Stolen River

photo by Dereck Joubert

The last drop of water evaporated into the heat, and the Savuti Channel in Northern Botswana stood barren and dry, a skeleton of the lush river it had once been. It was the year 1982, and Beverly and Dereck Joubert were on assignment for National Geographic, documenting the gradual demise of one of Africa’s great rivers. Although they had known this moment would come, it wasn’t until the last of the water disappeared, that the heaviness of the situation came to full fruition. This was a key moment in history,an event that would change not only the surrounding landscape, but also affect the wildlife that had come to depend on the channel for its sustenance.

Much of this devastating change was documented in the Jouberts’ National Geographic films, Stolen River and Journey to the Forgotten River. Over the next twenty-eight years, Beverly and Dereck would return again and again to the Savuti Channel, hoping for a change, a sign of life, anything to bring hope to the once thriving paradise-turned barren wasteland, and each time they would leave disappointed.

Then, in early January, Beverly and Dereck Joubert returned to the Savuti Channel once again,to visit the new Savuti Elephant Camp. As they stood along a deck overlooking the channel, they noticed as a trickle of water began to bubble upwards out of a hole in the riverbed. It was the same exact spot where,years ago, they had watched the last of the water disappear into thin air.

Within the hour, the Channel was once again full of water. This of course, delighted the elephants, who trotted down to the river, and began to swim, immersing their entire bodies in the cool, fresh river water,
After almost three decades of dry dust and dead trees lining its bed, the Savuti Channel is once again rich with moisture and life, no longer forgotten, but bountiful and present in all its splendor.