A Tale of Water Buffalo, Lions, Crocs and Two Lucky Ducks

What Everyone Is Talking About

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This is a story about luck. Around the National Geographic offices, David Budzinski is considered one lucky bloke. After all, Nat Geo videographers spend weeks or even months out in the African bush, fighting off malaria and mosquitoes, hoping to capture any encounter between prey and the preyed upon. And here a Texan on safari who doesn't even really know how to use his camera goes and captures eight-and-a-half minutes of a stunning prey vs. predator epic wildlife videographers would give an elephant tusk to call their own.
Buffalo stance: Lions vs. crocodiles in 'Battle at Kruger'
Buffalo stance: Lions vs. crocodiles in 'Battle at Kruger' Credit: National Geographic

In 2004, Budzinski was on a safari in South Africa, along with another vacationer, Jason Schlosberg, who was not lucky enough to have a video camera. The group stayed to watch a group of water buffalo grazing near a water hole, which led to them witnessing and capturing what has become known on YouTube as the "Battle at Kruger," a sequence of events that rival any scenario a Hollywood screenwriter might type. A group of unsuspecting water buffalo wander down the bank of the water hole toward a group of lions, crouching in the grass. The lions pounce and manage to capture a baby water buffalo and drag it into the water. While the lions are wrestling with the calf, two crocodiles swim up and try to steal it from the lions. The lions finally win and drag the calf out of the water. But then the lead water buffalo is back, with about 100 of his friends, and they stampede toward the lions. That's when you realize the calf is still alive, and it struggles free and runs back to the herd as the buffalo scatter the lions.

Budzinski and Schlosberg kept the remarkable footage private for two years. Here's where Budzinski gets lucky again. Schlosberg posted it to YouTube to share it with some friends. The clip became a sensation, generating more than 29 million views. YouTube founder Chad Hurley called it one of his favorite of all time. Now National Geographic has found a way to share the bounty. It sent Budzinski and some other original witnesses back to Africa and created a 45-minute TV special: "Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger," which aired May 11. National Geographic also bought the search term "Battle at Kruger" and posted video ads at sites such as My Damn Channel and YouTube to promote it. If you can't count on luck, you can always be smart enough to know how to grab onto someone else's.
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