My Life With Leopards: Graham Cooke's Story
Fransje van Riel

My Life With Leopards: Graham Cooke's Story

When two six-week old leopard cubs arrive at a private game reserve in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province, 22-year-old game ranger Graham Cooke is thrown into the deep end as he takes over the parenting role of the two young animals. Essentially a love story, My Life With Leopards is a highly personal story that describes Graham’s efforts to gain the two leopards’ trust and guide them through cubhood in the heart of the African bush.

Unlike most parents, however, Graham has to prepare his charges for a life that is fraught with the constant threat of danger. Having to compete for food and territory with lions, hyenas and other leopards, his two cubs have to learn the ways of the wild before they can fulfil their ultimate role as one of Africa’s most proficient killers. When after a year the cubs are ready to be released in the Zambian wilderness, Graham has to face the hardest task yet: to leave the cubs to make their own decisions, while realising that he is no longer able to prevent their fate …

From the thick South African bush to the open savannahs of Kenya’s Masai Mara and the floodplains of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, My Life With Leopards is an emotive and adventure-packed account of a man’s astonishing relationship with two very special leopards.

Book Details:

  • Author: Fransje van Riel
  • Published Year: 2012
  • Rights Sold
    • Africa: Penguin

Fransje van Riel

Fransje van Riel was born in Holland but moved to the East Sussex countryside, where she attended high school in the small village of Forest Row. Upon her return to The Netherlands, she embarked on a career in the airline industry, which saw her flying to all corners of the world, including East Africa and which rekindled a childhood passion for nature and wild animals. Unable to resist Africa's beckoning calls, Fransje eventually resigned as Royal cabin attendant for KLM to settle in South Africa, where she pursued a career in writing.After covering numerous travel and wildlife related sto...
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Book Reviews

  • "Anyone who has read Joy Adamson's books will rekindle some of that awe of experiencing life in the company of our big cats. Graham Cooke's tale is no less engaging, as written as a first-person account by Fransje van Riel. ...From the start it is clear that over a year Cooke formed a very close bond with his charges, and it's this emotional entanglement that makes the story all the more heart-rending. ...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....I'll admit that the ending brought a tear to my eye."
    Nerine Dorman, author and editor
  • "vividly told, beautifully written with lovely descriptions."
    Andre Eva Bosch, author and journalist
  • "Beautifully told, i felt i was carried along with every step of their  journey to the end and grew to know these brave young leopards and the game ranger who cared and nurtured for them with such passion and love. Containing fabulous photographs picturing the leopards journey from the wilds of South Africa to Zambia, this is a must have read for all those who love Africa ...it's beauty, it's wildlife and it's dangers. "
    Ian Gibbo, Amazon 5*
  • "a must-read for any wildlife enthusiast."
    Adel Groenewald
  • "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 Jackman
  • "Set in the spectacular wilderness of the South African lowveld and later in Zambia’s 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."
    Brian Jackman , BBC Wildlife Magazine
  • "Animal lovers will delight in the antics of these kitties while pondering the ethical dilemmas that the situation naturally brings up. While I loved each cat's personality endearing, what I found fascinating was the aspect of "Empty nest syndrome" that plagued Cooke as the leopards' release date drew nearer.  "
    Jeimy Gonzalez - Educator