A review by Brenda Daniels
My Lion’s Heart is the very moving account of author Gareth Patterson’s work with lions in Africa. Whilst having worked with different lion prides, Gareth in this book details his work primarily with the Adamson lion orphans, Batian, Furaha and Rafiki.
More than lions, however, Gareth also discusses the African elephant and covers decades of his work with wildlife in Africa, from the 1980s to present day.
As well as an author (My Lion’s Heart is Patterson’s tenth book), Gareth has contributed to a number of wildlife documentaries and films and is an environmentalist and wildlife researcher. He worked with George Adamson of Born Free fame.
Indeed, in My Lion’s Heart Gareth prefaces his work with an urgent call for “wildlife warriors” to continue the work of Adamson and of other well-known environmentalists. Gareth has certainly taken his own call to heart; in My Lion’s Heart he clearly highlights the problems caused by trophy hunting, the canned lion hunting industry and poaching.
He also explains the importance of preventing the inbreeding and culling of “surplus” lions, factors that often occur in fenced reserves.
But it is Gareth’s passionate and touchingly close relationship with the three lion orphans (his “children”) mentioned above that speaks volumes. It really lays bare the plight of the African lion and has the potential to change people’s mind-sets in favour of the lion. It certainly changed mine.
Orphaned very young, Batian, Furaha and Rafiki bonded with Gareth who became their “father and mother”. Gareth tells the amazing story of how he lived in the Tuli bush with these lions, taught them to hunt, watched them mate and give birth to young, treated their injuries after a territorial dispute and tragically heard of Batian’s death.
When reading My Lion’s Heart I was initially a little dubious about Gareth’s very independent approach to his work. I was affronted by his negative comments about South Africa, the country in which he now resides. And I doubted Gareth’s “spiritual” connection with the lion.
However, Gareth’s own connection with animals cannot be disputed and I agree with his contention that humans have lost touch with wildlife and the natural world.
As well as educating his readers with his work, I think Gareth’s deeply relational approach, achieved at an enormous price to his own mental and physical health, could help begin to reverse the 90 per cent continental decline of the African lion. Thanks to My Lion’s Heart I will follow the lion’s progress with great interest.
My Lion’s Heart is published by Tracey McDonald Publishers, www.traceymcdonaldpublishers.com.
My Lion’s Heart is available at all leading book stores. The recommended retail price is R265.