The Last Lions

EJ Africa vice-president Elizabeth Gordon recently attended the New York premiere of a new film by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, “The Last Lions,” and has this comment.

You don’t have to be born in Africa, as I was, to be disturbed by the story told in the film, “The Last Lions.” Its themes are universal: a mother protecting her offspring, their battle for survival when threatened by dangerous predators, their escape to a refuge that itself holds new challenges. Coping with one perilous situation after another demands strength, courage, and persistence—qualities that we humans can all identify with. We follow the events on the screen with our hearts pounding, as deeply engrossed and caring as much about the outcome as if we were watching a great human drama. Except we’re not—those are not human actors, they are members of a species—Panthera leo leo—that is threatened with extinction and their only hope of escaping this fate depends on us.

In the past twenty-five years, award-winning filmmakers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert have recorded not only the beauty but, increasingly, the degradation of Africa’s natural world. They have observed first-hand the impact that human population expansion and loss of habitat have had on lions and other big cat species, and whenever they have the opportunity, they repeat an alarming statistic: in the past 50 years, the number of lions has decreased from 450,000 to a mere 20,000 today.
An urgency to reverse this alarming trend inspired the Jouberts’ film, although when I spoke with them at the New York premiere of “The Last Lions,” I learned that the story of lioness Ma di Tau and her cubs unfolded before their cameras serendipitously. Despite their deep cocern for their subjects, there was no script, no storyboard, no effort by the filmmakers to shape the direction and outcome of events.

The Jouberts’ have a long-standing collaboration with the National Geographic Society, most recently as Explorers-in-Residence, and in conjunction with the filming of The Last Lions, their most recent joint effort is the establishment of the Big Cats Initiative, an emergency endeavor to raise both awareness of the catastrophic possibilities of declining feline populations world-wide and to raise funds to reverse this demographic trend. We at Extraordinary Journeys support this effort wholeheartedly and urge you to become involved with the Jouberts and other like minded people by visiting the following website: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats-about/. The Jouberts are also part of the Great Plains Organization.

You can read more about the Jouberts’ contribution to the cultural and natural environment in eastern Botswana in our previous article on Zarafa Camp.

If watching lions on the big screen leaves you wanting to see more, consider a trip to the Duba Plains camp, also in Botswana.

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Elizabeth Gordon