Television Reviews : 'African Odyssey'

As a glimpse of scientists at work and as an argument for conservation, "African Odyssey" (8 tonight on Channels 28, 50, 15 and 24) is enlightening, even entertaining. As a piece of journalism, it isn't as successful.

The National Geographic Society sent James and John Lipscomb, a father-and-son film crew, into the Kalahari with American zoologists Mark and Delia Owens, a personable married couple whose earlier research had resulted in a best-selling book, "Cry of the Kalahari."

They return to the site of their earlier work and resume the study of their specialties, lions and brown hyenas. The film records the painstaking efforts that such research involves, including such mundane details as flying laundry to the nearest town, 100 miles away.

But it also captures their exhilaration when the Owenses succeed in attaching radio collars to recalcitrant lions, or when they come upon the dens that house the hyenas they used to know.

Then, without warning or explanation, the government of Botswana expels the Owenses. This is where the program could use more rigorous reporting. Although we're told why the Owenses believe they fell out of favor, there is no indication that the film makers independently contacted the Botswana authorities for their side of the story.

The rest of the program details the Owenses' search for a new research headquarters in Zambia. They examine one severely poached area, then finally arrive at the Eden-like North Luangwa National Park, ready to begin again.

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