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North Side woman's video captures clash between lions, hyenas

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 6:31 p.m.
Liz (Bogus) Storey
Val Bogus' sister, Liz (Bogus) Storey, shot still photos while Bogus was shooting video of lions and hyenas devouring a wildebeest in Botswana.
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The Bogus family traveled to Botswana in 2011. Here they are seen at the Mombo Camp with their guide Sefo; from left Val Bogus, Liz (Bogus) Storey, Elaine Bogus and Don Bogus

You know something special is happening when your safari guide, who regularly witnesses wild animals in action, gets very excited, says North Side resident Valerie Bogus.

She and her fellow tourists were riding in their Land Rover near dusk in a Botswana safari exploration, when they came upon a stunning scene: Three male lions were tearing into a wildebeest they'd caught, while a pack of noisy hyenas surrounded them and seemed to taunt the larger lions like schoolyard bullies. In a nine-minute scene posted on YouTube — which will air at 10 p.m. Nov. 16 on the Nat Geo Wild channel's “Caught in the Act” show — the hyenas and lions create a fascinating and often-amusing scene. The interaction Bogus observed is rare, because usually carnivores eat their kills in a more secluded area.

“I think the fact that it was all out in the open — normally when you're seeing these events go down, it's usually covered under a tree,” says Bogus, 29, who grew up in Peters.

“You can hear all the sounds,” she says. The hyenas “were basically taunting the last lion,” as if to say “Go! Go! I dare you,” she says.

Bogus took her video, which has attracted more than 756,000 views on YouTube, while taking an African-wildlife vacation in 2011 at Botswana's Mombo Camp through Wilderness Safaris. She and her family — parents Don and Elaine Bogus of Williamsburg, Va., and sister Liz Storey of San Francisco — stayed in a camp with wooden huts on 3-foot-high wooden platforms.

“I would wake up in the middle of the nights to hippos around the tents,” Bogus says.

She posted the video on YouTube in January 2012, and a representative with “Caught in the Act” contacted her this year, and offered to use the video on the show, which captures remarkable spontaneous moments in the animal world.

That morning was very foggy, after a surprise thunderstorm the night before, Bogus says. The view later in the day, when her group stumbled upon the scene with lions and hyenas, was remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime.

“In the moment, it literally took your breath away,” she says. Bogus works from home doing market research for Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass. “You didn't know what was going to happen ... and you don't want to make any movements in the Land Rover” and scare off the animals and ruin the moment.

“What I love about the videos is that you can slowly see in the background all the hyenas and vultures ... slowly coming in over time and creating this huge scene around this wildebeest,” Bogus says.

“When we were watching this hyena line battle, it's ... this breathless moment I will remember forever.”

The experience changed Bogus' perspective on wildlife, and reminded her of the importance of protecting the habitat.

Ashley Hoppin, executive producer of National Geographic WILD, says that producers chose Bogus' video because “she had great timing and great instincts to capture an amazing event on tape while on safari in Africa: hyenas pushing lions off of a carcass.”

“As she says, ‘You never know,' ” Hoppin says in a written statement. “She brings her raw, real material alive through her good storytelling. Hard-to-beat fascinating action couples with enlightening information.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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