“A Life Less OrdinaryBrian Jackman, Wildlife WriterBBC Wildlife Magazine
A ranger’s efforts to raise a pair of orphaned leopard cubs makes a heart-breaking tale.
Twenty years ago, John Varty, co-owner of Londolozi Game Reserve on the border of the Kruger National Park, took in a pair of six-week-old leopard cubs that had been born in a private zoo in Zimbabwe. A film was in the offing dramatizing his conservation work, and the orphans would male for some great footage. But first Varty had to find someone willing to raise the cubs until their eventual release in the wild.
My life With Leopards, by wildlife writer Fransje van Riel, tells the story of surrogate mum Graham Cooke, a young ranger at Londolozi. He soon discovers that – even though Boycat and Poepface, as he names them are adorable balls of fur – caring for cubs is no easy task.
At first they hiss at him through razor-sharp teeth. But, as the months pass, Cooke wins their trust, allowing him to enter the parallel world of Africa’s most exquisite cats.
Set in the spectacular wilderness of the South African lowveld and later in Zambia’s South 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.”
“‘Author Van Riel does a sterling job of evoking the sights and sounds of the African bush with lush descriptions, and brings readers directly into Cooke's world. This is not a story about conservation, but rather a snapshot frozen in time, illustrating a brief moment when two very different worlds touched. And I'll admit that the ending brought a tear to my eye”.” Nerine DormanIndependent Newspapers Tonight Section
“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
“No other book I know takes you so deeply into the secret world of the leopard.” Brian JackmanUK’s top safari writer
“Author Fransje van Riel gives such a vivid, detailed account of Graham’s story it’s hard to believe she wasn’t there with him.” Go Magazine
“A Wild Read.Sarenda Eloff-VorsterGood Housekeeping, SA
This is the story of Boycat and Poepface. Born in a zoo in Zimbabwe, the six-week-old leopards arrive at the Londolozi private game reserve in the Kruger National Park and ranger Graham Cooke. 22, is tasked with their care.
It tells how he gains their trust before he starts to prepare them for release into the wild.”
“…fascinating read.” Africa Geographic Magazine
“My Life with Leopards is the incredible and unique story of a heart-rending bond between a person and two super predators. Moving, dramatic, powerful and at times infinitely funny, the story allows the reader a unique insight into an adventure of a lifetime and the breath-taking relationship Graham Cooke shared with the incredible big cats.” Africa Geographic Online Blog
“Fransje tells the tale in such detail that it sometimes feels as if she was there with Graham and the leopards. She explains, however, that it took hundreds upon hundreds of emails and hours of interviews to get all the detail out of Graham, a guarded man to say the least. But she succeeded greatly and when you read this fascinating tale, you’ll be drawn in to experience the process of hand-rearing these animals as if you were there yourself.” Getaway Magazine Online Blog
“My Life With Leopards is a great read, it is powerful story of a bond between human and animal and the trust they share. The story is filled with highs, lows, humor and “wow” moments, it will leave you with a unique perspective on an experience that only a few individuals have been blessed with. It is also a reminder that nature is amazing and at times very unforgiving, it truly chooses no favorites.Purr and Roar Online Review
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.
My Life With Leopards Graham Cooke’s Story is on my Favorite Cat Themed books list and is available online from Amazon.com in traditional Paperback or for Kindle. If you love the big cats, Leopards and wildlife be sure to pick this book up.”
“… Van Riel, author of The Crowing of the Roosters and Life with Darwin and Other Baboons, says when she saw photos of Graham with the cubs she ‘knew I had to tell this story in book form”. The result is a welcome addition to the fine tradition of wildlife writing pioneered by authors such as George and Joy Adamson…” Fiona McCleodLowveld Living, SA
“If sometimes you feel as though you want to run off and work in bush and escape urban life this book is a great compromise. The beautifully written and 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
Arguably the most poignant theme of this book is how a deep bond develops between two wholly unrelated species and that love in its most natural form knows no boundaries, remaining an unparalleled wonder that exists between life’s many creatures.
Graham Cooke's story told through Fransje van Riel's words is an amazing story of courage, love, triumph, and sadness as he rears two amazing leopard cubs to re-wild back into the plains of Africa. Heartfelt and emotional, this book will make you smile and touch your heart. The writing will make you feel like you're in the heart of Africa. Anyone with interest in big cats and a love of wildlife should read this book.”
“Graham Cooke’s strong bond with two leopards greatly touched me and following their journey to the end, I felt as though I knew these brave little leopards myself which evoked powerful emotions. Beautifully told, with a message of importance: that we must never take anything we love for granted.” Sibel HodgeInternational bestselling author
“Through reading journals Graham wrote during his year with Boycat and Poepface, Fransje van Riel gives readers invaluable insight into the young life stages of these big cats, as well as a heartfelt account of Graham’s emotional journey.Caroline KingGrocott’s Mail newspaper
All written in the first person, few details are spared and you’ll see the story unfold in almost film-like detail.”