Book ID 525
Newman, Owen The Crater: Africa's Predator's Paradise, 2000
Extract Author: Rupert Smith
Extract Date: 2000 June 6
The Guardian Newspaper
In the Ngorongoro Crater in north Tanzania, there is the highest concentration of predators anywhere in the world. There must also be the highest concentration of film crews, seeing as nine out of ten nature documentaries seem to be made there. For those of us who have been watching these programmes since the 60s, the landscape of the Ngorongoro seems as familiar as Albert Square or Coronation Street. All the regular characters were on show in Owen Newman's The Natural World: Crater (BBC2), an elegant portrait of life in this ecological hot- house, where grass and water are in such plentiful supply that the huge herds of herbivores are willing to put up with the constant fear of attack.
There was nothing particularly new on show - but it was shown better, perhaps, than ever before. Two lionesses brought down a zebra in a nightmarish dance of death, the two huge cats clinging on to their victim and just waiting for it to die. Vultures dropped from the sky and thumped on to the ground all around the kill, while a serval, its giant ears twitching, stalked mice and rats among the herbiage. Newman's camera took us right to the heart of the action, whether watching a zebra licking its lips, the screen suddenly filled with black, white and pink, or dodging between the legs of lions and hyenas as they played out their daily squabbles over feeding rights. These endless skirmishes suddenly made life in the Crater seem altogether less appealing, as each gang went out on cub-killing missions - anything to lessen the competition for meat.
Pitched battles between the big strong lions and their smaller but more numerous rivals, the hyenas, had about them a certain sporting air, an impression reinforced by the hordes of tourists constantly observing the action from the safety of their jeeps, and by the apt description of the Ngorongoro as "Africa's superbowl".