LAST OF THE FREE by Gareth Patterson


Email this review


 A rough-hewn, campfireside tale from Patterson (The Lions' Legacy, not reviewed) about his days with three orphaned lion cubs and his efforts to return them to the African wild. The three cubs came into the care of George Adamson, of Born Free fame and a hero of Patterson's, in 1988. Less than a year later, Adamson was killed by bandits, and the little creatures were transferred into Patterson's hands. He spirited them off to his field station, the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, along the border of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Patterson then set about familiarizing the lions with their new surroundings and finding them opportunities to stalk and hunt. The core of the book is given over mostly to the lions' lazy days afield: marking this bush and that, naps in the shade, visits to the water hole, punctuated by the explosive mayhem of getting dinner on the table--powerful stuff, even when it's only an appetizer of warthog. Patterson also sneaks in fascinating material on scorpion bites, the toxicology of the Bushman hunter, the fate of the elephant (their numbers halved in the last 20 years, thanks to the AK-47), and what it feels like to be on the business end of a lion charge. All is not untroubled in paradise: poachers, game hunters, and ranchers who have lost cattle to lions are taking a massive toll on the lion population, and Patterson spends much of his time working to thwart their designs on the beasts. The story is told in a coarsely romantic voice (the mother of the cubs is ``the lioness with no name''; Patterson lived in ``the midst of the lion's ancient world'') that, while pleasing enough, might have stood some reining in. Through it all emerges a character deeply in love with his charges, someone whose passion may well ensure that they are not the last of the free great predators. (color photos)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13109-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995