There’s something awe-inspiring about a lion striding through the grassy savannah.
For ages, these magnificent beasts have captured popular imagination for their reputation as ferocious hunters and powerful predators. They have come to symbolise raw strength and royalty - the sultans of the animal kingdom.
These majestic felines occupy a special place in religion, astrology and popular culture. No other beast - wild or domestic - enjoys such deep reverence and celebration in humankind’s world view.
With the emergence of wildlife documentaries, lions became the natural superstars of the genre.
Nat Geo Wild has in the past eight seasons dedicated January to screening special documentaries on lions and their feline cousins - tigers from India, cheetahs from Kenya and jaguars from Brazil.
The new season of Big Cat Month premiered last Sunday and it didn’t disappoint.
In fact, the first instalment, titled Lion Kingdom, illustrates why these big cats are the ultimate celebrities of the wild.
With stunning visuals and exceptional camera-work, the three-part series traces three resident prides on The Glade, Tanzania’s biggest national park along the Ruaha River.
Breathtaking scenes of hunts for big game such as giraffe, hippo and buffalo on the picturesque lush landscape made for great television viewing. Fierce territorial fights to the death between the Glade, the Baobab and the Njaa prides were undoubtedly the highlights of the series.
They portray nature at its most savage and merciless.
Scenes of young lions being expelled by their own father and tender moments of a new mother being reunited with the pride revealed a lot about lions’ social mores - not very different from ours. It is a story of family, exile, war and death. The conflicts are over resources, territory and power.
Viewers can expect another visual feast accompanied by engaging and entertaining narration by Bop Poole, a Kenyan-born wildlife filmmaker. His relationship with cheetahs is legendary and Man Among Cheetahs promises to be another great episode about the big cats.
In this series, Poole explores the risks and realities of filming in the African bush, while trying to keep up with the animal kingdom’s ultimate speed merchant on four legs.
The Big Cat Month series reminds us why these graceful and majestic creatures are treasured members of our planet. Their numbers are declining and, like rhinos and elephants, they are facing extinction. The Big Cats Initiative is an extension of the series by the National Geographic Society to save these animals through various wildlife conservation projects.
* Big Cat Month is currently on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 6pm on Sundays.