The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography

I am really excited to start off my recommended summer reading with The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography by Jonathan Scott who you may know as one of the presenters of BBC’s popular TV series Big Cat Diary, the long time running nature show that followed the lives of Africa’s big cats in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

I have always had an inherent love for the big cats and Africa, as a child I wanted nothing more than to see in person all that I had read about or had seen on TV. While I was still dreaming of Africa (I wouldn’t take my first trip through Kenya and Tanzania until the late 90’s) Jonathan Scott had already been on a path that would change his life forever, a path that would bind his heart and soul permanently to a continent that had called to him since childhood.

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Big Cat Diary aired from 1996 to 2008 leaving a lasting impression on wildlife lovers from all over the world. It gave the viewer an intimate look into the lives and social structure of lions, leopards and cheetahs like never seen before creating an emotional connection between the average person at home and Africa’s most iconic and beautiful animals. Whether or not you have seen the TV series, if you love the big cats and have ever wondered what life was like behind the lens for a wildlife photographer, you will most definitely enjoy reading The Big Cat Man.

Jonathan provides a fascinating and candid look at his life including his childhood, travels, his time in Africa, his accomplishments as a wildlife artist and photographer, TV show presenter and, as an advocate for the animals he spent years filming and photographing. He talks about the success and the challenges, both personal and professional, encountered along the way as well as the one event that would change everything for the better – meeting his wife and partner, Angela Scott, who equally shared his passion for Africa and its wildlife.

The Big Cat Man is full of interesting and inspirational accounts about his experiences with wildlife, including the time spent with the feline characters from Big Cat Diary and wild dogs. In addition there are stories of formidable sea lions, that weigh twice as much and are longer than a male lion, from Jonathan and Angela’s trip to Antarctica.  Accompanying the writing are many wonderful photographs as well as superb wildlife illustrations that appear like little treasures throughout the book.

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Jonathan Scott with Kike the Cheetah – Image © BBC Big Cat Live

The book also touches on some of the harsh realities facing wildlife, as much has changed since Jonathan took his first his overland journey through Africa many years ago. Lion and cheetah numbers have dropped to the point where their future is questionable (there are estimated between 15,000-20,000 Lions and about 7,000 cheetahs left in all of Africa), and poaching, poisoning, illegal wildlife trade, hunting, animal agriculture, the growing human population, corruption and even development threaten wildlife. All odds seem stacked against the animals and the environment, yet Jonathan says that despite this “you cannot give up hope”. The key is to act now while we still can.

There is a lot to take away from this book including the message that the journey is just as important as where we ultimately end up and, the risks we take in order to pursue our dreams and what we love, are worth it.

The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography is part of my Recommended Reading List and can be purchased at online retailers like Amazon.

For more on Jonathan and Angela Scott, be sure to visit: Big cat people. They can also be followed on Instagram @thebigcatpeople or Facebook @JonathanAngelaScott

Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit, co-owned by BBC Worldwide and the Natural History Museum, is a competition that showcases the best of the best when it comes to nature and wildlife photography. For a second year, the exhibit is being shown at the ROM in Toronto and I made sure to stop by this past weekend before it closes on March 22.

Last years exhibit was pretty spectacular and this years did not disappoint with photographers of all ages and skill levels from around the world showcasing their talents.

Some photos make an impact simply because they are visually stunning and others because they also relay a message, reflect the times we live in or show us where we may be headed. There are too many to mention here, but I will narrow down a few of my favorites starting with the Grand title winner Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols and his ethereal black and white piece The Last Great Picture.

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014, Grand title winner, Black and White, Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols, USA The last great pictureImage © Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols

Taken in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, 5 Lionesses part of the Vumbi pride are captured as they lay on a rocky outcrop called a Kopje resting with their cubs, exhausted after having driven off the prides two males.”  What makes this image even more poignant is that it would be the last time he would photograph them all together. A few months later he learned that they had ventured outside the park and that three of the five females had been killed.

