New stories are told at the river, starring adorable baby hippo Mafuta and his arch nemesis, Magamba the crocodile. Unlikely friendships are formed while old rivalries are put to rest. Can Kali find peace at last with fearsome Askari? Can hapless babysitter Utani the mongoose keep his young charge out of trouble? When the dry season bites, can Nalla the elephant channel the wisdom of her ancestors to find a solution? Like never before, Serengeti III brings together our favourite animal cast in a dramatic tale of survival, heartbreak and redemption.
Starts Sunday 15th January, 2023 at 4:35pm on BBC1
This dramatised series is based on the real-life stories of the animals of the Serengeti using multiple camera shooting and new immersive techniques. Over 1000 filming days were used to capture the extraordinary behaviour that lies at the heart of this series. This time, much of the action is set against the most spectacular backdrop ever – a beautiful lake, populated by dancing flamingos and surrounded by lush green plains and majestic rocky outcrops. This oasis is a focal point for all our families as everyone tries to take advantage of the seasonal riches while they last. Bakari, the baboon, has moved his troop to a stone fortress that rises above the plains. This rock kopje provides sanctuary until a rival baboon picks a fight with Bakari. The resulting hair-raising chase and death-defying leaps are among the most extraordinary ever filmed. For Bakari the stakes are high. If he fails, he will be deposed as leader and his troop will be in turmoil. On another rock kopje, Kali the lioness has given birth to some adorable new cubs. Here she has found refuge in a new pride, but hidden dangers lie in wait when her curious cubs explore the rocky terrain. When they come across an eagle owl chick its parents launch an attack. Kali saves her cubs but is knocked from the kopje by one of the owls. Somehow, they must be reunited. Finally, back at the den they face another challenge when Askari, the fearsome black-maned male, returns. Will he accept her cubs as his own or try to kill them as previous males have done? For now, Kali must keep him at bay. Zalika, the hyena, finds new hunting opportunities at the spectacular flamingo lake. As she races through the water, chasing the crimson flocks, she finds catching them is not as easy as it looks. Duma, the adventurous cheetah cub, is still with his family but eager for independence. In his efforts to prove himself, he too tries his luck with the flamingos, it doesn’t go well. He has better luck with a gazelle that comes down to drink but it involves some good fortune and everyone helping out. Utani the mongoose is the first new character to make an appearance. His role is to act as babysitter for one of the mothers’ new pups and teach her everything he knows. He gets off to a bad start when he oversleeps on his first day on the job. Things go from bad to worse when he meets Duma and the cheetah family. He and his pup find themselves surrounded. Will the mongoose team come to their rescue? Bakari takes his troop to a palm grove where the fruits are ready for harvesting. He generously tosses the nuts to the ground while the rest enjoy the feast. All goes well until Nalla the elephant arrives with baby Kadogo and the rest of her family. They not only hoover up whatever he drops, one of the elephants traps Bakari in a tree and shakes the trunk, dislodging not only the nuts but also Bakari. With his confidence growing, Kadogo has the time of his life chasing away the baboons. Bakari reacts by taking his troop to find an alternative meal at the flamingo lake. He shows off his spectacular hunting skills by plucking a flamingo from the air, all goes well until his rival makes another appearance. As Duma’s confidence grows, he recklessly targets a wildebeest. When this fails the wildebeest turn on him and he must race away and hide. Scared and alone he is left calling for his family. Finally, he has the independence he craves, but at what cost? Kali takes her tiny cubs on their first steps towards independence by visiting the lake. It’s a chance for her cubs to play while she relaxes. The peace doesn’t last. A buffalo sees the cubs and attacks. Askari, the big male, saves their lives by taking down one of the buffalo, but what will happen when he meets the cubs? Far greater problems lie ahead. When the lions see a great fire building on the horizon, all our families face an impossible choice. Stay and shelter, or risk fleeing across the tinder-dry plains? Kali, Bakari, Utani and Duma all confront their fears in the towering inferno that follows, the biggest ever seen. Who will survive?
