All achievers

Beverly Joubert

Filmmaker and Conservationist

The daily adrenaline rushes we were getting with the animals, I mean these battles were intense. We could pick up what the lions were feeling and the aggression of the hyenas. We started off—it was a great adventure, and intrigued—and then passion took over, immense passion, and we couldn't stop.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert were born a year apart in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Although they met for the first time in high school, their first date would not occur until Dereck had returned from compulsory military duty in the South African Army.  Once he had fulfilled his commitment, Dereck had no interest in further military service, but the survival training he had received would serve him well in his future career.

1980: The early beginnings. Dereck and Beverly were born in Johannesburg, South Africa. They met in high school and both realized early in life that they wanted to live in the bush and explore the vast tracks of wilderness areas.

Dereck studied geology, and Beverly business, but the couple shared a greater passion.  What motivated them above all was their love of nature, a passion for the landscape of unspoiled Africa and the fascinating creatures of the wild.  Early in their relationship, the pair lived in the Eastern Transvaal, where they could explore nearby Kruger Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves.  Although they enjoyed observing lions and elephants on excursions from the park’s safari lodge, a holiday trip to the neighboring country of Botswana was a revelation.  Canoeing in the delta of the Okavango River, they found themselves in true wilderness.  This was the life they wanted for themselves, and they decided to make this a reality in Botswana.

1997: (Left) Lion of Savuti Ntchwaidumela, “he who greets with fire.” Botswana’s Savuti is renowned for its lions. Many scientists have studied them, intrigued by the lions’ extraordinary ability to survive for long periods without water. (Right) In Hunting with the Moon: The Lions of Savuti, Dereck and Beverly Joubert create a portrait of the Savuti lions at rest, at play, and on the shadowy hunts that end in a sudden, explosive kill, offering a rare glimpse of the lithe power and ruthless beauty that have mesmerized humans for millennia. The Jouberts document years of observation, providing invaluable insight into the biology, behavior, and social structure of an elusive species.

The couple married in 1983 and joined the Chobe Research Institute, a conservation center in Botswana, and set to work observing the nocturnal movements of a pride of lions.  They outfitted a truck and mastered the skills of surviving in the wild for months on end.  They learned to live and work in their truck between campsites, suspending a tank of water from a tree to shower in the open air.

1997: Dereck Joubert thawing out in the sun during Botswana’s dry winter months, writing up the morning filming and sightings. Seasonally, they go through major extremes; one such time is when rainwater pans dry up and the Okavango floodplains recede, creating alluvial floodplains, a highly nutritious system for wildlife. While working along the Linyanti River in Botswana, Dereck and Beverly Joubert got to understand the river system that was the border between Namibia and Botswana. Here, they produced the 1990 film Journey to the Forgotten River, which looks at the magical side of this river. Shortly after making the film, they noticed the area changed dramatically as poachers came across the border and slaughtered many elephants for their ivory, hunted predators, and killed for bushmeat. As a result, animal behavior changed. The Jouberts were often charged by herds of elephants, and on one occasion, an angry elephant cow pushed their vehicle, with them in it, while they were filming along the river. The reason for her rage soon became evident to them — she was seriously wounded by a poacher’s bullet.

In the area they were studying, the principal water source, the Savuti Channel, was drying up — a situation that intensified competition among the area’s wildlife.  To their astonishment, the Jouberts repeatedly witnessed a pack of 40 to 50 hyenas battling with a pride of roughly 30 lions.  These ferocious struggles, which took place under cover of darkness, upended the conventional wisdom of natural science.  Hyenas were thought to be cautious scavengers, not combative predators; lions and hyenas had been observed to coexist peacefully by day. The Jouberts knew they would need photographs and motion pictures to document what they had seen.

