National Geographic Australia visits Mashatu

Mashatu Game Reserve - National Geographic Australia

Roger de la Harpe and Andrei Snyman with the National Geographic Australia team

It was with great pleasure and much excitement that we hosted National Geographic Australia at Mashatu recently. The purpose of their trip was to film a documentary on the various aspects of our Predator Research project. Lions and leopards were the main focus of their story, as the documentary forms part of Jouberts’ Big Cats Initiative which is set to air on NatGeo’s ‘Big Cat Week’ later this year.

For nearly a week I accompanied the team on their quest to film Mashatu’s wildlife, in particular the big cats. NatGeo very kindly sponsored two GPS Satellite radio collars to be fitted onto a lion and leopard. With the help of veterinarian Erik Verreynne, we managed to track down and dart Matswane (Mashatu’s large male lion). The battery in Matswane’s collar was due for replacement anyway, so the timing was perfect.

As luck would have it we found the lion pride in an area called Long-grass, and as the name suggests, a fair amount of ‘bundu-bashing’ was required in order to reach the cats. Because capturing the lion footage was a high priority, we were all suitably relieved to find them languishing in a large open clearing. Matswane and the rest of his pride were all fast asleep in the shade of an Acacia tree, which made darting the dominant male a breeze. The rest of the pride scattered in all different directions when the dart hit its mark on the male’s rump. It was hot though, so the lions didn’t move that far off. Within six minutes Matswane was out cold. The lions moved off again as soon as we approached their ‘sleeping’ leader. It then took the combined effort of four men to carry/drag him back into the shade.

We attached a heart-rate monitor and fed oxygen through a nozzle into his nose. The old collar was quickly removed and replaced with the fancy new satellite one. Apart from a flat tyre on site, the entire process went off without a hitch. The NatGeo guys managed to get everything on film, bearing testament to the credibility of this talented film crew. I’m sure we can look forward to some awesome viewing as a result of their efforts!

Unfortunately even though I set up four baits in areas I know to be frequented by some large males, we weren’t successful in our endeavours to capture a suitable leopard. One of the baits was ‘hit’, but the wily leopard didn’t return for another go at the ‘prize’. I will continue my search for a suitable candidate however, and then just send along whatever footage I get to NatGeo.

NatGeo are also planning to give their viewers the opportunity to log onto an online server, where they’ll be able to cyber track the lion and leopard themselves from wherever they are.

I’ve never done as many on camera interviews in my life as I did during NatGeo’s visit. One thing is for sure, I would much rather confront a charging lion or elephant than sit in that chair again.

Visit our Facebook and Flikr albums to see more photos.

See you out there,


PLEASE NOTE: This blog is still in it’s infancy stages so the Sightings maps, Predator maps and CyberDiary Archives aren’t up and running just yet. The Pete’s Pond is live however, so make sure to wander over there and see what the animals are up to.

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  1. [...] We were delighted to have had the opportunity of working on this really exciting project! If you have not already seen our blog post on the actual visit to Mashatu by Nat Geo, click here. [...]

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