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At an African Water Hole
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By Dereck Joubert Photographs by Beverly Joubert

In Botswana a pride of lions lives large.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

Lions and elephants generally keep their distance from each other. But in the dry season, roughly April through October, water becomes more vital than caution, and a water hole can bring even wary adversaries into close quarters. The elephants at this water hole—by October only four inches (10 centimeters) deep and the diameter of a dining room table—squeeze other animals out, and the lions respond accordingly, eventually coming to rely on elephants for more than half their food. The first kill we saw was a six-year-old calf. With each kill the lions got bolder, attacking older calves, engaging in frontal attacks within the herd, chasing off six-ton females to get to their young. Finally, they even started attacking adults—a shocking sight never before photographed.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic Magazine.

In More to Explore the National Geographic Magazine team shares some of their best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Peanut-size brain?
Not unless the peanut is very large and weighs 11 to 13 pounds (5 to 6 kilograms)! Contrary to popular belief, the elephant’s brain is not small. In fact, it is the largest brain of any land mammal. It looks like a human brain, highly folded and convoluted with distinctive lobes. But it makes up less of the animal’s mass than ours does. For humans, the ratio of brain to body weight is 1:50. For elephants it’s 1:800.

The saying that elephants never forget seems to be true; most elephants have an excellent long-term memory and have been known to hurl stones at a keeper months after he fed the elephant foul-tasting medicine.

Elephants score a high 104 on one intelligence-measuring test, while boars rate a 14, dolphins 121, and humans 170.

Save the Elephants
This charitable organization, founded in 1993 by zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, is dedicated to the protection of elephants and their environment as an intact ecosystem. It is also involved in research, education, and grassroots conservation.

Republic of Botswana
The government of Botswana’s website contains general information about the country, including its people, culture, economy, and environment.

Chobe Wildlife Trust
The Chobe Wildlife Trust was formed in 1988 to conserve Chobe National Park. The trust’s projects focus on conservation management, environmental awareness, and the preservation of natural resources.

Botswana—Wilderness Areas and National Parks
Look here for a list of package or individual safari and adventure tours in southern Africa. This site also provides information about Chobe and other National Parks in the region.

The Lion Research Center
Under the direction of Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota, this site provides updated information about lion research projects and how to donate to them. It also has detailed information on lions, their environment, maps of individual pride territories, and multimedia video and audio footage.

Elephant Information Repository
This site provides a wealth of information about elephants, from videos and children’s books to facts about their dentition.


Delort, Robert. The Life and Lore of the Elephant. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992.

Gröning, Karl and Martin Saller. Elephants: A Cultural and Natural History. Konemann,1999.

Kat, Pieter W. Prides: The Lions of Moremi. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

Moss, Cynthia. Portraits in the Wild Behavior: Studies of East African Mammals. 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Spinage, Clive. Elephants. T & A D Poyser Natural History, 1994.


Joubert, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. “The Lions of Savuti: Hunting with the Moon.” National Geographic, 1997.

Family Lives of the Night Hunters. National Geographic Explorer, Aug. 1994.

“Lions of Darkness. ” National Geographic, Aug. 1994, 35-53.

McCauley, Jane R. Africa’s Animal Giants. National Geographic Books, 1987.

Venino, Suzanne. Amazing Animal Groups. National Geographic Books, 1981.

“Life With Lions. ” National Geographic World, 1980, 20-24.

Douglas-Hamilton, Oria and Iain Douglas-Hamilton. “Africa’s Elephants: Can They Survive?” National Geographic, Nov. 1980, 568-603.

“Life With the King of Beasts.” National Geographic, Apr. 1969, 494-519.


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