The moment a gazelle turns a predator into a puppet with a fateful jump from the jaws of a lion that was about to chew it

As the lioness approached the impala on the Okavango Delta in Botswana, photographer Grant Atkinson thought there was only one winner in this battle of nature.

With the predator preparing to strike, Mr Atkinson had his finger on the shutter of his camera, poised for the moment when the impala was clamped firmly between the lion’s jaws. In a matter of a second, the encounter was over and the impala escaped.

But it wasn’t until Mr Atkinson reviewed that dramatic footage that he could see how close the lion had been to success.

The perfectly camouflaged lioness lunges at the unsuspecting impala who leaps to avoid the powerful paw as it swipes an arc across its back

The lioness bares its sharp teeth as it attempts to bite into the impala’s hind quarter while the predator’s paw grapples with the fleeing animal’s trailing leg

According to Mr Atkinson: ‘He said: ‘I was excited by the possibility of witnessing a hunt. Although it happens quite frequently that the prey animals catch sight of the lions, so I tried to temper my anticipation.

‘I found the lion perhaps thirty minutes earlier. When she caught sight of the impala coming toward her, she immediately flattened herself into a crouch.

‘I have seen lions hunting before, but to be in a position that allowed us to watch the whole event unfold before us was very unusual.’

‘Being able to see the minute details of the lioness’ claws, her failed grab and the way that the impala slipped right by was only fully revealed to me when I looked at the images afterwards.’

The Cape Town native had previously worked in Botswana as a wildlife guide for more than ten years. ‘I felt disappointment for the lion, in that she had missed her meal, but relieved for the impala. Seeing something as spectacular as this attempted hunt, is always exciting as a wildlife photographer.’

The lioness has one chance of biting the fleet-footed impala as it makes its escape but is unable to clamp its jaws down on the trailing hoof just a few inches away

Following its dramatic leap to safety, the impala has established an unassailable two length lead on the lioness who is forced to admit defeat

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