Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis lives up to the channel’s rich legacy.
As the title suggests, this series looks at waterholes, which are vital to the African ecosystem. Chris Packham, joined by biologist Ella Al-Shamahi, take a closer look at how wildlife relies on this source over three dramatic periods: the middle of the dry season, the blisteringly hot time of the year as well as the period during the first rainfalls.
As for what he discovered during the shoot at Mwiba Wildlife Reserve in Tanzania, where they built the world’s first waterhole with a built-in specialist camera rig, Packham revealed: “It was the way the wildlife reacted with the waterhole, which was not as we predicted. I found it surprising that the dominant predator turned out to be hyenas, which most people think are only scavengers. In fact, a clan of hyenas are a formidable adversary for other predators like lions and leopards.”
He added: “It might sound slightly unusual, but there was a species of large parasitic hunting wasp that collected mud from the waterhole during the dry season and made chamber nests in which they inserted paralysed caterpillars that they had stung. What was amazing about it was that they flew 500m from the waterhole to our tent and built their home in the roof of our home. The large, big charismatic animals are great, but I like to champion the underdog. The wasp was a reminder that the waterhole was providing support for an enormous range of animals.”
This three-part series was shot over six months, with 1400 hours of footage for editing.
There were 20 specialist cameras installed to capture every angle.
On the domino-effect of climate change on Africa’s wildlife, he offered: “Rising temperatures, drought and flooding brought on by climate change will significantly change the vegetation in an area, which in turn affects where animals can and can’t live. It also affects where crops can and can’t be grown, as people have to start farming in new areas, which can lead to greater conflict between humans and animals. One of the reasons we were interested in the waterhole was to see if we could reduce human-wildlife conflict, by drawing wild animals to drink at a certain place, away from farmland.”
Revisiting the unusual behavioural patterns he came across, Packham shared: “Getting to film hyenas in such detail was something I haven’t done before. So achieving a better understanding of them was really good. It was brilliant that swallows came and nested in the hide and made their permanent home at the waterhole. The idea of us adding something there that wasn’t previously was an exciting concept.”
As for what viewers will take away from this series, he offered: “A deeper appreciation for Africa’s incredible diversity of wildlife, as well as the many objectives of this waterhole experiment and what it achieved. For me, it was fascinating to see what showed up, when, and how they interacted with one another. We obtained an intimate insight into iconic species’ lives, as well as an understanding of just how a single resource can create ripples of change across an entire landscape.”
The shoot may be over but the waterhole is still there supporting the wildlife at Mwiba.
*Article By Debashine Thangevelo