Passionate environmentalist and researcher Gareth Patterson will be releasing his much anticipated autobiography later this year. Animaltalk caught up with Gareth to find out more about his work with Africa’s king of beasts and why these majestic cats are facing extinction.
As a youngster did you ever envision your life to take this road?
Yes, I think I always knew from a young age where my life path might take me. I was passionate about wildlife as I grew up in West and East Africa. I devoured books about wildlife, and aged about 12 years in Malawi, I even applied for the job of game warden of a newly created wildlife reserve there! From a young age, I always felt drawn to the lion. No surprise that I was born a Leo to a Leo mother!
Most people don’t know that the African lion is facing extinction. How serious is this?
Very serious indeed. When I first began working for the lion in the early 1980s, it was estimated that the continental population exceeded some 250,000. Today it is estimated that only 15,000 to 20,000 lions exist in the African wild. Despite this 90% drop in numbers, we still allow international trophy hunters to kill, yearly, some 500 wild lions (and I am not including the hundreds of captive lions being killed annually in South Africa). Approximately 50% of these international trophy hunters are from North America, and 40% are from European Union countries. If these countries implemented a ban on the import of lion trophies, this would go an enormous way for us in Africa to try and recover Africa’s lion population.
What is one important life lesson you have learned from your work with these amazing cats?
I live by the adage of ‘never give up’. And we cannot give up on the lion, which is the very symbol of our continent. What would Africa be, and indeed spiritually as well, without the lion?
What can we expect in your autobiography releasing later this year?
I am very excited that my autobiography, My Lion’s Heart, is being published by Tracey McDonald Publishers later this year. It is my 10th book, and probably the most important. The book takes the reader on the journey of my ‘lion life’, from growing up in West and East Africa, to my young adulthood studying lions in Botswana, to the time I worked with George Adamson of Born Free fame, and later rescued his last lion orphans, and onwards through to this day. Interlaced throughout the book is a powerful message for the lion and all wildlife of this wonderful, but often sad, continent.
Text: Gina Hertoog, Photography: Deborah Kolb
This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Animaltalk. For subscription details visit Coolmags.com