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Big Cats in movie on animal conservation

By | January 2nd 2010

By Leonard Korir

In a place where the Big Cats still rule the African plains, Lion King and his five sons set out to reclaim their lost territory.

Standing in the way of their ambition is a pride of lionesses and a broken-toothed old male protecting them.

Among those caught in this unfolding movie is a lioness with her three tiny cubs, and another, weak and crippled, with just one of her offspring surviving.

The Disney Nature Filming crew at the Masai Mara National Game Reserve. [PHOTOS: COURTESY AND LEONARD KORIR/STANDARD]

In the same grassland, a cheetah gives birth to five cubs, unaware of the impending invasion. Different mothers and families are suddenly at the mercy of a common enemy — the advancing king and his sons — and if the cubs are to survive, their mothers must confront the foes.

As the animals encounter one another, courage is tested, lives risked and sacrifices made as chaos spread across the grassland.

This is the synopsis of the newly launched African Cats Kingdom of Courage shot at the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The film highlights the challenges facing the African Big Cats — lion, cheetah and leopard — in the wild.

The production of the film by World’s renowned Disney Nature, a Paris-based film label, started in August last year, and is expected to be released early next year.

The storyline is about a once powerful lion who sets out to gain control of another pride.

In the process, the former leader wreaks havoc across the Maasai plain, giving the other animals, especially two lionesses and a cheetah nursing newborn cubs, hell.

According to the film director, Keith Scholey, the aim of the production is to reach a wide audience and create awareness on the importance of animal conservation.

He said African Cats Kingdom of Courage aims to raise awareness on the need to protect the Big Cats, whose survival is threatened by poaching, poisoning and persistent droughts.

Speaking during the film’s launch at Rekero Camp in Masai Mara at the weekend, Scholey said they were concerned with the plight of the African big cats and that besides the shooting of the film, they were working closely with wildlife and environmental organisations, and communities in Kenya and across the world to champion the protection of such endangered species.

Thrilling Plot

"I have always wanted to make a wildlife film that would really compete with the cinema blockbuster. To do this I knew I needed huge characters and a thrilling plot. There is one group of animals that has the biggest characters in the natural world and every day they face non-stop life-and-death drama: the African cats," said Scholey.

Ms Amanda Barrett, the film’s senior field director, said only one in 20 cheetah cubs survive to the age when they can be independent — 14 months — in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Many of them perish due to attacks by lions and birth accidents such as of mothers neglecting their young ones or trampling on them.

She is optimistic African Cats Kingdom of Courage will create awareness about the need to protect the Big Cats. "The film will give impetus to the work done by wildlife organisations in changing attitudes towards nature.


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