By Jess Handley

When we are young, many of us dream of having a wild, exotic animal as a pet; or we simply pretended that the family cat was a lion or jungle tiger. For ranger Graham Cooke, this was a reality. My Life with Leopards, written by Fransje Van Riel retells the remarkable journey of two six week old leopard cubs born in captivity in Zimbabwe who are taken to Londolozi private game reserve in Mpumalanga, where a young ranger Graham Cooke is assigned to their care.


After weeks of patience and attempts to understand their behaviour, the young leopards learn to accept Graham as their protector, which lead to the formation of an extraordinary bond between the young animals and the ranger. After a year of care, Graham faces his hardest task; setting the two leopards free back into the wilderness where they belong, where he is unable to protect them and shelter them from the dangers of the bush.


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.
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.

First Published in August 2012 by Penguin books, My Life with Leopards is available as an e-book or a softcover from various retailers.
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ISBN: 9780143530299