'Boteti - The Returning River' to show on SABC2
For 20 years the Boteti River in northern Botswana has not flowed. Now in a documentary filmed over two years, the river has once again breath life into the area.
What was once an expansive and prolific body of water gradually dried up, leaving zebras, hippos, elephants and crocodiles dependent on the few pools formed from the occasional rains.
But now, for the first time in 30 years, rain has fallen in sufficient quantities hundreds of miles to the north in the Angolan highlands, sending a stream of water through the river bed. After years of extreme drought, the river has finally returned in all its glory, transforming the landscape.
"Boteti - The Returning River" documents this extraordinary transformation and the dramatic changes it brings to the resident animals.
Filmed over a period of two years, this film provides a lasting and unique record of the transformation of an entire environment and contains many examples of previously unrecorded behaviour.
During the years of drought, viewers will see how desperate battles for survival play out along the dormant river, watched over by the elephants of the area. One of the few species that adapts well to the situation by carefully conserving what little water is available, the elephant is an expert at digging channels in the mud so water collects in sufficient quantities to drink.
Vultures lurk ominously on the dusty banks adjacent to the pools, waiting patiently for dehydration to claim another victim. Crocodiles use caves to escape the heat of the sun and only emerge reluctantly to hunt when huge flocks of quelea birds arrive at the water. The crocs, along with numerous other species, are bound to this area because there is simply nowhere else to go. Beyond the dry river bed, semi-desert extends for hundreds of miles in all directions.
With the arrival of the life-giving waters, there is a burst of activity. Fish and dragonflies soon emerge with their attendant predators and frogs appear in their thousands, attracting huge numbers of birds. The deluge also brings instant relief to the hippos by flushing out their fetid pools, while elephants celebrate by swimming and hosing each other down. Jackals and packs of wild dogs appear from nowhere to harass the drinking herds.
But the most significant change occurs when the water reaches the parched wasteland of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
"Boteti - The Returning River" will be broadcast in the natural history slot on Sunday, July 26 at 6.30pm on SABC3.