The Unlikely Leopard

Special Mention for Unlikely Leopards

Dear Dereck, Beverly and Verity,


We are happy to inform you that your film “The Unlikely Leopard”

received a Special Mention from the International Jury at Sondrio

Festival 2013 – International Documentary Film Festival on Parks (XXVII

edition, Sondrio, Italy, 30 September – 6 October 2013):


“The jury feels compelled to make a special mention for the film The

Unlikely Leopard. This strong competitor used superior cinematography

and excellent narration to challenge the audience to question the

relationship between our appreciation of beauty and the realities of

exploitation. For demanding our attention to a serious conservation

dilemma, this work shows us the danger in loving the leopard to death.”

Third Annual Big Cat Week

Third Annual BIG CAT WEEK on Nat Geo WILD Begins Sunday Dec. 9th,  8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT

Nat Geo WILD’s Most – Watched Week Returns with Five Nights of Premieres, Including First–Ever Capture and Release of an Endangered Snow Leopard in Afghanistan

Full schedule of BIG CAT

Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s films to be featured:

  • “The Last Lions” on Monday Dec. 10th 8 p.m. ET and
  • “The Unlikely Leopard” on Thursday Dec. 13th 8 p.m. ET


“The Last Lions,” produced by award–winning filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, captures the desperate plight of big cats — especially lions — in Africa. Filmed at Duba Plains, their home base in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, the Jouberts’ film is a call to action to save African lions. Fifty years ago, there were 450,000 lions across Africa and today as few as 20,000 remain in the wild.

The Jouberts followed lioness Ma di Tau (“Mother of Lions”) for seven years to create their 2011 documentary. Recently interviewed by Lara Logan for CBS “60 Minutes,” the Jouberts led the TV crew on an expedition to find Ma di Tau’s surviving cub. Watch the broadcast, also filmed on location at Duba Plains in Botswana,

“The Unlikely Leopard,” the Jouberts’ 2012 documentary, is a fun story about coming of age in the African wild. It is also a part of Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cats Initiative to “Cause an Uproar” to save big cats, which are in greater danger now than ever before. Fifty years ago leopards numbered 700,000. Today there may be as few as 50,000. These top predators are quickly disappearing. The loss of these majestic animals also means that the natural balance of entire environments is destroyed. “The Unlikely Leopard” was filmed near the famous Selinda Reserve in Botswana.

BIG CAT WEEK is an extension of the Big Cats Initiative (BCI), a long–term commitment founded by the Jouberts with the National Geographic Society to stop poaching, save habitats and sound the call that big steps are needed to save big cats around the world.

To address this critical situation, Nat Geo WILD is asking people to “Cause an Uproar” and support BCI. This year’s BIG CAT WEEK will follow a series of fall activities, including the creation of the National Geographic Big Cats Sister School Program, which pairs U.S. schools with schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana under the shared theme of big cat conservation.

Follow Explorers–in–Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert on Twitter @dereckbeverly

The New York Times
“‘The Last Lions’ is a worthy, intensive labor of love that took years to shoot and edit, and it’s also more gripping than a lot of recent Hollywood thrillers.”

Los Angeles Times
“It goes without saying that their [filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert] latest effort, ‘The Last Lions,’ is mightily impressive to look at.”

The Washington Post
“The tale has all the trappings of a good Jack London novel, including fearsome villains, such as a scar–faced buffalo leading a pack of its one–ton brethren, as well as a one–eyed lioness, well–known for killing the cubs of her enemies.”

USA Today
Beverly Joubert: “Once people can get to know a leopard the way we do, the great individual character and personality, they’ll understand why it’s so important to protect these cats in Africa.”

Our Amazing Planet
“Beautifully shot, impeccably edited and skillfully written, actor Jeremy Irons’ narration — which is delivered with both gravitas and understated British humor — adds a final bit of sparkle to an already arresting film.”

ABC News
Bill Weir of ABC Nightline visits the Jouberts in Botswana to see what has become of the star feline from “The Unlikely Leopard.”

New Nat Geo Film Spots Leopards’ Lighter Side

Ah, leopards — majestic creatures. Fearsome hunters, the dappled cats glide across Africa’s Serengeti like ghosts, able to melt away into the landscape, day or night, and rain terror upon unsuspecting prey.

All that would be news to the star of a new film premiering soon on Nat Geo WILD, “The Unlikely Leopard.” The documentary tracks the first years of a clumsy, awkward, mama’s-boy of a leopard who seems a bit ill-suited for the lofty mantle often reserved for these big cats.

The film is the latest from Dereck and Beverly Joubert, seasoned filmmakers who have dedicated their lives to documenting the dramatic stories of Africa’s lions and other big cats — and their increasingly dire circumstances, which have sent their numbers plummeting in recent decades. It can get a bit depressing, they said, to compare the crowds of lions and other cats they regularly saw 30 years ago, to the far more paltry numbers they see today.

Unexpected comedy

Enter “The Unlikely Leopard,” a film that introduces its star when he is a tiny, 10-day-old, thoroughly irresistible cat. The film is certainly a departure for the duo, the husband-and-wife team said. There was a lot more laughter than usual.

“There were moments that we would crack up over and over just watching him fall out of a tree or play with something he shouldn’t play with,” Beverly told OurAmazingPlanet. “He seemed to not quite want to do what normal leopards do.”

The Jouberts said they had no idea the little leopard would prove to offer such comic relief. “We just happened to find a young leopard, and I think that he told us his story,” Dereck said.

Beautifully shot, impeccably edited and skillfully written, actor Jeremy Irons’ narration — which is delivered with both gravitas and understated British humor — adds a final bit of sparkle to an already arresting film.

Life among the cats

The Jouberts, South African natives who have lived out of a tent on an island in Botswana for nearly three decades, said that despite the laughter the leopard’s antics provoked, filming the growing cat and his watchful mother was an enormous challenge. Unlike lions, which make their presence known and are very social creatures, leopards are far more solitary, and tend to stay on the move, blending seamlessly into their surroundings.

“So we had a rule,” Dereck said. “One of us had to be watching the cat at all times. If I had to change a lens, Beverly had to watch the cat. With leopards, if they even just roll over, they can disappear.”

In fact, leopards are indeed disappearing, suffering steep declines in many parts of Africa, due to human-cat conflict and a thriving black market for their unmistakable spotted fur, coveted for both its beauty and as a symbol of power. The big cats are nearly extinct in north Africa, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an independent body that assesses the status of species around the world.

Yet in spite of the serious underlying issues, Beverly said, “making this film and spending time with this leopard was a wonderful chance to be joyful.”

The Jouberts said they hope that their film not only provokes some laughter, but provokes thought and — perhaps most important — further action to protect leopards.

“The Unlikely Leopard” premieres Sunday, July 15, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD.

Andrea Mustain, Our Amazing Planet