During April 2019 Kariega Game Reserve hosted BBC Earth presenter Hannah Stitfall and cameraman Benn Berkeley for eight days. The team filmed exclusively at Kariega for the new four part series called BBC Earth Wild Lands South Africa. The first of the four episodes, Deadliest Predators | Wild Lands: South Africa | BBC Earth, was released in September 2019 and features hippos, lions and servals. This episode shows how the team explored the river systems within Kariega Game Reserve in search of massive and dangerous hippos, headed out onto the open savannahs to look for lions and met two servals before they were released as part of the Kariega scarce species reintroduction programme.
Hippos: Deadliest Predators BBC Earth South Africa
Kariega Game Reserve is home to a large number of hippos who live in and around the two rivers and various waterholes. Hippos can be difficult to find as they spend most of the day submerged under water and only come out to feed on grass at night. While on safari you may only see the ripples in the water created by their large bodies, hear the sound as they blow water out of their nostrils or the loud huuuh-huuh-huuh-huuh noise as they communicate with each other.
The BBC Earth team were fortunate to record some excellent hippo sightings at Kariega. You will even see footage of a hippo grazing during the day which is very rare.
Lions: Deadliest Predators BBC Earth South Africa
With their massive canines, large muscled bodies, impressive roars and huge appetite, lions were essential to include in the Deadliest Predators episode. The BBC Earth film crew spent hours filming these majestic big cats and were fortunate to capture wonderful footage of the various members of the pride.
Lions can sleep for up to 20 hours a day. The amount of sleep depends on factors such as hunger, weather conditions, mating and the presence of other animals in the area that might disturb them (like a herd of elephants). The best chance of seeing lions on the move is in the early morning and evening.
Serval: Deadliest Predators BBC Earth South Africa
Servals are medium-sized spotted wild cats found in southern Africa's wild spaces. They are not very well known as they are very elusive and mostly active at night time. These gorgeous cats can jump up to three meters straight up into the air if they want to catch a bird flying overhead. They also eat mice, rats, snakes, lizards and frogs.
While filming this series Hannah and Benn visited one of the Kariega Game Reserve conservation projects. The serval reintroduction project was started in 2012 to to reestablish the rare and indigenous species to our conservation area. Kariega was one of the first private game reserves to reintroduce serval into the Eastern Cape. Servals had became completely extinct from the Eastern Cape over the last century, mainly due to habitat loss and hunting.
The initial serval reintroduction was in October 2012 when two males were released. Two female servals were reintroduced in April 2013. These two reintroductions did not result in any breeding pairs setting up their territory on the reserve. In 2017 two pairs of servals were brought onto the reserve and released into large enclosures.
In the BBC Earth Wild Lands episode Hannah comments: "Entering the serval enclosure is like opening the gate to Jurassic Park.” It is understandable that Hannah and Benn were hesitant to join guide and serval breeding project coordinator Jo Haesslich in the enclosure as these creatures are dangerous wild cats.
We are pleased to report that both servals have since been released on the reserve and living in the wild as they should be. We are hopeful that they will breed and produce many litters of kittens. Read more about these gorgeous felines in our previous serval blogs.
Further BBC Earth Wild Lands Episodes
This four part series includes the following episodes:
- Deadliest Predators – Featuring hippos, lions and servals.
- Strongest Animals – Featuring elephants, dung beetles and rhinos.
- Weirdest Animals – Featuring secretary birds, millipedes and giraffes.
- Sneakiest Animals – Featuring black-backed jackals, baboons and zebras.
You are also welcome to submit your wildlife photographs taken at Kariega Game to our 2020 Facebook and Instagram Photo Competition. The prize for the winners is an all-inclusive two night stay for two people at Ukhozi Lodge. Read here to find out how to enter:
Images thanks to Jo Haesslich, guide Reece Dodd and guest Alan Collins.