Discovery has its "Shark Week" and now National Geographic Wild will launch "Big Cat Week."
The programming event is part and parcel of an initiative of the National Geographic Society, the "Big Cat Initiative," structured to raise awareness of the declining population of lions, tigers and other felines.
A highlight of the week will be Big Cat Odyssey, a documentary by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, conservationist-filmmakers who have followed the felines with their cameras for 30 years.
Dereck Joubert told TV critics in Beverly Hills that during his time studying big cats, the African lion population has dropped from 450,000 to 20,000. The number of leopards has gone from 700,000 to 50,000, he added. At that rate those two species will be extinct in 10 to 15 years, without any protection.
A lot of people believe there is no problem, added Beverly Joubert, so coverage in the media is vital to keeping the big cats from extinction. These species are part of an interconnected web, so "apex predators" must be saved to protect an ecosystem.
Sister channel National Geographic Channel will host an event of its own, the seven-hour, high definition Great Migration. It is called the most ambitious programming event in the Society's history, as it will be shown in 330 million TV homes in 66 countries. The documentary, three years in the making, will be the subject of a cross-platform initiative from print (books and magazines) to mobile to television.
How brave are the photographers? Andy Casagrande, cinematographer, who was shown diving without a cage with four great white sharks, said he is more scared fighting Los Angeles traffic than on the treacherous dives. Crews even outfitted sharks with critter cams (they didn't stay on long, however).
The event is scheduled for November and one of the hours will be a behind-the-scenes view of how the footage was captured.
NatGeo executives said they are reviewing 3D for future projects.
In other news:
*Taboo will return for a seventh season;
*10 more episodes of Locked Up Abroad are on order;
*the seventh season of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan will debut Oct. 8; and
* the channel will debut its acquisition, the Sundance award-winning Restrepo on Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.