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The Battle at Cruger
David Budzinski, a tourist from Texas, has just recorded a stunning scene straight out of a wildlife documentary. A small pride of lions and a crocodile have pinned down a cape buffalo calf, prompting an angry herd of buffalo to fight off the predators and save the babe. A fellow traveler remarks, "You could sell that video!"
After returning home, Mr. Budzinski tried, but National Geographic and Animal Planet were not interested. Only after the battle - alternately terrifying and heart-warming - became one of the most popular videos in YouTube's history did the buyers come calling. Last summer the National Geographic Channel purchased the television rights to the video, and on Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern time, it will devote an hour to a documentary deconstructing the drama.
"We look at YouTube too, just like everybody else," said Michael Cascio, the senior vice president for special programming at the National Geographic Channel.
Several television series - including ABC's summer show "i-Caught," CW's short-lived "Online Nation" and CNN Headline News's "News to Me" - have tried to translate the Internet's user-generated content to television. In fact, "i-Caught" featured a report on the Kruger video.
But "Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger" is believed to be the first hourlong documentary to be inspired by a YouTube clip.
The quality of Mr. Budzinski's video contradicts the increasingly outdated dog-on-a-skateboard stereotype of YouTube. The site, which had more than 3.4 billion video views in February, now serves up seemingly every type of video in existence. Still, the wildlife tug of war stands out. National Geographic screens nature videos every day, "and this is an incredible sequence by any stretch of the imagination," Mr. Cascio said.
Indeed, the producers found that it was rather easy to fill an hour talking about the short video. The documentary dissects the primal behavior of the animals and answers a question that aspiring videographers have asked: how did he get that shot?
The "battle" happened in September 2004, during Mr. Budzinski's first visit to Africa, at the Kruger National Park in the northeastern corner of South Africa. Mr. Budzinski, who works as a supply manager for Chevron in Houston, was riding in the back of a sport utility vehicle with his wife, two other tourists and a tour guide. The guide, spotting lions sunning themselves by a watering hole near where a herd of buffalo was walking by, decided to see what would happen. Before long the lions attacked the herd, singling out a buffalo calf and overwhelming it by the water's edge. By the time a crocodile had entered the fierce fight, Mr. Budzinski said, he was thinking about turning the camera off.
"I didn't want to see a bloody mess," he said in an interview.
But then the story shifted. On the video the hissing of crocodiles and the snarling of lions subsides. The herd of buffalo returns in force to surround the lions and protect the offspring. Adhering to the short-form spirit of YouTube, the complete tale concludes in slightly more than eight minutes.
"It's a feel-good story," Mr. Budzinski said. "It's like watching a Disney story."
Frank Watts, the safari guide, compared the experience to a meteorite's hitting Earth. "They probably hit Earth quite regularly, but nobody sees them, and no one photographs it," he says in the documentary. "I don't know of anybody who's ever seen anything like this before."
Sensing they had just witnessed something special, Jason Schlosberg, another member of the safari group, asked Mr. Budzinski for a copy of the video. Mr. Budzinski tried unsuccessfully to sell it to television networks. "They all told us the same thing - they don't accept any footage from amateurs," he said.
The "Battle at Kruger" documentary will air on the National Geographic Channel at 9pm EST.
The documentary, officially titled "Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger", will go behind-the-scenes of the YouTube phenomenon that chronicles an epic battle in the safari in South Africa.
Jason Schlosberg and David Budzinski were in South Africa's Kruger National Park when they witnessed and videotaped a battle between a herd of water buffalo, a tribe of lions, and two crocodiles.
A water buffalo walked close to a tribe of lions, when the lions chased after them, catching a water buffalo calf. The pride of lions swarmed the calf as they tried to retrieve it from the lake in which it slipped. As they prepared to carry the calf out of the water, two crocodiles emerged from the water and attacked the calf. The lions and crocodiles began to fight over the feast, but the lions won.
As soon as the lions take the calf out of the lake, a massive herd of water buffalo returned to the plain and attempted to get their calf back.
One water buffalo itched in and tossed a lion at least 10 feet in the air, starting a stampede that eventually forced the lions away.
The calf, who was miraculously still alive, got up and walked back into the herd.
The behind-the-scenes of the eyewitness account will be featured in the documentary on the National Geographic Channel.