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James Weis - Africa Geographic Article - April 2010

"The Other Side of Savute"

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James' images and article on the water returning to Botswana's Savute Channel after 27 dry years in the April 2010 issue of Africa Geographic magazine.

The Other Side of Savute
James' text and images in the April 2010 issue of Africa Geographic magazine
(Pages 1 and 2)

Lions and Savute Channel - Africa Geographic article, April 2010 - © James Weis

The Other Side of Savute
The arrival of water in Botswana’s Savute Channel after 27 dry years is presenting all wildlife species in the region with unexpected challenges. For one pride of lions in particular, the simple act of crossing their territory – once open grassland, now bisected by a flowing river – poses new and potentially life-altering dangers. Photographer and guide James Weis was on hand to record this poignant scene.

During our most recent safari, my wife Nicky and I were fortunate to spend an afternoon with a pride of lions that resides along the nowflowing Savute Channel. The Savute, which connects the Linyanti River on Botswana’s northern border with the Savute Marsh in the Chobe National Park some 60 kilometres away, last flowed between 1967 and 1981. Theories as to why it dried up abound, but the most commonly accepted hypothesis points to tectonic shifts, which have created a wet–dry cycle for centuries. This time, water only started to return to the channel in 2008, creating an interesting dynamic for the resident animals, whose sole experience of the area had been as dry grassland.

We encountered the lions, known as the Selinda or Duma Tau pride, in the late afternoon as the light was turning to the gold tones so advantageous for photography. There were five adult lionesses and three young cubs, all of which belonged to one of the females. The pride had just started to move again after waiting out the 30-plus-degree heat of the day and we followed it, enjoying the playful antics of the little cubs, which were clearly relieved to be on the go again.

The lionesses seemed to be hungry and we hoped we might see them hunting. We kept a respectful distance as we followed, in case they encountered impalas or warthogs (both of which we had passed earlier). They came across nothing that enticed them, however, so we watched and photographed the cubs as the females walked through the bush and along a sand road that used to cut across the Savute Channel, a short distance away.


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