In June 2003 we followed a leopard to a fallen tree and, after a while, noticed a tiny movement in the branches. An eight-day-old cub, still mostly sightless, stumbled out into the sunlight, starting a full and adventurous life — and a journey for Beverly and me that would end up being over four years wandering in the footsteps of this little leopard. She took us on a journey that daily exposed us to the secret lives of leopards and eventually led to us forming the Big Cats Initiative with the National Geographic Society because she so touched our lives. We understood through this process that she and the last remaining 50,000 leopards were voiceless in their own struggle for survival of their species, and that through the Big Cats Initiative we needed to become that voice.
For us this period of our lives was pivotal in that it turned us from filmmakers and conservationists alone to becoming ambassadors and advocates with a sense of urgency.
We made two films from our relationship with the leopard we called Legadema. She became a household name. Shops are named after her, people in the streets know her name, and at one of Beverly’s exhibitions in London people braved the rain and buses to stand and stare into her eyes. She inspired poetry, and solace as people claimed that just watching the film or flipping through the book gave them calm against their fears of advanced cancer. Her eyes have an enticing, seductive, healing effect on all of us. We completed the book, Eye of the Leopard, and it has been a bestseller. Thousands of tourists to Botswana visited her, and many came just to find her and stare into those eyes. We continued our work in the Selinda area with other leopards, but Legadema stole our hearts.
We kept up with her, sometimes remotely, for all those years. But a few months ago the reports of sightings of Legadema dwindled. I am reminded of a line of poetry she inspired me to write because now it is apt once again:
I see your wild eyes
Turn soft with our reflection,
A certain knowing.
Thank you silently,
Privately perhaps and go.
You have things to do.
We do that again now; “thank you silently” and “let you go.” You were a queen of leopards, an inspiration to us all. We pledge here once again to protect you fiercely, as you would your cubs. And today, to commemorate Legadema, and to celebrate all leopards, we are releasing the Eye of the Leopard App where a percentage of proceeds will be going towards the preservation of big cats, to help preserve and conserve environments where leopards like Legadema can thrive.
We both hope that you will join us in this fight to protect leopards in any way you can.
Dereck and Beverly Joubert
Founders of the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative
The app is an interactive, multimedia experience that tells the story of a mother leopard and her cub named Legadema, told from the point of view of award-winning wildlife filmmakers, conservationists and National Geographic Explorers-In-Residence, Dereck and Beverly Joubert.
This beautiful story is complemented with stunning photographs, behind-the-scenes special features, natural wildlife audio, and video clips, taken from the Emmy award-winning film of the same title by the Jouberts. Unlike the film and coffee table book, the app allows the user to experience this story like never before, and journey with Legadema as she battles to survive and complete her own journey into motherhood. The Jouberts also delve deeper into exploring one of the most iconic and remarkable species in Africa and how we can protect leopards for future generations.
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