Episode available within Canada only.

We used to think the wilderness was ruled by males – the lion “king of beasts,” the mighty bull elephant, and the large imposing baboon male.

But this documentary journeys to the African savannahs to reveal a very different story. 

Mommy Wildest is a compelling, intimate portrait of three animal families where it’s the females that rule and mother who knows best. We enter the lives of fierce lion sisters, majestic elephant grandmothers, and regal baboon mothers who form sisterhoods to raise their families.

baboons grooming

Lions, elephants, and baboons are matriarchies that are female-centric in different ways, for different reasons.

Lion mothers form ‘daycare centres’ to nurse their young and sisters band together to hunt for their families. It’s not the male who’s the bread-winner — it’s the female. Elephants are led by the eldest female who knows all the watering holes and strategies for survival. Her age and memory of how to survive the long dry season is key in a climate plagued by drought. Baboons have a female royal family where, surprisingly, it’s the youngest female who ascends to the throne.

FROM THE FILM: Meet a royal family of baboons.

Mommy Wildest is an intimate story – the ”days of our lives” of these families, with individual characters whose challenges we follow: the Ol Dikidiki pride of lionesses raising their 11 cubs; Donatella, the elephant grandmother who leads her family to safety from gunshots shielding them from danger, and bay Rijeka, the baboon princess surrounded by her sisters.

Mommy Wildest also follows the leading scientists in their field who’ve been asking: Why did these three societies evolve into matriarchies?  What can humans learn from them? 

‘Living with lions is beautiful,’ Says Maasai Warrior
A Group of BFF’s Leads To A Healthier, Longer Life
BC Radio: Female-led animal families smash the patriarchy

Dr. Craig Packer IS the lion king. He’s the foremost lion expert in the world and has been studying lions for more than 40 years. In this film, he travels to Maasai Mara to visit one of the richest concentrations of lions left in the world, and to meet the Ol Dikidiki pride. It was Dr. Packer who determined why lionesses bond together in sisterhoods –it’s to defend against roving males who would kill their cubs and take over the pride. By working together, the sisters can defend against the much stronger male. 

Dr. George Wittemyer is a world leader in elephant study. His work on orphaned elephants who were robbed of their mother through poaching is ground-breaking. It’s changed how we understand the complex and nuanced world of elephant societies.

Drs. Jeanne Altmann, Susan Alberts, and Elizabeth Archie lead the Amboseli Baboon Research Project which is one of the longest-running primate studies in the world. Their work on mother-infant relations has changed the way we see primates. 

elephant with young

Filmed in Kenya, the documentary features spectacular cinematography and dramatic moments as it transports us into the heart of three families where the females shape the society...all in different ways.

An egalitarian sisterhood of lions who defends and hands down their territory to their daughters.

A congress of elephant grandmothers who pass down critical wisdom to their daughters for the sake of everyone's survival.

And a strict aristocracy of baboons that maintains order in a harsh landscape.

A Wise Granny Is The Key To A Happy Family
The ‘Lion King’: Does He Really Deserve The Title?

Three sisterhoods of the savannah, where the mothers rule, and the daughters inherit the wilderness.

Credits (Click to expand)

Directed by
Mark Starowicz
Caitlin Starowicz

Written by
Mark Starowicz
Caitlin Starowicz

Executive Producers
Mark Starowicz
George Flak

Produced by
Caitlin Starowicz

Wildlife Film Consultant
Caroline Underwood

Tony Coleman

Director of Photography
Joshua See

Original Music Composed by
Varouje Hagopian

Line Producers
Diana Warmé

Production Executive
Linda Stregger

Production Manager
Diana Warmé

Production Consultant
Louise Ferguson

Sound Recordist
Caitlin Starowicz

Production Assistant
Mitchell Heron

Transcriptions by
Adrienne Smith
Chris Warren
Sasha Hartmann
Farzam Abdi

Assistant Editor
Karen Shopsowitz
Phil Prieur

Sound Editor
Alan Geldart

Foley Artist
Tim O'Connell

Foley Recordist
Kevin Shultz

Re-recording Mixer
Stephan Traub

Video Post Producer
Caitlin Starowicz

Online Editor
Colin Campbell

Mila Patriki

Ike Murphy

Susan Reisler, Media Profile

Production Accountants
Andre Czernohorsky
Kudlow & McCann

Legal Counsel
Willa Marcus

Front Row Insurance

Special Thanks
Amboseli Baboon Research Project 
Elephant Watch Camp
Gamewatchers Safaris
Hans-Georg Michna
Mara Lion Project
Save The Elephants
Sir Iain Douglas-Hamilton
Viewfinders Ltd.
Produced with the participation of Canadian Media Fund

Produced with the participation of Rogers Documentary Fund

Produced with the participation of The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit

Ontario Film and Television Tax Credits

Produced by
Produced by Grand Passage Media Inc., ©MW Project Inc.

General Manager, Programming
Sally Catto

Executive Director, Unscripted Content
Jennifer Dettman

Senior Director, Documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

Director of Production, Unscripted Content
Alexandra Lane

Executive in Charge of Production
Sue Dando

Director of Finance, Unscripted Content
Julie Lawlor

The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki
Produced by
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Produced in association with
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

The Wild Canadian Year

Wild Canadian Year

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From CBC Kids

The Nature of Thingies