National Geographic recently launched a new mini-series called “Savage Kingdom.” This series aims to tell the timeless story of predators versus prey and the everyday battle of life and death on the African savannah. It’s high-intensity and really puts the viewer in the middle of all the action.
A recent episode focused on the Savute Channel in Botswana. Since David Livingston first reached the Savute in the 1800s, the Savute Channel—the waterway that’s the region’s main supply of water —has shown a mysterious tendency to stop flowing and go dry for decades at a time. Those lengthy droughts dramatically alter the Savute ecosystem, forcing herds of thirsty animals to seek out waterholes where some water remains. That, in turn, makes them all the more vulnerable to various predators and is the setting for a thrilling safari experience.
The river has been erratic for all recorded history, flowing heavily some years and completely dry in others. In 1981, the Savute’s waters slowed to a trickle and then stopped once more. What had once been verdant grassland gradually turned into a hot, bone-dry plain.
When the Savute Channel started flowing again in 2011 after nearly three decades of dryness, the transformation was startling. Immediately the area’s foliage came back to life but it took the wildlife a bit longer to return. Today, it’s an exciting area teeming with game and safari drama.
Though there isn’t conclusive evidence for why the Savute’s flow is so erratic, some believe that the cycles of water abundance and drought may be caused by tectonic plate shifts along the Linyanti and Chobe fault lines, which lie nearby.
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