The Soul of a Lion: Reflections of a Life Lived with Animals is a must-read for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
Willie’s father, known to everyone as Oom Lapies, was appointed as the information officer at The Kruger National Park in 1952, when Willie was just eight years old, and Willie’s love for animals and the bush was ignited.
Willie Labuschagne relates many of his adventures and experiences throughout the book, from spending time on a diamond mining barge in Namibia to helping carve out the Otter Trail in the Tsitsikamma Forest to travelling to all the major national parks in Africa.
He recounts his ground-breaking research on the desert cheetah’s behaviour and ecology to becoming an internationally respected consultant on environmental and wildlife-related issues, he holds the reader’s attention with all the skills of the master storyteller.
The numerous occasions when Willie faced potentially life-threatening situations with wild animals are vividly recounted, many of them wryly humorous while others evoke deep emotion. But not all animal encounters took place in the wild. A significant and poignant encounter that further inspired Willie’s approach to conservation occurred when, during his time as director of the Johannesburg Zoo, he and his family hand-raised a number of new-born wild animals, including lions and a bear cub. All the animals were then re-homed into the Zoo once big enough to fend for themselves.
Willies story is of a road less travelled, and an incredible insight into conservation in South Africa and the role we all have to play in protecting our planet for future generations.