Lioness Steals Film Crew's Camera And Leads Them On An Epic Chase

"We realized that this was a game to them.”

Ulrico Grech-Cumbo and his crew were out filming the great wildebeest migration in Kenya's Maasai Mara when they came across a small pride of three lionesses and their cubs. 
The lions were happily lazing in the sun and the crew decided that it was the perfect time to capture the family in their natural habitat. But one lioness had other plans.

Lioness steals camera
YouTube/Habitat XR

“Lions are nocturnal, meaning they are typically more active and assertive during the night; during the day they become lethargic for hours on end,” Ulrico Grech-Cumbo, CEO of Habitat XR, a studio that creates immersive nature experiences, told The Dodo. “We weighed whether the benefit of filming lions sleeping was worth the risk — we decided it was.”

The crew placed a 360-degree virtual reality camera and sound recording equipment near the group of wild cats, who appeared to show little interest. Confident that they had gone unnoticed, the film crew backed their truck out. But they soon realized they were very wrong to think anything would escape the sights of a lioness.

Lioness sinks teeth into virtual reality camera
YouTube/Habitat XR

“Within seconds, the alpha female noticed the odd-looking object and perked her head up,” Grech-Cumbo said. “She got up and approached the camera cautiously, as did her sister in support. Having had lions investigate our cameras before, my body was immediately overcome with dread.”
The alpha started pawing at the base of the tripod, and Grech-Cumbo knew their shoot was in trouble.

YouTube/Habitat XR

“Lions are naturally inquisitive and naturally possessive, and as soon as they realize they can steal something that someone or something else wants, they usually do,” Grech-Cumbo said. “We eventually started approaching but by doing so, we invoked her instincts and she committed to the theft!” 
The lioness sank her teeth into the camera and began to drag it away as the crew gave chase. “My heart sank as we watched $10,000 worth of gear being hauled through the thickets,” Grech-Cumbo said.

Lioness steals fancy camera and runs
YouTube/Habitat XR

Following the lioness through the bushes, Grech-Cumbo realized that she was deliberately toying with them.
“We realized that they'd get ahead of us then put the rig down and actually wait for us to catch up, then set off again,” Grech-Cumbo said. “They did this three times before we realized that this was a game to them.”

You can watch the chase here:

click to play video

The more closely the film crew followed the lioness, the more she ran, inflicting damage on the delicate camera. When the lioness finally grew tired of the game, the film crew found their equipment in pieces.

“Our 360 [degree] cameras are made up of 10 individual lenses, most of which were cracked if not scratched beyond repair," Grech-Cumbo said. "The tripod was ripped in three pieces, all the cables were chewed through.”

Fortunately, some of the SD cards survived, allowing them to create a video of their unique run-in with the wild cats — and a warning to other film crews who underestimate a pack of lionesses.

To see more up-close wildlife videos, you can follow Habitat XR on Instagram.