“When photographing a leopard, there never seems to be an awkward pose. Each curve is shaped as if in harmony with every backdrop. It’s why they can mold into everything and disappear so easily. I could be in the presence of leopards every minute of each day. Around 2003, Dereck and I were fortunate to discover a newborn leopard cub. We had been tracking its mother for a few days. She led us to her den, where we met this tiny little fluffy furball, who we later called Legadema. The moments we spent with this mother and daughter were a lesson in caring and compassion. Their attention to each other, as if nothing else mattered, was part of the love affair I started feeling for all leopards. This moment changed our lives. For three and a half years we followed this inquisitive little cat. She seduced us to the point that we had no choice but to become ambassadors for leopards.” ~ Beverly Joubert

Enthusiastic amateur photographers, they now became professionals and equipped themselves with the necessary gear for night photography and film editing.  Dereck worked as a cameraman in advertising to raise money for their filmmaking project.  In the field, Beverly recorded sound and took still photographs while Dereck handled the movie camera.  It took many years to assemble their footage of the combat between lions and hyenas into a finished film. During this time, they were also collecting breathtaking footage of other creatures in the wild. Their work attracted the attention of the close-knit international community of wildlife photographers.

2003: A Tsaro lioness battles to control a buffalo cow on the run. In the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Dereck and Beverly Joubert started a project to better understand the interactions between the lions and buffalo living on an island by the name of Duba. The lions had conquered their fear of water as a response to the buffalo herds, using water for their defense. This story is extolled in their 2006 documentary film Relentless Enemies: Lions and Buffalo.

In 1988, they completed their film Stolen River, recording the disruption of the Savuti Channel ecosystem.  Stolen River aired in the United States as a National Geographic Special on the Public Broadcasting System in 1988, the beginning of a long partnership between the Jouberts and the National Geographic Society.  They continued the story of the displaced animals of Savuti in Forgotten River (1990). Their next films, Trial of the Elephants and Patterns in the Grass, aired on the Turner Broadcasting System.  In 1992, the Jouberts completed the documentary that won them international renown.  Since its release, Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas has been shown in 127 countries, and it is estimated that this powerful film has been seen by more than a billion viewers.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert addressing delegates and members during an evening symposium session at Boulders Lodge in the Singita Sabi Sands Game Reserve during the 2009 International Achievement Summit in South Africa.

To date, the Jouberts have created 30 films for National Geographic and published more than a dozen books, and Beverly Joubert’s photographs have been exhibited in galleries around the world.  They have been profiled on television programs such as 60 Minutes, and their films have received eight Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.  They have been named National Geographic Explorers in Residence, alongside Sylvia Earle and Richard Leakey, and have received the Presidential Order of Merit from the President of Botswana.

Awards Council member, paleoanthropologist, and conservationist Richard E. Leakey presenting the Academy of Achievement’s Gold Medal to Dereck and Beverly Joubert after the conclusion of their symposium presentation in Boulders Lodge, Singita Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa, at the 2009 International Achievement Summit.

Their Emmy-winning 2006 film Eye of the Leopard follows the life of a single female leopard from infancy to maturity.  In recent years, the Jouberts have focused much of their attention on efforts to preserve the endangered populations of lions, leopards, elephants and rhinoceroses.  Their documentary Rhino Rescue recounts the struggle to save the endangered rhinoceros of Southern Africa. The Jouberts are fiunding members of Rhinos Without Borders, an initiative that transports vulerable rhinos to safety from areas where they are at risk from poaching.

2010: Dereck and Beverly working on a feature documentary called The Last Lions, on Duba Island in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Troubled by the fact that in their lifetime, a staggering 95% of the lion population had been lost, the title was meant to ask the question “Where have all the lions gone?” In the 1950s, there were 450,000 lions, and today, there are only around 20,000 left in the wild. As a response to this alarming trend, in 2009, Dereck and Beverly Joubert founded the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative. This initiative has supported over 110 projects in 28 countries, all of which strive to stop the senseless killings and also protect vast tracks of land.

In 2009, the Jouberts partnered with National Geographic to found the Big Cats Initiative, “a long-term effort to halt the decline of big cats in the wild and protect the ecosystems they inhabit.”  Their 2011 documentary, The Last Lions, filmed in Botswana, has helped alert the world to the danger that unrestricted hunting and habitat destruction pose to the “king of beasts.”