In the second programme of this dramatised series, based on the real-life stories of the animals of the Serengeti, more extraordinary events unfold. In the aftermath of the great fire, our animal characters struggle to survive in an unrecognisable and inhospitable land. Amid the choking smoke, Bakari, the baboon, discovers the charred skull of his rival, but that does little to calm the rebellious factions in his troop. Finding a new home is now more urgent than ever. As their quest takes them across the burnt wastelands, Bakari tries to work out how to crack an ostrich egg with comical consequences. When he finally succeeds, he causes near-mutiny by eating it all himself. He calms the uprising by leading the troop to a rocky outcrop with a fig tree that can provide all the food they need. But when a flock of angry eagles attack, his troop is cast out into the wilderness once more. There’s more drama when Bakari finds a bee’s nest full of delicious honeycomb. But it’s a treat with a nasty sting in its tail and tempers flare once more.
When the fire took hold, Kali the lioness found refuge in a cave on her rock kopje but now it’s over, she and her cubs are trapped there when her sister gives birth. They are separated from the pride with nothing to eat and no one to defend them. Can Askari, the pride male, reunite them in time, or will the tiny cubs fall victim to a hungry puff adder?
The fire separated Mzuri, the young leopardess, from her mother and sister. To survive she tries to hunt a warthog. When that fails, she tries catching Utani the mongoose, and the pup he cares for, but with no better luck.
As the rains arrive things start to look up. The blackened land turns green bringing hope for all. Utani takes the pup to meet the warthogs whose thick coats provide a feast of ticks and fleas for the bold. He soon discovers that taking his pup here wasn’t his wisest move. Mzuri the leopardess is having more success, but will she be reunited with her family? When the baboons finally do find themselves a new home, they discover Kali’s sister has taken up residence and is not accepting guests. Can Bakari risk moving his troop in? Meanwhile, Kali takes her cubs on their first hunt. This could be her biggest mistake yet.
In the third programme of this dramatised series, based on the true-life stories of the animals of the Serengeti, the land recovers and the action now centres around the river. Here, the bonds of kinship are tested to their limits, as our families’ stories continue. Kali, the lioness, loses her cubs in a spectacular hunt when the herds get trapped in a bend in the river. Separated from their mother, the cubs are in peril as hooves thunder all around them. Will Kali find them before it’s too late? Nearby, we meet an adorable, chubby baby hippo, Mafuta, as he learns to survive in his riverine home. Just staying afloat is a challenge for this newborn and Magamba, the crocodile, also has him in her sights. Only Mafuta’s father can save him, but confronting the fearsome Magamba won’t be easy. Thankfully, the crocodile isn’t in a fighting mood, she has her own young to care for back at her nest. To help her, she has formed an unlikely alliance with a pair of courageous dikkop birds who nest alongside. Despite their diminutive size they are prepared to take on anything to protect their nest and that of Magamba. Even a rival crocodile or a huge monitor lizard present no fear to these brave little warriors. But when a pack of mongoose arrive, Magamba keeps her side of the bargain by giving the mongoose the fright of their life. Duma, the young cheetah, is still struggling to find his place since he was separated from his family by the fire. Like all young males, he’s looking for a team of other males to help him hunt. Instead, he misguidedly tries to join a female and her cub. It doesn’t end well. Duma’s prospects look brighter when he finds a coalition of young males to join, but instead of being welcomed he is ferociously attacked. Is this the end of the road for Duma? Utani, the mongoose, takes the pup he cares for to visit a herd of playful gazelles, they turn out to be a little too playful for one so young. When the games are over, the mongoose pack are attacked by a hungry eagle. Could Tamu, the playful gazelle fawn, be their unlikely saviour? Tamu faces his own challenge in the river crossing, where he is cornered by Magamba. At the last possible moment, he finds an unlikely saviour of his own. Mafuta’s adventures continue until he’s finally old enough to meet his father. It’s a touching moment as they meet face-to-face. But when a rival bull invades their patch of river, his father is mortally wounded in the fight. How will Mafuta survive without his Great Protector? While Nalla and the elephant herd enjoy the river, Kali’s lost cubs accidentally stray into their path. Faced with a stampede of angry elephants, the cubs make a nail-biting escape. A joyful reunion with their mother is short-lived when they return home to find Kali’s sister locked in a tense stand-off with the baboons. No one is willing to concede ground. It’s Askari, the big male lion, who tips the scales when he brings the whole pride back, spelling doom for the baboon troop. Can Bakari use his wits to keep his family safe?
