By Mark Hodge @MrHodgey

A RUTHLESS group of crocodiles viciously attack - and EAT ALIVE - migrating zebra and wildebeest in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve

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A zebra screams in pain as a hungry crocodile sinks its teeth into its flesh

These dramatic pictures were captured by wildlife photographer Paolo Torchio, 54, at the croc-infested Mara River.  

The zebra desperately tries to escape the powerful jaws of the savage croc

Shot in August, the graphic images show the large reptiles eating the vulnerable prey alive as they attempt to cross the dangerous stretch of water.

Take down: A huge crocodile jumps out of the water to surprise its vulnerable prey

Every year in east Africa, around 1.5 million wildebeest and 300,000 zebra travel north from Tanzania to Kenya in search of food and water.

River of blood: The body of a zebra floats in the Mara River

However, the 1,800 mile journey is treacherous and an estimated 250,000 wildebeest do not safely reach their destination.

A happy crocodile holds the remains of a zebra in its huge jaws

Italian snapper Paolo, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya, has been photographing wildlife for 25 years.

The powerful predator makes light work of the unfortunate zebra

He said: “During this long journey the herds are forced to cross through many rivers - some are small streams but some, like the Mara river, are big and infested by hungry crocodiles.

Easy pickings: A ruthless croc launches itself at a timid wildebeest

“In my career as wildlife photographer I have seen many predators like lions and leopards killing other animals – that is just a part of nature.

The blood thirsty predator tries to grab one of the migrating animals

“But I will never get used to the way crocs hunt and kill prey, especially when the water is not deep enough for a croc to drown the prey and kill it fast.

A wildebeest tries in vain to evade a giant croc

“When water is low, like in the pictures taken, they literally eat the prey alive, tearing apart chunk of meat from the screaming animal.”

The cunning predators are spoilt for choice as thousands of migrating prey animals attempt to cross the Mara River

And Paolo revealed that capturing such incredible images is all about timing. 

He said: “I organised my stay in the reserve with the purpose to photograph the crocodiles attacks at the very first crossing.

A group of wildebeest scramble across the croc infested river

“It’s difficult because one week before can be too early and the herds are not crossing yet and one week too late and the crocs are already well fed and not willing to attack - but I timed it exactly right this time.”