WATCH: The secret life of felines

Conservationist filmmakers on the race to save the big cats

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Published February 20, 2017 1:00PM (EST)

The relationship between humans and felines is a profound and ancient one. Yet while millions of us share our homes with domestic cats, their big cousins are being killed off in alarming numbers. In the past fifty years, for example, the lion population has shrunk from 450,000 to only 20,000. 

In "Soul of the Cat,"  their new special for Nat Geo Wild, filmmakers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert aim to deepen our connection with endangered feline species. "A cat in your home creates so much joy," says Beverly. "If you think about the empathy and love that it opens within humans, we hope to get that worldwide." And while the need to help our fellow humans has never felt more urgent, Dereck explains that animal preservation is an issue that affects all of us. "At this time in our history, we can't afford not to be conservationists," he says. "There's no greater group of animals that determine our health and the health of our planet than the big cats. Without the big cats and the top predators around all of these ecosystems and landscapes, everything else would start disappearing" — along with a multibillion dollar eco tourism industry that entire nations depend on for economic independence. In the process, Beverly reminds, "It's not only about saving big cats, but about creating joy."

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth Williams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Big Cats Big Cat Week Conservationism Original Video Wildlife Conservation