Similar scenes between buffalo and lions have been captured on film only a handful of times, but this sort of behavior is not entirely uncommon, says Wayne M. Getz, Ph.D., a wildlife behaviorist at the University of California, Berkeley. In fact, Getz, who conducts research on the animals at Kruger National Park, told The Dodo he's seen buffalo come to the rescue in this manner on several occasions.
"The buffalo being attacked in the video is a female, and those driving the lions away are young males. They will often intervene when there's a calf or younger female involved," says Getz. "While some people may call this behavior ‘altruism,' that term should be used in quotes here. By protecting this female from predation, they are, in effect, helping to secure the reproductive future of the herd."
African buffalo, with their broad, sharpened horns, are uniquely equipped to come to the aid of their fallen herd members. And fortunately for the female under attack, they stepped in without a moment to spare.
"Lionesses, like the four seen in the video, are no match for a group of male buffalo, which is why they seem so wary. You can see them scatter after the initial blow," says Getz. "The males arrived just in time, as you can see, since the female runs off prior to being mortally wounded."
Kruger National Park is the setting for perhaps the most famous footage of a buffalo herd defending their kind from attack. This video, titled "Battle at Kruger," is among the most-viewed nature videos on YouTube -it's been watched more than 75 million times since it was uploaded to the site in 2007.