2011: The Last Lions, a film by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Pointing to poaching as a primary threat while noting the lion’s pride of place on the list for eco-tourists — an industry that brings in $200 billion per year worldwide — the Jouberts build a solid case for both the moral duty we have to protect lions (as well as other threatened “big cats,” tigers among them) and the economic sense such protection would make. Dereck and Beverly Joubert have published 12 books, produced 30 films for National Geographic, and written half a dozen scientific papers as well as many articles for National Geographic magazine. The Jouberts’ films have received widespread attention. The Last Lions, filmed in Botswana, has become a powerful ambassador for lions in the wild, reaching over 350 million people globally. The film won Best Theatrical Film at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, among other awards.

Living among lions, leopards, and hyenas, the Jouberts have faced danger many times, but nothing so terrifying as the incident they survived in 2017.  While walking near their camp after dark, they were charged by a wounded buffalo.  The animal, suffering with pain from a previous injury, knocked Dereck aside, breaking several of his ribs and cracking his pelvis.  The buffalo struck Beverly with full force, driving one horn into her side, through her chest, and into her throat.  The animal ran on with the half-conscious Beverly impaled on its horn.  Despite his injuries, Dereck followed and managed to kick the beast hard enough for it to turn around.  The animal shook Beverly from its horns and struck Dereck again before running off.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert are leading conservationists as spokespeople and changemakers. One example is “Rhinos Without Borders,” their project to relocate 100 black and white rhinos out of the highest poaching zones of South Africa to safe regions in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. There, the rhino population will be able to breed and flourish without being hunted for their precious horns. It is considered to be the last attempt to save the two endangered rhino species, which are nearing extinction. Pictured above, in April 2015, a rhino is blindfolded and guided into a crate after its capture in the wild. Conservationists have moved the first of 100 rhinos across Africa in what is believed to be the start of the largest rhino relocation in history. Ten white rhinos took their first tentative steps into their new home in Botswana after a 24-hour journey by air and truck from South Africa. The emotional scenes were witnessed in complete silence by 60 awestruck soldiers and veterinarians, as well as the team of conservationists who have made this project a reality. (Photo: Beverly and Dereck Joubert/Bar via Getty Images)

The wounded couple spent the next 11 hours in the dark waiting for an airlift to the hospital while Dereck tried to stop Beverly’s bleeding by reaching inside her wound with his hand wrapped in gauze.  Her heart stopped twice during the night and again in the plane the next day.  She had lost five liters of blood, her lung had collapsed, her collarbone was broken, and her cheekbone cracked into 21 pieces. The buffalo’s horn had barely missed her carotid artery and stopped just short of her optic nerve.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert collaborate with communities and create innovative ways to bring conservation into the forefront. The Maasai Olympics is an example of this. The event, a history-changing alternative to lion-killing, is an organized Maasai sports competition based on traditional warrior skills and created in 2012 with the Jouberts giving grantee funding through the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative. “The Maasai Olympics is not just a sporting activity and event. It is a once–in–a–lifetime opportunity given by the Maasai elders to save this ecosystem,” said Dereck Joubert. The Jouberts worked on the 2017 documentary film Tribe Vs. Pride for six years.

Beverly’s injuries required 20 hours of surgery and 22 sutures, three months in the hospital and eight more of rehabilitation.  On recovery, she was determined to return to the field to assist in the relocation of 100 rhinos from South Africa to safety in Botswana.  Completely recovered, Beverly and Dereck are back in Botswana, in the land they love, recording the beauty of the country and its irreplaceable living treasures.

Inducted Badge
Inducted in 2009

Dereck and Beverly Joubert have spent the last 25 years living among nature’s most fearsome predators. From their camp in Botswana, hours from the nearest village, they record the social behavior and hunting practices of lions, cheetahs, and leopards, the most endangered — and dangerous — creatures on Earth.

The pair first met in high school in Johannesburg, South Africa, and fell in love with wildlife and each other while studying at the Lion Research Institute in Botswana. Dereck writes, directs and shoots their documentary films, while Beverly, an internationally acclaimed photographer, serves as producer and sound engineer. Together, they remain in the wild for months on end, editing their films in their tents. To date, they have produced over 25 documentary films, and written nearly a dozen books and numerous magazine articles, winning eight Emmy Awards and international environmental honors for their work. Their award-winning documentaries include Eye of the Leopard; Eternal Enemies and Soul of the Elephant.

