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Photo: A lioness, Ma di Tau, cuddles with her two cubs

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

The Story

From the lush wetlands of Botswana’s Okavango Delta comes the suspense-filled tale of a determined lioness ready to try anything—and willing to risk everything—to keep her family alive. In the new wildlife adventure, The Last Lions, filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert follow the epic journey of a lioness named Ma di Tau (“Mother of Lions”) as she battles to protect her cubs against a daunting onslaught of enemies in order to ensure their survival.

Fleeing a raging fire and a rival pride headed by the dangerous cub-killing lioness Silver Eye, Ma di Tau and her fragile cubs must make their perilous escape by swimming a crocodile-infested river. Remote Duba Island is both a refuge and a strange new world for Ma di Tau and her cubs to conquer. On Duba, Ma di Tau must face off with the island’s herd of fierce buffalo whose huge, slashing horns are among the most dangerous weapons in Africa. Although the buffalo are one of her biggest threats, they are also one of her best hopes for survival if she can prevail over them. Yet, even as Ma di Tau faces devastating loss and escalating perils, she becomes part of a stunning turning point in the power dynamics on Duba Island, bringing together a competitive rival pride in a titanic primal bid to preserve the thing that matters most: the future of their bloodlines.

The gripping real-life saga of Ma di Tau, her cubs, the buffalo, and the rival pride unfolds inside a stark reality: Lions are vanishing from the wild. In the last 50 years, lion populations have plummeted from 450,000 to as few as 20,000. Dereck and Beverly Joubert weave their dramatic storytelling and breathtaking, up-close footage around a resonating question: Are Ma di Tau and her young to be among the last lions? Or will we as humans, having seen how tough, courageous and poignant their lives in the wild are, be moved to make a difference?

 

About the Filmmakers

Dereck and Beverly Joubert are award-winning filmmakers from Botswana who have been National Geographic explorers-in-residence for over four years. Their mission is the conservation and understanding of the large predators and key African wildlife species that determine the course of all conservation in Africa.

They have been filming, researching, and exploring in Africa for over 28 years. Their coverage of unique predator behavior has resulted in 22 films, 10 books, 6 scientific papers, and many articles for National Geographic magazine. This body of work has resulted in five Emmys, a Peabody, the World Ecology Award, and a recent induction into the American Academy of Achievement. They recently have been awarded the Presidential Order of Merit by the government of Botswana for their life’s work.

Beverly Joubert also is an acclaimed photographer, and many of her photographs have appeared in National Geographic magazine.

Filmmaking for them has always been a way to bring the message of conservation to audiences, and it is estimated that over a billion viewers have seen their film Eternal Enemies.

Their recent expansion into conservation tourism via their new company, Great Plains, is a venture into community/conservation partnerships in Africa, and Great Plains has received international awards for responsible tourism.

It is the Jouberts’ belief that while some areas need the wilderness to be maintained in isolation, other areas will disappear unless viable, extremely-light-ecological-footprint (low-volume, high-cost) benefits are generated for communities. The total amount of impacted conservation land under Great Plains influence is about 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares). These projects all aim to rehabilitate the environment and return these vast tracts of land to nature.

But it is the plight of big cats that attracts their major effort today. Dereck and Beverly established the Big Cats Initiative, a program with National Geographic designed as an emergency action fund to drive the world’s attention to big cats and to develop real solutions to stop the decline that has seen lion numbers drop from 450,000 to 20,000 in 50 years.

“We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to big cats,” says Dereck. “They are in such a downward spiral that if we hesitate now, we will be responsible for extinctions across the globe. If there was ever a time to take action, it is now.”

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