“That represents a 90 to 95 percent decline,” says National Geographic explorer-in-residence Dereck Joubert. “Unless we start talking about this, these lions will be extinct within the next 10 or 15 years.”
Joubert and his wife, Beverly, have lived among populations of big wild cats for decades. Based in Botswana, the filmmakers and conservationists have spent much of their career documenting Africa's animal population for National Geographic. In their latest documentary project, The Last Lions, the Jouberts follow the dwindling lion population living in Botswana's Okavango Delta as they battle their prey — the buffalo — as well as rival prides.
“Marauding lions [come] in from the outside into their territory and fight with them,” says Dereck Joubert. “These territorial battles are dramatic and often end up in death one way or another.”
But obtaining dramatic footage of lions battling each other in the murky, swamplike Okavango Delta is not easy, even for seasoned documentarians like the Jouberts. They followed lions across river systems, pushing their car into chest-height water while driving — and they often had a front-row seat to heated attacks.