Living among the animals they study, they have often found themselves in mortal danger. In 2017, Beverly survived horrific injuries when she was gored by a wild buffalo. Undeterred, the Jouberts continue their work, documenting and preserving the majestic creatures of the wild.

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Let’s talk about the moment when you first set off. Do you remember the first time the two of you went out looking at the big cats that became the love of your life?

Beverly Joubert: Absolutely. I remember the first time going to Botswana. Dereck and I started working in the field in the early ’80s. We lived in the Eastern Transvaal — as it was then called — in South Africa. It was very close to the Kruger Park. And immersing ourselves in nature was thrilling, but it was in a very different way because we were at a safari lodge. And then…

Keys to success — Passion

Around about ‘80, ’81, Dereck and I went to Botswana on a holiday trip. Really, it was an exploration-adventure trip.  And it was really canoeing in the Okavango Delta. And we immersed ourselves in the most incredible true wilderness, had no idea that what we had thought was true wilderness was totally different. And it was an exciting trip. We bathed in the Okavango — probably foolish at the time, with all the crocodiles — and really realized that we wanted to make Botswana our home. And it didn’t take long; it probably took about six months, and we were back in Botswana. We joined a lion research station. It was called the Chobe Lion Research.  And that’s what we did for many years. The lion research was all researching lions, mainly at nighttime — observing them —because these lions were truly nocturnal, sort of 80 percent nocturnal, unlike many other places in Africa.

Dereck Joubert: So I think for us it really was about exploring, going out to that heart of Africa as we — as Beverly says, within that first trip into Botswana, and then realizing that what we had thought was wild was not that wild, and we needed to go wilder. We needed to go deeper into Africa. I think it speaks to both of our needs to understand the continent we were born on.  Cape Town is part of that — so is Johannesburg — but it’s much more like the Riviera of Africa. We wanted to go further.  We wanted to go beyond the Limpopo, beyond the Zambezi, and study where our DNA came from.

2010: Beverly Joubert photographing a meerkat in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana. Although Dereck and Beverly Joubert predominantly focus on the more iconic species, like the big cats and elephants, they embrace everything. Their mission encompasses protecting vast tracks of land for all animals to thrive. All of their work coincides with one aim: to save the wild places of Africa and to protect the creatures that depend on them.

Can you tell us about the magic of Botswana and what it looks like, for those of us who will never get there?

Keys to success — Vision

Dereck Joubert: Botswana has many faces. But the part of it that we love most is in the Okavango, in the northern regions, where there are rolling plains at Kalahari sandveld, a huge variety of wildlife — big herds of elephants, probably one third to arguably half of the world’s elephants there. And for me, it’s the smell of the wild sage, and the elephant dung, and the mud, and the flood that just conjures up that wild place.

Beverly Joubert: And then putting us into our work there. We truly are discovering things that have never been seen before, especially the nocturnal work. We were working with 30 lions in a pride and a hyena clan of about 40 or 50, and they would come in and challenge the lions at nighttime. And we were watching battles that we had never, ever dreamt would happen.  And in fact, I mean East Africa, when we spoke about it to the other scientists, they said, “It’s impossible. We see lions and hyenas lying together in the shade during the day. It could never happen.” And that’s really when we picked up cameras. We decided we had to document everything we were seeing so that it was really evident to all scientists through Africa.

What year was that?

Dereck Joubert: It was 1982.

Beverly Joubert: Right around 1982.

Dereck Joubert: We had sort of stepped into a war zone there. We didn’t expect it. We sort of fell in love with the beauty of this place. But two things were going on. One is the Savuti Channel — where we were kipped — was drying up. So when these rivers dry up, everything is in conflict around them. So we stepped right into that and then, almost immediately, into these epic battles between lions and hyenas that nobody in the world had seen before.

