautifully description of her fight for life again. Thanks for sharing


Ugh, I am tearing up. The courage of that beast and what she endured only to succumb to her injuries. A beautiful write up, thanks so much for sharing! I would give anything to be waking up tomorrow morning at Londolozi and going on a game drive.


A wonderful tribute to the wildebeest cow, her tenacity and strength in the face of all odds and in a *territory* not her own – the water. The spirit and fortitude displayed is amazing – it shows us that *in the face of all odds do not give up*.
Beautifully written Adam. Thank you for sharing it.

Evette Hartig

Please pass the tissue, great story, horrible ending. I was hoping to hear there was a three legged Wildebeest who fought a great battle, overcame her disabilities and went on to lead a normal life. Nature can be so beautiful yet so cruel.

Philip AmbrowsDavidh

Fantastic footage. Post it on Latest Sightings as well.

Michael Klauber

Unbelievable to watch. A truly amazing fight. I am so happy the wildebeest won the fight, even though it still meant the end. Beautifully written… as always!

Louise Taback

What a fighter and courage…Wow amazing! Thank you guys for sharing!!

Thais Racy

Amazing!!! Thanks for sharing!

John Holley


Courtney McGuigan

Her shaking exit from the water with that dangling, mangled leg had me in tears. Poor thing! Not sure I will ever get that image out of my mind. I cant imagine how emotional it was to see live. One can only hope she was in shock and couldn’t feel the extent of the injury. Thank you for documenting this scene of how brutal life in the bush and how strong the will to survive can be. See you guys in Jan!

Forever young

So, must the tearful croc sleep with a hungry stomach?This story is so sad. Crocs got to eat too.

Karen Goodenow

Amazing!!! Thanks for sharing. It brought wonderful memories back of Londalozi!

Frank watts

Great photography and narrative .A slice of nature at which Londolozi excels .

Colin Hall

Absolutely extraordinary…the event, the courage and determination, the filming and the narrative. It wins my wild life Oscar! Colin

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