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Wildlife captured on camera

Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
Lions

UP CLOSE: Shots taken from the camera as it drives through the lion pride.

Chris McLennan
KIWI ENGINUITY: Chris McLennan with the remote buggy he used to get the images of lions he has shared with the world.

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The latest photography assignment for a Waimauku man has been viewed by millions worldwide and taken international media by storm.

Media giants such as CNN, the Huffington Post website, television channels across Europe and newspapers in Canada have published Chris McLennan's close encounter with a lion pride.

The cameraman's video has had more than three million hits on YouTube, with two million registered in the first 72 hours.

Two months ago he came up with his idea to put a camera in a four-wheel-drive buggy, using a remote control to drive it towards lions in the heart of Botswana.

It was after his last trip to the African country, when he was confined to a safari vehicle, that he thought there must be another way to get closer to the lions. And there was.

"I was just trying to think of how we could get something different," Chris says.

He was on a photographic project for Nikon and Hewlett Packard when he came up with the idea and began to design the buggy to hold his Nikon camera.

It was not on the original assignment plan, but Chris decided to give it a crack.

He started to build it but Hewlett Packard's New Zealand business development manager Carl Hansen took one look at his efforts and told him "that's not a buggy", Chris says.

The Auckland remote control car fanatic has a background in engineering and took over to make something workable for Chris.

The main thing was to keep the camera out of the dust and lion-proof, Chris says.

They then set the device loose, steering it straight towards the pride of seven females and one male.

The lions' response was incredible, he says.

The pack got up to investigate, before eventually taking off with the device.

Chris, 49, stayed about 20 metres away during the experiment, taking photos as the action unfolded.

By the end of it, the lions had moved so close he was barely five metres away.

"When they realised it wasn't worth eating they lost interest."

Chris managed to reclaim the device. The camera, which was still intact, had taken some "awesome" shots.

"They did a lot of damage to the suspension and they chewed the tyres a bit. We were very lucky, I think the odds were against us."

Chris is stoked by the result and the world-wide attention it is getting.

"It's gone crazy," he says.

Chris is no stranger to lions.

He's been a professional photographer for 25 years and has travelled to 45 countries for photographic assignments.

After Botswana he went to Namibia to spend time with the Himba tribes before heading to Tahiti to photograph sharks.

Go to cmphoto.co.nz to view more of Chris' work.

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