2015: Elephant bulls are frequent backdrops on the savanna in the Selinda Reserve in Botswana. Although much of their work has focused on the top predators over the last 30 years, Dereck and Beverly Joubert have produced a few films on elephants. In 2013, the Jouberts stumbled upon the skulls of two bull elephants with their tusks intact, which meant they weren’t killed but died of natural causes. Intrigued by the mystery of their deaths, the Jouberts spent the next two years following elephants in the area to try to reconstruct the deceased pachyderms’ lives. Part of the journey included a two-and-a-half-month canoe trip on a river in the Selinda Reserve, home to over 7,000 elephants. From this journey, they made their most recent film, Soul of the Elephant, released in 2015.

How close were you to these epic battles?

Keys to success — Vision

Beverly Joubert: Sometimes we wouldn’t push ourselves in, but they would come closer and closer to us. They got so used to us being out there nightly. We did that solidly for seven years, and I can tell you sleep deprivation is extreme. It really does make you go a little bit crazy.  But we realized that what we were seeing was so unique and that nobody had ever seen it before, that we needed to keep going, we needed to document. But I think, at the same time — funny that you get so immersed in what you’re doing — that I think the daily adrenaline rushes that we were getting with the animals — I mean these battles were intense. We could pick up what the lions were feeling and then, of course, that aggression of the hyenas.  And I think we started off — it was a great adventure, and intrigued — and then passion took over, immense passion, and we couldn’t stop. And even though we were totally exhausted a lot of the time, we just couldn’t stop. So the only way we could see it is this became an incredible obsession that we had to discover and unveil what was going on.

What about the danger?

Keys to success — Courage

Dereck Joubert: And working with these lions and hyenas, we got so attached to them, and they got so used to us, that in the lone moments when there wasn’t a battle going on, they would sleep underneath the vehicle. So we had these animals around us all the time.  Very often, we found out that we could actually sleep in our vehicle — an open vehicle, no doors, no roof — with the lions sleeping underneath the vehicle and around us. And we were attuned to them getting up and moving and greeting. That would wake us up, and then we would all go on the hunt together. So we were embedded in a sort of war-correspondent way, embedded in the lion pride.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert address delegates and members in an evening symposium session at Boulders Lodge in Singita Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa during the American Academy of Achievement’s 2009 Summit.

You did this for years, but just last year, a terrifying thing happened to you. Can you tell us about it?

Keys to success — Courage

Beverly Joubert: We were actually in our camp, and we were going from our tent to the main area. We both had torches; we were moving along a path that we’ve done for over 30 years. And out of the darkness, all that we heard — we had less than three seconds to react — was the snort of this very irate individual buffalo bull. And he came charging towards us. Dereck and I were walking together, and he just sort of came right to us. My instant response was to stay as quiet as possible and he will go away from us because we’re clearly not pinning him in at all. We’re not putting him in a corner.

And Dereck’s was — at that time, we saw that there was nothing to change the flight of this buffalo — Dereck put his hands up to sort of try and scare him away.  But he hit Dereck on the side of his body. Dereck went flying— you know, the force of a one-ton creature. Dereck went flying and landed down the path. But at the time — and then the last thing I saw was this enraged eye, the white of his eyes — you could see he was angry and fearful at the same time. And he hit me straight in the face, and that was the last thing I remembered because he concussed me.

But I woke up on top of his horns, and I was impaled. At the time, I didn’t know I was impaled. And when I woke up, I remember instantly thinking, “This is interesting. I’m galloping with an animal.” And then it came all back that I’m probably on the buffalo, and I actually did give a silent plea of help within my mind. And then I said to myself — I was just so amazed that I was alive — and I said to myself three times, “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.”

So a 2,000-pound buffalo put his horn right through you. Did it go in one side and out the other?

Beverly Joubert: It didn’t come out.  It went in under my armpit, through the chest, carried on, going through the throat. It lacerated inside the throat, and it ended up right here. It broke 21 bones in my cheek, my eye orbit collapsed, and then, of course, it shattered my collarbone, obviously, getting on that route.

Dereck Joubert: But then it came out the same way.

How did it come out?

