The Living Edens-Etosha: Behind the Scenes
African wildcat with a taste for doves
To Make a Film

The aerials were the easy part. The rest of the film was a tough assignment indeed. It was quite a challenge to take on a film story set in Africa, with a wide ranging brief to show an Eden through an entire year of seasons. Helping me to film the Etosha story were Justin Maguire and Ginger Matiney; for sound we were assisted by Pete McCowen (who also helped with some of the time lapse filming) and Cluney South. The famous Etosha Ecological Institute was a constant source of expertise, help and advice. As the film was bound to feature elephants, lions, cheetahs and many other familiar big animals, we knew we would have to find a few surprises for the audience too. Justin found the ideal subject: an African wildcat with a taste for doves. Each morning, the cat would arrive at its local watering hole to crouch behind rocks and wait for the doves to come to drink. And each time a dove flew by close enough, the cat would launch itself up into the air to catch the unsuspecting bird in mid-flight.

The larger of the cats are of course dramatic because of their size, and the lions of Etosha are traditionally confident too. We were warned that certain individuals regularly attacked cars, and that only

weeks before we began filming, a lioness attempted (and almost succeeded) to jump through the open window of the chief warden's car as he drove along one of Etosha's well maintained roads. Our camera vehicle's window was permanently open because we had removed an entire door to facilitate filming. With the camera person on an open platform, we had to judge the personality and mood of large carnivores carefully.

As things turned out, we need not have worried; we never had a problem with the lions or with any of the other potentially dangerous large mammals of Etosha. I have always had faith in animals' understanding.Our camera vehicle's window was permanently open When you work with the same animals day after day, they accept you as part of their environment. They recognize the vehicle, along with the smell and sound of it, and eventually do not even look up when you suddenly start the engine after perhaps hours of silence. It is wise to know, however, that if we ever had gotten out of the car, this spell would have been broken. And it was no surprise when, one hot afternoon, having spent a pleasant few hours with the lions only meters away from the camera in the open door, the lions reacted aggressively as soon as a strange car approached, and charged at it.

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