National Geographic : 1992 Jan
On Television Pride versus Clan in Botswana It is night on the Savuti plain of Botswana, Africa. A clan of spotted hyenas gorges on a dead elephant. Suddenly a pride of lions appears. They attack. The hyenas fend them off, their eerie laughs echoing in the night, their glowing eyes reflecting the photog rapher's lights. The lions, outnum bered, eventually give way to their tenacious rivals. On this night the hyenas win; on another they themselves may be the victims. It's an endless struggle, one that has been going on for millennia between these eternal enemies. A film of such fierce confronta tions is the work of naturalists and filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, a husband-and-wife team who have recorded little-known ani mal behavior in northern Botswana for ten years. To track their sub jects, they use a modified truck that is both their home and their camera platform. The Jouberts spend long hours in patient observation and, with subtle lighting, often film at night, a favorite hunting time for lion prides and hyena clans. The dramas are compelling: A male lion, a vision of power, grace, and purpose, runs down the matri arch of a hyena clan. A lioness with cubs is bitten by a cobra. Weakened, disoriented, and endur ing incredible thirst, she wanders for a week, trying to hold on until the venom washes out of her body. "As observers it is not always easy to witness these struggles for survival," says Dereck. Life in the Savuti re gion is unpredictable, often unpleasant, as seen through the Jou berts' lenses. Indeed, prides and clans are like street gangs fight ing a bloody turf war for food and territory. One unexpected en counter did not make it on film: "Right after female lions had made a kill, a male lion rushed in and took the carcass," Beverly recalls. "The females, left with nothing, heard the motor of Dereck's remote-control camera; one lioness snatched the tripod leg and started to run off. Dereck said, 'Grab the tripod!' I said, 'Forget it! I'm not going to argue with her!' So Dereck seized it, but the lioness wrestled it away. Eventually we got it back." ETERNAL ENEMIES: LIONS AND HYENAS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SPECIAL, PBS, JANUARY 22, 8 P.M. ET NATIONALGEOGRAPHICEXPLORERAIRS ON CABLENETWORKTBS, SUNDAYS9-11 P.M . ET. WATCHNATIONALGEOGRAPHICSPECIALS ON PBS; CHECKLOCALLISTINGS.