One of the founders of YouTube has called it his favorite video on the site. It has accumulated more than 7 million hits since it was posted in May, but it has nothing to do with an intoxicated celebrity, a disgraced politician or someone's public humiliation.
It's the "Battle at Kruger," an 8½-minute clip of safari footage shot by an amateur. It captures lions and buffalo and crocodile in an exhilarating predator-versus-prey/prey-versus-predator scenario.
It's the visual real-life tale of a baby Cape buffalo's struggle to survive against a multitude of foes. After being dragged into a small watering hole by lions — and almost torn in half by the same lions and an opportunistic crocodile — it's rescued by its herd that chase, and in one case toss, the lions away.
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The battle between giant animals in the bush is a captivating sequence, and the viewer can't help but become emotionally invested in the calf's battle for survival.
"Experienced people who do wildlife documentaries, they'll tell you, there's only two ways you can see something like that — that's to spend thousands and thousands of hours following these creatures, and even then you might not be lucky … or else, to just be in a random place and see it," said Frank Watts, who has been guiding safaris for more than 15 years.
In fact, Watts was at a random place that day — a watering hole in South Africa's Kruger National Park — when the Battle at Kruger took place. "I have never seen anything like that in my life before," he said.
Lucky is how Texan David Budzinski, the man behind the riveting footage, would describe his photography that day, because he barely knew how to turn his camera on.
"It's a camera that I had used maybe once a year. Even today, I have to practice with it to remember which buttons do what. I'm not a camera person. I'm just lucky to have it!" he said. Budzinski's story and his video is like so many other clips found on YouTube. It's a case of right place, right time and a rolling camera.
"I was so lucky to be there with the camera, much luckier to be able to take some of the footage. I truly was blessed at the time to hold it steady and catch what I did, because very easily, I could have missed so much," said Budzinski.
Beverly and Dereck Joubert, National Geographic explorers in residence, have been trying to capture similar encounters for more than 25 years. Their methods, and those of other professional wildlife photographers, would never be confused with those used by vacationers on safari. The Jouberts have endured attacks by elephants, buffaloes and lions; have endured constant battles against swarms of mosquitoes and the malaria they spread; and survived close encounters with crocodiles and scorpions, all in the hopes of getting that one shot of a predator-versus-prey encounter that might resemble the one captured in Battle at Kruger.
"There is no doubt at all that the tourist who shot that scene … was unbelievably lucky. I mean, we would've considered ourselves lucky to have had that whole scene happen in front of us," said Dereck Joubert.
The ultimate irony of this Internet phenomenon is that although Budzinski was very lucky to turn on his camera that day and not lose focus or sight of the beasts before him, he never posted his video on YouTube. In fact, he didn't even know what YouTube was.
A fellow vacationer on the safari that day in 2004, Jason Schlosberg, failed to bring a video camera on his trip and asked Budzinski for a copy of the video, because he'd "never seen something so amazing."
For more than two years, the Battle at Kruger remained something Budzinski and Schlosberg occasionally shared with family and friends when they stopped by for a visit.
Then in May, Schlosberg finally decided to share the clip with a friend of his from South Africa who'd moved to Ohio and had been pestering Schlosberg to see the video. To avoid long lines at the post office, Schlosberg put the clip on the Internet. "I figured, you know, YouTube is easier than going to the post office. So I put it up there on YouTube and now it's at several million hits, which is something we — I never would have imagined."
Despite believing Schlosberg's actions were a bit opportunistic, Budzinski gives him credit for making Battle at Kruger a global sensation. "I thought, well, good for you, Jason. You had the, the vision to do something."
They're hoping by becoming Internet folk heroes they can benefit from a newly formed partnership. The National Geographic Channel is planning to air a special this fall documenting the story, and the two anticipate other opportunities as well.
"It is surreal. It's an exciting ride, and if it lasts another month, if it lasts another year, we'll take it for what it's worth. We're enjoying it," said Schlosberg.
The entire Kruger video can be seen on ngcwild.com. Click HERE for more i-CAUGHT.