My Life with Leopards: A zoological memoir filled with love, loss and heartbreak (Paperback)
'No other book I know takes you so deeply into the secret world of the leopard' - Brian Jackman, safari writer
In 1993, game ranger Graham Cooke had the opportunity to parent two six-week-old leopard cubs. Establishing himself and his charges in a small, tented camp in the South African bush, Graham set about his task of habituating the cubs to the dangers of the wild, in preparation for their eventual release.
But first he had to gain the young leopards' trust. Boycat, the slightly bigger male cub, proved to be an easy-going character, and after initial reservations he soon settled in. However, his sister, Poepface, was less easily swayed. Her complex character and strong reservations persisted, despite Graham's efforts to win her trust. Eventually, Poepface relented, and so began a love story; a powerful bond.
When, a year later, Graham prepared the cubs for their release into the remote South Luangwa Valley, he knew it was the beginning of the end. Joining the cubs on daily walks to familiarise them with their new home, Graham knew that soon it would be time to let go.
Set in both in the bushveld of South Africa and the wilderness that is the South Luangwa Valley, My Life with Leopards is a story interwoven with love, loss, danger and heartbreak.Praise for My Life with Leopards:
'Set in the spectacular wilderness of the South African lowveld and later in Zambia's Luangwa Valley - both vividly portrayed - this is as poignant a tale of unrequited love as you are ever likely to read. And, like the best animal stories, it tugs at the heartstrings without ever descending into anthropomorphism' - BBC Wildlife Magazine
'This compelling story is a 'must-read' for anyone who loves nature and the challenges of helping two young leopards get back to their wild world. Well-written, entertaining and emotional; to be enjoyed' - Richard Leakey
'I found myself turning the pages wanting to know what was coming next, and I admit at times getting choked up and teary eyed. Having been fortunate enough to have visited the South Luangwa Valley, many years after this story takes place, I wondered if any of the Leopards I saw there were the descendants of Graham's Poepface' - Purr and Roar Online Review
If sometimes you feel as though you want to run off and work in the bush and escape urban life this book is a great compromise. The beautifully written moments of these little leopards' lives are detailed to make one feel as though you are in the camp with them, walking along a thorny path of Londolozi''s bushveld - Life In Balance Magazine
Fransje van Riel was born in The Netherlands and lived there and in the UK before settling in South Africa. Now living in Cape Town, she supports several animal-related projects, and her other books include Life with Darwin - and Other Baboons. My Life with Leopards is her third book.