‘The Last Lions’ Film is Urgent Plea for Wildlife
“Lions!” our driver-guide whispered as our open-topped vehicle paused in the still night. There, on rocks under starry skies, a lioness cradled her cubs. Her mate, stretched out nearby, his mane tinged silver by the moonlight, looked like a model for the lions guarding the main branch of the New York Public Library.
This serene scene from a recent writing assignment in Zambia’s South Luangwa Game reserve came to mind while I watched National Geographic’s riveting nature documentary, “The Last Lions,” which also is an urgent plea.
As the title indicates, lions are dwindling in number. In a mere 50 years, their numbers have dropped from 450,000 to 20,000. The film’s opening sequence briefly blames humans in the animal’s loss of habitat.
Filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, longtime chroniclers of African wildlife, have set their saga in Botswana with film star Jeremy Irons providing fine voice-over narration. Their scenario focuses on a lioness the filmmakers call Ma di Tau, (“Mother of Lions”) who, after the loss of her mate to invader lions, relocates to remote river-protected Duba Island, where she tries to shelter her cubs from crocodiles, buffalos, and other predators. It’s a constant struggle for survival and death always is nearby in the form a stalking pride of lions.
By naming their lioness, the filmmakers invite viewers to identify with her and the shots of her cradling and playing with her cubs make them seem cute as house cats, thus making their film emotional viewing, even for adults, and definitely not recommended for young kids. Joubert’s remarkable camera work catches every intimate detail, the twitch of a whisker, a look of alarm. One particularly searing image shows a regal lion succumbing to mortal injuries. Joubert and his producer/wife spent seven years filming and editing down to the yearlong story we see here. “It is difficult to appreciate how different and individual lions are, but we know every lion on Duba Island as well as we know our own family members,” says Joubert.
The film asks this question: Are Ma di Tau and her young to be among the last of the wild lions? Check out: www.causeanuproar.com to learn more about National Geographic’s campaign to save the big cats. #