Dereck Joubert: The buffalo hit me first, broke some ribs, cracked my pelvis, and then impaled Beverly. And as I looked up, I saw her being dragged off freely into the dark. And so I got up, and I chased after the two of them, shortened the distance, and calculated, I guess — or instinctively worked this out — landed on my left foot and kicked the buffalo with my right. And I kicked it in a spot where we later found out it actually had a wound, and that wound split open. So when that happened, he then tried to get to me, and he tossed his head and threw Beverly off.  If that hadn’t have happened, Beverly would have been dragged off into the bush, and we would have heard hyenas later on. So then she crumpled down at my feet, and you remember, I put my finger under her nose to see if she was still alive, and she was.

Beverly Joubert: And I didn’t come round that I could speak to Dereck, but I was still unconscious. But I remember again, in my mind, I sort of said to myself, “My gosh, Dereck thinks I’m dead.”

Did you think she was going to die right there?

Dereck Joubert: As I was doing that, I heard the buffalo coming back. So again, we got a second chance at dying. So I jumped over Beverly, and I ran towards the buffalo and drew him where he sort of followed me at a 45-degree angle, knocked me down again, and then ran off. And then I went back, and I tested Beverly again and then realized that — and I often say, this is probably the hardest decision of my life, then, because you’re told in first aid that you shouldn’t move the patient. But I couldn’t imagine not moving Beverly, leaving her in the dark there, and going to camp for help. If she had woken up, it would have been traumatizing.

Beverly Joubert: Or the buffalo would have come back. Yeah.

Dereck Joubert: So I bent down, picked her up, cradled her head in my armpit, in the crook of my elbow, and then carried her for about 150 meters. And then the pain in my hip kicked in, and so then I fell down, and Beverly then woke up and said, “Don’t pick me up. I can walk.”

When you fell, did you fall together?

Beverly Joubert: He fell, but it wasn’t hard on me at all. Maybe it was enough of a shock to get me to wake up.

Dereck Joubert: I put her onto her feet.

Beverly Joubert: But I remember sort of being on the ground, crumpled up, and looking at Dereck trying to pick me up, and I said to him, “I’m way too heavy for you to pick me up. I can walk.” And I kind of just unfolded my body, not knowing if there was anything broken or not.

Dereck Joubert: I wanted at that stage to say, “You could have told me that 150 meters back!”

Beverly Joubert: And of course, I started walking. Obviously, I was being supported by Dereck, and there was a lot of blood coming out. and I was bleeding and swallowing the blood down into my stomach from my face and from my nose. We walked probably about roughly the same distance Dereck had and then got to this wooden deck, and I stopped there. Dereck wanted to still get me into camp and get into a cooler area, and I said to him, “I can’t go any further.” So I just slid on the ground, and that’s where I stayed for 11 hours. That’s where Dereck had to cover me in ice to try and stop the bleeding and to get all the bandages and start looking at where the problems were.

2016: Beverly and Dereck Joubert are on a mission to film and photograph rhinos that were released in the wild in secret locations in the Okavango Delta. Through the Jouberts’ organizations, Great Plains Conservation and Great Plains Foundation, the Jouberts have launched Rhinos Without Borders, an attempt to save endangered rhinos by translocating 100 of them from South Africa to Botswana in order to protect them from the tragic rise in poaching.

Why 11 hours?

Beverly Joubert: Because it’s dark in the Okavango. They’ve got a policy that there’s no exterior lights. What I really am saying is it’s dark everywhere at nighttime. But they don’t want anybody flying at nighttime for security reasons, you know, for poaching, for many reasons.

Dereck Joubert: Safety reasons.

Beverly Joubert: And safety reasons.

Dereck Joubert: So we couldn’t get a helicopter in.

So you called, and they said, “Okay, we’ll come and get you in 11 hours.”

Beverly Joubert: No.

Dereck Joubert: They said, “We will catch you at dawn.”

Beverly Joubert: At dawn, yeah.

Dereck Joubert: We had communications with the president of Botswana, and he was going to come up in his helicopter to get us, but there was a cyclone in the town where the helicopter was, so he couldn’t get off the ground.