This programme finds the families of the Serengeti competing for a home. Kali and her pride have taken over Bakari’s kopje. Overwhelmed by sheer numbers, there seems to be no escape for him and his troop. But when the lions fall asleep, he sees his chance. At the river, Mafuta, the baby hippo, is also in trouble. The great hippo bull has died fighting for his family and Mafuta’s mother tries in vain to keep crocodiles from desecrating his body. In the ensuing chaos, Mafuta is swept away. His mother realises too late, just as hundreds of wildebeest cross the river and block her path to reach him. Being reunited with her son seems impossible. Further along the river, Magamba, the crocodile, has her work cut out trying to keep her newly hatched babies safe. Her hatchlings make an easy meal for hungry birds stalking the reeds, but Magamba soon shows her power. However, she can’t guard her young forever and must leave them to find food. She returns, still hungry, to find a grey heron ready to strike. Having dealt with this threat, she soon comes head-to-head with Tembo the elephant. Who will end up victorious in this battle of wills? Bakari leads his troop in search of a new home, but blinded by the long grass, they run right into the path of Duma and the cheetah coalition. Previously, Duma had to be rescued from his own wildebeest hunt by the other males and is now desperate to redeem himself. He decides to take on Bakari, but his efforts are in vain. Not only is Bakari a dangerous opponent, but the rest of the cheetahs have fled from the fight. Duma is back on his own searching for companionship once again. Bakari finds his troop a temporary refuge at the river but it’s not without its dangers. The herds soon take over as they arrive to drink. With the wildebeest come the hunters, including Kali. The herds are on high alert, and it seems Kali is doomed to fail. If she misses her chance, will Askari and the pride still support her, or does Askari have a surprise in store? Bakari is also trying to find a meal. He arrives too late to steal Magamba’s eggs and instead finds himself confronted by the pugnacious dikkop birds who have a surprise of their own. When Duma finally catches up with the other cheetahs, he tries to join them in their efforts to mark their territory. As he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do, his attempts to impress are comical, but things take a serious turn when he’s injured trying to follow their lead. Can he fight through the pain to prove himself as a hunter? And will that be enough to win them over? Mafuta’s future is also uncertain. Without his father to protect them, an invading hippo, determined to take over the pod, now has no one to stop him. As the river crossings continue, a half-starved Magamba struggles to hunt. She faces an endless onslaught of hooves and is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of wildebeest. After many attempts, exhausted and hungrier than ever, she has one final chance at success…
Mafuta, the baby hippo, is in crisis. His pod has been taken over by a marauding male and his mother must take him far from the river. Kali, the lioness, tries to dig the warthogs out of the den, but the situation turns comical when the rest of the pride gets involved. Lions and warthogs run amok across the plains in a hunt with a surprising outcome. Will the warthogs come out on top, or is this a family Kali can finally be proud of? For everyone, the good times will soon be over as the dry season starts to take hold. The lake becomes a place of refuge not just for the thirsty herds, but also for Mafuta and his mother. Duma, the cheetah, takes the coalition to the lake to hunt. By finally working together they manage to catch a wildebeest but their efforts capture the attention of Zalika and the thieving hyenas. Things go from bad to worse, when the coalition discover a female cheetah and arguments break out on what they should do. They end up fighting among themselves as the female escapes. Duma decides he’s better off alone, but is it the right decision? As the herds move on and dust clouds fill the plains, Bakari leads his troop in search of better foraging. To reach it they must cross the shrinking river and risk a run-in with Magamba. But the far side is no safe haven, Bakari has taken them into the territory of another baboon troop, one the size of a small army. When all-out war threatens the survival of his troop, Bakari realises his last hope may lie with the elephants. On the plains Utani and his pup are foraging for delicacies when a hungry serval strikes – could he have taken Utani’s pup? Nalla is leading Kadogo and the herd on a life-saving mission; they are seeking water. She takes them to the lake, but when they arrive, she finds it is fast disappearing and the water unfit to drink. Nalla must call on all her wisdom to find a solution before it’s too late. As the warthogs wallow in the muddy pools that remain, Mafuta and his mother find sanctuary in the shrinking lake, but as more and more hippos join, their pool begins to turn into a quagmire. As the anxious hippos churn the slurry they find it harder and harder to move. They are fast becoming stuck in a trap of their own making. When it seems it can get no worse, the hippo bull that Mafuta had to flee from arrives. The hippos panic and Mafuta is caught in the muddy mayhem. Will he survive?
