Sibella - The Miracle Cheetah
In this world of doom and gloom rarely do we come across an uplifting story such as this. Sibella the Miracle cheetah is a real modern day fairytale. It’s a story about hope and courage, a true-life drama that spans more than a decade and combines human compassion with an animals resilience.
It’s the age-old saga about the underdog who despite the circumstances and pitfalls, manages to claw herself out of the depths.
It’s a story that will take us on an emotional roller coaster and eventually, despite the many setbacks it will leave us feeling good about the world we live in.
THE SIBELLA STORY:
Born a wild cheetah in South Africa’s North West province, Sibella’s life nearly ended at the hands of hunters. After being set upon by hunting dogs who tore away all the flesh on her hind legs, a rope was forced roughly into her mouth, and she was savagely beaten and locked in a cage. Lying at death’s door, fear and mistrust haunting her eyes, she was fortunate enough to be rescued by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust. She owes her life to the four-hour surgery and dedicated rehabilitation that ensued.
In December 2003, Sibella began a new chapter when she was flown to Samara with the Bateleurs along with two male cheetah. From the moment of her release, all those involved in her rehabilitation waited anxiously to see whether she would be able to fend for herself. But we needn’t have worried. Eleven years on, Sibella has outlived most cheetahs in the wild, proving herself to be a capable hunter despite the occasional twinge from her previous injuries. Successfully rearing an astonishing 20 cubs in four litters since her release, she has also been an exemplary mother – giving birth on steep mountain slopes to avoid potential predators and eating only after her young have had their fill. The unspoken bond she now shares with the humans in her new home is extraordinary – with the birth of each new litter, when the cubs are old enough to leave their den, this wild cat dutifully presents to her human guardians her latest bundles of fur, the very reason for her existence. The degree of trust she vests in human beings, walking to within just a few meters of them, is simply astounding – her past suffering at the hands of her tormentors all but forgotten.
This exceptional cat has done more than merely touch our hearts and allow us to marvel at her beauty. She is also a record-breaker of note, being the first cheetah back in the Karoo in 125 years, contributing 3% to the wild cheetah population in South Africa through her various litters, and featuring in dozens of magazines, newspapers and television programs across the globe.
Why has this population of Jackals changed their modes operandi?
What has happened here on Namibia’s harsh desert coastline to force these canines into co-operative groups to bring down prey larger then themselves?
Gangster Jackals is the story of a population of Jackals living in Namibia’s wild Van Reenan’s Bay situated within the harsh and remote “Sperrgebiet”. (Diamond Area) These Jackals, with dens just beyond the beach among the sandy hummocks (small dunes) and rocky outcrops, have for years lived off the rich pickings (seal carcasses, waste and detritus) that are so readily available at the large Seal Colony’s that exist on this remote piece of desert coastline.
But something has changed! Some freak of nature has caused this isolated Jackal population to form “gangs” and aggressively hunt seals, often much larger than themselves.
There are few new and un-documented stories in the Natural World today, but when student researcher Eric Murray stumbled across this unprecedented behavior he knew, “Gangster Jackals ” was one of them. While studying Jackal behavior for his masters thesis, Eric discovered that this population of Black Backed Jackals had evolved into a new and exciting way to survive.
Gangster Jackals is a blue chip 1 hour special, observing a group of Jackals as they are forced to change the way they have always survived. It is a film that will delve into the complex dynamics of these multifarious animals as they continually struggle for position and dominance.
Very little was known about the secretive habits of Namibias beach living Brown hyena (Strandwolf) until German field biologist Dr Ingrid Wiesel moved to Luderitiz in 1995 and made the brown hyena her study subject for the next 17 years. The results of her immense study – as revealed in this documentary – are overturning decades of assumptions and prejudices about brown hyenas and revolutionising our understanding of them.
Strandwolf is a film about Ingrid’s relationship with one of her study animals, Tosca, who disappeared with her clan. But finding Tosca was Ingrid’s first step, she also wanted to discover what exactly had forced Tosca to leave her traditional hunting grounds. What she discovered transformed her understanding of the delicate balance these top predators play in Namibia's wild coast.
This film is not only about a scientist and a missing hyena; it is about a changing world that has a knock on effect, even in this small desolate corner of our globe
Adverse conditions in the Sperrgebied National Park made filming very difficult. Not only was it extremely cold most of the time, but the constant wind kept blowing, often getting up to 30, 35, 40 miles an hour. This made long-lens work near impossible, making close-ups were extremely problematic. The freezing night conditions, with its howling gale, combined with Tosca’s elusive and shy nature made filming the nocturnal phantom near impossible.
Not only this but by nature Brown Hyena are not only nocturnal but also very shy animals. Talking Pictures very soon developed a modis operandi which included purpose made hides and remote infra red cameras.
All the effort proved worthwhile and Strandwolf has already won the Wildlife Research Award at the Japan Wildlife Film Festival 2013.
Shark Stories is a series that looks into the many myths and legends people have attached to sharks in different locations. It is a series that will investigate popular belief, tales and even local gossip. These stories might have been passed on through generations or are brand new, they might have mystical background or based on pure science. Either way, Shark Stories will endeavor to find out more and get to the bottom of each and every story.
The pilot episode When Shark Meets Croc has just been completed.
What happens when Africa’s “fiercest” meet face to face?
The most aggressive of all ocean predators, the Bull Shark - known as The Zambezi in South Africa - is notorious for leaving the safety of the deep blue ocean, venturing far up the murky rivers of Africa’s coast in search of prey.
But lurking in these shadowy places is Africa’s deadliest killer - the Nile crocodile.
There have been reports, photographs and even amateur video shot in Australia, reporting on saltwater crocodiles preying on Bull sharks. But in South Africa the few reports there are have been sketchy at best.
Not only do Bull Sharks have the amazing ability to survive both at sea and in fresh water and have been found hundreds of kilometers up rivers but crocs also have a special gland that allows them to survive in seawater. In fact, Nile Crocodiles have been spotted swimming far out at sea.
So in reality we have an overlapping territory where both these super predators live. A kind of “Bermuda Triangle” where strangely both must at times, come together.
Are the reports of scientists finding juvenile sharks in the stomach of crocs true? Are crocs actually hunting the sharks – or simply scavenging?
Marine researchers Ryan Johnson and Tess Hempson set out on an odyssey, aiming to discover which of these apex predators rules supreme When Sharks Meet Crocs.
Their challenge was simple: an expedition into Zambezi country; the large estuary systems found in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal and in just 11 days. Their ultimate mission was to film, Zambezi Sharks and Crocodiles together.
Join Tess and Ryan as they venture into these treacherous waters looking for the most dangerous duo of all. These seasoned divers take their lives into their hands every moment they dive in these dusty rivers, with visibility only a few centimetres in front of their eyes.
Ryan Johnson’s sense of humour belies his strong academic background, with multiple degrees in Zoology and Marine Biology and a Doctorate to boot. As the Director and Scientist in Residence at Mossel Bay’s Oceans Research Centre, Ryan’s passion for sharks was sparked while studying Great White Sharks at Dyer Island of South Africa’s Atlantic coastline.
Tessa Hempson also holds multiple degrees and is about to embark on a Doctorate studying Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Even Tessa, as a qualified SCUBA instructor, has had a few bad moments with crocs in the rivers. Making a formidable, but not always-agreeable team they venture into untested waters determined to film, perhaps the very first images ever of Nile Crocodiles and Zambezi Sharks together.
What Tessa and Ryan discover shocks even these two shark fundi’s; these revelations are set to make it into the textbooks as new science
Arguably the first time footage in this environment has ever been recorded.