By Elizabeth Weise
After years making documentary films to educate the West about the need to preserve African wildlife, Beverly and Dereck Joubert are turning their sights on a new target.
The South African couple's 22 previous films have raised awareness throughout much of the world about the dwindling numbers of lions and other "big cats" in their natural habitats.
Now they believe they need to broaden their audience to include China.
Leaning over the dashboard of their custom-modified Land Cruiser, Dereck 57, keeps a watchful eye on the six lions in the grass a few feet in front of him.
"We've made a mess of Africa's wildlife population. Colonialism brought trophy hunting and today we're losing five lions a day to poaching and hunting," he says.
Their work has focused on the steady decline of big cats across the globe. The most recent documentary premiers Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the cable channel NatGeo Wild.Game of Lions tells the story of a group of young males and the dangers they face as they seek to become the one battle-scarred warrior who will lead the pride. It's part of NatGeo's popular Big Cat Week.
The Jouberts have been National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence since 1999. They worry that a rising hunger in China for lion bone wine and exotic animal pelts is adding to the dangers faced by lions.
Africa's lion population is already down to 20,000 to 30,000, from as many as a million originally, says Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization based in New York.
The main current threat is simply more mouths to feed, Hunter said. Africa has the fastest-growing population on the planet, fueling the need to clear more land for farming, destroying the habitat lions need to survive. More....