“The text is accompanied by Scott’s award winning photography testifying to the fact that he was able to track down this elusive member of the Big Five with his lens as well as with words.”

 

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

Leopards are not normally regarded as the high point of Africa’s Big Five – tourists would infinitely prefer to see lions and elephants. Hunters singled out these species not because of their size, but because of the danger and difficulty involved in bringing them down when hunted on foot. This has now been extended to game tracked by jeep.

Jonathan Scott of Big Cat Diaries fame and his wife Angela have put together The Leopard’s Tale which is a story of hide and seek with a female leopard and her cubs. For Scott, the leopard was the big cat that he most wanted to see in Masai Mara – lions were all too obvious. Chui, Swahili for leopard, is the name given to the female and her cubs were known as Dark and Light. Scott stalks Chui patiently detailing her difficulties and her triumphs. Her behaviour with the cubs. how she teaches them to hunt and takes them away from impending danger like baboons and hyenas. Chui is a mistress of camouflage – which is why the book begins with a snippet from Rudyard Kipling’s How the Leopard Got Its Spots – and the book is a tribute to Scott’s patient observation.

He also observes that jeeps are not always a big cat’s best friend. If the driver is not sensitive, the leopard may be provoked into attacking as happened once to a woman photographer, mercifully without overtly disastrous circumstances. The book originally came out in 1985 – since then we have had episodes like a lion shot down by a dentist, though leopards seem to have escaped headlines.

Chui was the first of the leopards Scott observed – the later ones became stars of Big Cat Diaries. The text is accompanied by Scott’s award winning photography testifying to the fact that he was able to track down this elusive member of the Big Five with his lens as well as with words. The result is a fascinating read for wildlife lovers.

 

Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 28th November 2017

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Anjana Basu