The series Man, Cheetah, Wild was filmed in Zimbabwe and the man behind the lens is Kim Wolhuter, a renowned South African filmmaker with an unprecedented connection with the African bush.
While some wildlife filmmakers shoot from their open-top vehicles, Kim prefers an up close and barefoot encounter with his subjects. He spent almost 2 years with this cheetah family, a mother and her small cubs. “You do form an emotional bond,” says Kim of time he spent with the cheetahs. “And it is quite difficult to move on when it is time to say good-bye.”
The Wolhuter story
His grandfather, Harry Wolhuter, was the Skukuza’s first ranger and served there from 1902 to 1946, a total of 44 years.
Hero of the day
Harry, through an act of extreme bravery and clear thinking, was able to survive an attack by 2 adult male lions, despite serious injuries. Kim’s father was also a game ranger in the Park and Kim spent the first 5 years of his life there. After completing a degree in grassland science he moved into wildlife management, first in Botswana and later as the Senior Warden of Mlawula Nature Reserve in Swaziland. Then a call from veteran filmmaker Richard Goss changed Kim’s life.
Kim’s daughters Penny, Lindy and Savannah have grown up in the bush and are very much a part of his work. Wife Taryn says: “Living and working in the bush with Kim is the most incredible experience; the passion that Kim has is very humbling and beautiful to watch, it is an honour to be beside him.” The family make their home in Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Game Reserve.
Behind the lens
20 years after taking that phone call from Goss, Kim is still behind the cameras and living his passion. His amazing ability to form close relationships with his wild subjects has ensured ground-breaking footage.
Kim has been based in Malilingwe for the last 8 years. Initially so few Cheetah were sighted that a film on them was impossible. One day, Kim found a found a mother and her five cubs on an anthill and spend a few days with them.
A heartwarming story
Kim was able to get out of the vehicle and get close to them. He followed this family until the youngsters left their mom. About 6 months later, the same female had a new family. The cubs were tiny but took their cue from mom and welcomed him into their family circle. This led to some unique footage of the mother and cubs.
Kim believes creating awareness about conservation is an important part of the message his films carry, but as a filmmaker, there’s also a story to tell. The stories in his films are natural and a very accurate portrayal of how things unfold in the bush.
Text: Gina Hartoog
Photography: Discovery Channel
This article first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Animaltalk magazine. For subscription details visit coolmags.com