Field Test
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Posted December 1, 2011
The Pitch: Serengeti Lions

Status: Accepted

NGM Issue: 2013

Category: Natural History

Geo Location: Africa

Approved: 3/24/10

Photo: lion cubs
Photographer Michael Nichols plans to spend a year documenting lions in Tanzania.

(Tentative) Schedule

Pitch: 3/9/11
Interim Show:
First Edit: 3/5/13
Approved Edit: 3/18/13
Final Show: 3/19/13
Layout Review: 4/2/13
Layout PDF: 4/17/13
Legends: 5/5/13
Graphics Placement: 5/21/13
Photo Color: 5/29/13
Research Review: 6/11/13
Copy Edit: 6/13/13
Pre-Release Mtg: 6/24/13
Hard Copy Proof: 7/8/13
Article Released: 7/18/13
NGM DBL PDF: 7/22/13
Data to Printer: 8/6/13
On Press: 8/18/13

Proposal: No single species epitomizes the power and purity of the natural world better than the lion. David Quammen and Michael Nichols will spend a year working with the Serengeti Lion Project, the world’s longest running lion study headed by Dr. Craig Packer. In 1978, Packer began studying lion prides in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Quammen and Nichols’s article will blend natural history and a full range of human-wildlife issues to produce an in-depth look at the fearsome predator of reality and myth. In close collaboration with the Lion Project, Nichols will use cutting-edge photographic technology in the study area’s most remote region, especially at night, to record behavior seldom seen before. The foundation of NGM’s coverage will be the Lion Project’s groundbreaking 32-year-old family tree: the key to understanding why lions are the only cats that live in cooperative communities, and how their social structure contributes to their survival. Nichols and Quammen will also take an unflinching look at the challenges lions face in a human-dominated world. They will examine habitat loss, trophy hunting, deadly conflict with livestock herders, and other factors that take an enormous toll on lion populations. They will also examine the most effective conservation programs, and why they are successful.

Photo: Michael Nichols’s photo coverage will employ remote-controlled helicopter-mounted cameras, specialized custom-made vehicles, and cutting-edge thermal and infrared imaging systems. Nichols intends to create a photographic package unparalleled in scope and reach—capturing the cats in their natural habitats, hunting at night, on their own terms. He will work mostly in a remote section of Serengeti in the territories of several longtime research prides.

Text: David Quammen will report from all over Africa, creating a continent-wide survey of the state of lions in our world. He will pay particular attention to the dynamic of lions in our world versus humans in theirs. Over the course of his fieldwork, he will be in constant contact with Nichols; together they will determine the direction and scope of our coverage, reporting back to the story team frequently to decide on issues such as covering man-eaters in the text or creating a sidebar.

Graphics: Mapping and graphics coverage will connect the broad, spanning text to the more in-depth location-based photography. Mapping possibilities include an Africa-wide map highlighting ideal lion habitats, current lion populations, parks, reserves, and human-occupied lands.

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