Through a lioness’s eyes

Patterson's love for wild shines through in story

The lion cub snatches up the monitor lizard in her jaws – and the big lizard sinks its teeth into the cub’s tongue, and doesn’t let go.
Author Gareth Patterson describes this comically painful encounter in his new book Born to be Free, through the eyes of Rafiki the lioness. It’s an apt approach because, like his mentor, the famous Baba ya Simba or Father of the Lions George Adamson, Patterson immerses himself completely in the world of his charges.
Rafiki eventually shakes the lizard loose but never hunts monitors again.
It’s one of several vivid little episodes that could only have been written by a lion – or a human who really knows and loves lions.
There are others like it involving a startled elephant calf, a bumptuous guinea fowl, a clumsy baboon, a reflective rain puddle, a ferocious leopard and bands of wild lions, some lordly and benign, some as mean as poison.
Rafiki describes how she and her two siblings are orphaned, how they come to settle with Adamson at his Campi ya Simba in Kora Game Reserve in Kenya, and how they were “orphaned again” and moved south to Patterson’s rewilding camp Tawana in Botswana.
Born to be Free is told in simple language ideal for children and it is supported by unusual colour photographs. It’s set within the massive context of wilderness and the pressures facing the realm of the lion. It’s a slight tale but it has the real feel of Africa.
● Born to be Free by Gareth Patterson is published by Jacana and retails for R145.

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