Beverly Joubert: There were many things. It was almost against all odds that I was going to survive because to have that experience and actually be impaled and pushed off the horn, a lot of the surgeons said it was remarkable. If they had put a surgical instrument into me and gone the same route and brought it out, they more than likely would have cut the carotid artery or the esophagus because that’s exactly where the horn had gone.  So they were amazed at that part, that I survived. They were absolutely flabbergasted that I survived those 11 hours.

“If the eye expresses life and soul and what lives inside, leopards are the eye of Africa, linked through a connective nerve directly to what this continent means and symbolizes.” — Dereck Joubert. Their 2009 documentary, Eye of the Leopard, is a visual celebration of these beautiful cats, the country they call home, and of two photographers with a lifelong passion for photographing them. Upon finding a mother leopard and her three-day-old cub named Legadema, the Jouberts capture the remarkable beauty of one leopard’s life and follow her gripping story as she battles to survive and complete her own life’s journey into motherhood. The film version of their documentary of the same title won them their fifth Emmy Award in 2006 for Best Achievement in Science, Nature, and Technology.

What did you do during those 11 hours?

Dereck Joubert: I was applying first aid. The biggest thing is I had to stop the bleeding. So I discovered, only after about 20 minutes, that this wasn’t just a scratch on the side of the face, which was the first thing, or a broken nose, but that the buffalo wound had gone in and left a wound on that side and underneath her arm.

Dereck Joubert: I tried to stop that bleeding. Ultimately, what I had to do was wrap a pad and bandage around my fist and insert it into her chest and change it every 20 minutes — but basically, left it there for about six hours to try and get that bleeding to stop.  So five liters of blood she lost. And then at 2:32 she died, and I had to bring her back from that, and then at 4:40 she died again. But the journey through that was really much more an exercise in first aid, but also in keeping everybody calm. I think that when I had my hand inside Beverly’s chest, I realized that her lung had collapsed and that her collarbone was smashed. But even then, I had no idea how deep the horn had gone and that it had traveled up into her skull.

Beverly Joubert: Dereck has a wonderful way of saying, “No, don’t worry, it’s not going to be a problem.” But within myself, I was starting to feel certain sensations, and one was that I had this incredible crackling in my neck, and it was slowly blowing up, and that’s because the lung had collapsed. So the air had to go somewhere, and it was going into the cells and into the fascia of the muscle and all that, and that’s why I was getting that sensation.  And then with the amount of blood that was pouring down the throat, I felt like my throat was burning like crazy. And Dereck said, “You know, it probably is the blood.” But what we discovered, only four days into the hospital — that he had lacerated and cut my throat, and so that was…

Dereck Joubert: The buffalo had, not me.

Beverly Joubert: Yeah, the buffalo, with the horn going in. So that was part of it. So I was feeling a lot of what Dereck was discovering on the ground. We were not talking about too much of it, although eventually, the pain in my shoulder was so extreme that I said to Dereck, “I think I’ve broken my collarbone.” And by that time he had also discovered that it was shattered in five places.

Dereck said you died twice that night — your heart stopped. Do you remember that? People talk about this feeling like they’re gone and then coming back. Did you feel that?

Beverly Joubert: I don’t recall anything that is this long tunnel or anything like that. Before that moment, I had got to a point where I realized that the amount of blood that I was losing — and obviously, my body was getting weaker — I said to Dereck, “Please don’t overdose me with painkillers.” And he said, “Why?” And I said, “I just want to be fully conscious. I want to be fully conscious because I think this might be the last time, and, who knows, when that time comes, I want to be able to say goodbye.”  So that was incredibly emotional for both of us, and obviously, Dereck said, “I’m not letting you go. You’re not going to die.” I didn’t have the will to die, and I didn’t think that this was an easy way out. I really wanted to live. I really do feel that life is precious. But I knew that I wanted to leave my life in a very respectful way. I didn’t want to be shouting and screaming or anything like that. I wanted it to be a loving moment. So that was important to me. It might make it a little emotional now.  But apparently, in the rescue plane, as well, there was a moment where all the — what do you call them?

Dereck Joubert: So we are flying down to — we’ve finally got help, at about seven in the morning, and then we started the journey back down to South Africa. And in that plane, Beverly crashed again and lost all vital signs. We had to give her a good shot of adrenaline into the heart, but she came back.