In the final episode of the series, the drought is creating desperation for the families of the Serengeti. With the lake little more than a barren desert the hippos are in trouble, trapped in a remaining mud pool with a dangerous hippo bull. Although the elephants dug wells to save themselves from the drought, even these are running dry. Bakari leads his baboon troop to the only remaining refuge he knows – a rock kopje. Here the cool air provides some relief from the searing heat, but what Bakari really needs is water. By accident, his baby finds what they are looking for, but it won’t last for long. Then, on the horizon distant lightning brings hope. As storm clouds gather, rain drenches the plains freeing the hippos from their muddy prison and giving the elephants somewhere to bathe. As the herds fill the plains, two tiny leopard cubs are playing together, oblivious to the world outside their den, but when their careless calls alert the baboon troop, Bakari decides to teach them a lesson. But the brave cubs stand their ground and suddenly the baboons are in trouble. Nearby, Twiga, an adorable young giraffe, has just been born. As he takes his first tentative steps, he tries to control his long gangly legs. He must learn quickly, Kali is on the prowl. Can his mother’s kicks protect him from the hungry lioness? Twiga seems to have a knack for getting into trouble so his mother must keep a careful eye on him, but when an adventure with a new friend leads to more danger, will either of them make it back to their families? Elsewhere, the cheetah coalition continues to take advantage of Duma’s spectacular hunting skills. They steal his wildebeest catch and later leave him to tackle a topi alone, but when he tries to take on an eland, the greatest antelope of all, he faces kicks that can kill. Will the coalition come to his rescue, or will they leave him to his fate? On the plains, Kadogo is no longer the youngest member of the elephant herd as another new baby enters their world. It’s a moment of reverence and celebration as everyone greets the new arrival. Then, in scenes never witnessed before, a majestic herd of Great Tuskers appear, seemingly from nowhere. Among them is the newborn’s father. In an awe-inspiring moment, the tuskers stand in silence as the new father greets his son, before vanishing into the savannah once more, leaving as mysteriously as they came. Mafuta and the hippo pod return to the river only to find Magamba and the other crocodiles have laid claim to the riverbank. In comical scenes, Mafuta’s mother decides to evict them and Mafuta does his best to help. But the peace they’ve created is soon broken when the rival bull returns. Mafuta is bigger now. Do they no longer need to flee? As Mafuta’s mother and the bull share a tender moment of reconciliation, can Mafuta put an end to his own rivalry with Magamba? As all our families try to find peace, distant calls grow ever louder until they build to a cacophony. It is the sound of flamingos returning to the lake. Duma, Utani, Zalika, Kali and Bakari gather as the lake is filled with life once more. The flamingos begin their celebratory courtship dance as the land returns to a place of abundance and opportunity. From the hardest times come the richest times and so the cycle goes on and, in an ever-changing world, the story of the Serengeti continues.