Next is Finalist David Lloyd with his photo The enchanted woodland and I have to say the combination of Leopard and Yellow fever tree is captivating. Taken in Kenya’s Lake Nukuru National Park this is a perfectly timed photo of a Leopard looking as if he was just waiting to be photographed.

Among the finalists in the youth category I picked The watchful cheetah by Leon Petrinos ‘You can tell the animal’s feelings from the look in the eye, the way the fur lies and how the ears move,’ says Leon. He particularly likes portraits, he says, because ‘the animal’s feelings talk to you’.

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014, Finalist, The Watchful Cheetah – Image © Leon Petrinos, Greece

Vanishing lions taken in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve by Skye Meaker another finalist in the youth category, gives us a picture with a strong message behind it. ‘I want the picture to raise awareness that lions are a vulnerable species,’ he says. ‘To me, this picture conveys the feeling that lions are fading from Africa.’  With fewer than 25,000 Lions estimated to be left across the continent, this young photography doesn’t realize how accurate his statement is.

Special Award: Wildlife Photojournalist of the year went to Brent Stirton from South Africa for his portfolio on how the lives of Lions are linked to humans in Bred to be killed which also highlights the practice of canned hunting. Hopefully having this appalling industry exposed through a mainstream exhibit will show thousands of people why the world has rallied to fight against it.

From the World in Our Hands category one of my all time favorites and finalist, Hollywood Cougar by photographer Steve Winter.

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Finalist 2014, World in our Hands, Steve Winter, USA,  Hollywood Cougar – Image © Steve Winter

For more award-winning images check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit online or in person when it comes to your city.

Lions And Cheetahs

I was looking at some pictures taken in the Serengeti on my first trip to Africa. They were shot with a crappy point and shoot camera, no fancy zoom lens, but looking back at them now I don’t think that matters. These were the first big cats I would see in the wild, and also the first images of the big cats that I would take. The moments represented would remain burned into my memory.

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Cheetah mom and 5 cubs trailing along behind her

I remember smiling ear to ear when this Cheetah mom crossed the road in front of our vehicle. I was so excited that I let out a squeal of joy but was quickly and politely told to  be quiet, my safari etiquette vastly improved since then. Mom walked passed us as if we weren’t there and her 5 cubs pranced by, their innocent and curious expression holding all of us captive.

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Collard Lioness on rock

This hazy image is of one of my first Lions. This Lioness sat calmly on a rock turning only once to glance our way revealing a thick brown collar around her neck. She was one cool, regal cat. Although the photo is not ideal, at the time I didn’t care because what I saw was better than what any camera could capture. I remember being intrigued about the collar and wondered if it bothered her as it seemed cumbersome.

Africa has changed much since I first visited, as have my photographs (thankfully). These pictures are a marker of a time when there were no traffic jams in the Serengeti and Cheetah and Lion numbers were seemingly endless.

Fun Feline Friday! Sing It, Wear It, Sleep It

Well, it’s Friday and if that’s not enough to make your day how about some Fun Feline Finds?

Lets start off with a video featuring a great 80’s tune, a sweet cat (mandatory) and super talented kid. I found this a while ago and absolutely LOVE it, it’s happy, fun, CaTchy, well done and mandatory silly.  This is from who have an obvious flair for good marketing and use of cats.

Click on the link below to see Sing It Kitty!Cat Video, Sing It Kitty, UK. adverstising, cat commercial. UK

If you are feeling inspired, you can even make your own video solo or with a friend here at SingItKitty. This one will remain at the top of my fav cat videos…for now 😉

Next on my list is something I found while out and about today and it’s perfect if you are heading off somewhere for the weekend or overnight – heck it’s just a fun item to tote your stuff around in. Le Sport Sac Large Weekender in the Hiking Day Print.

cats, cat prints, le sport sac, feline print bagsIf you love the idea of proper little cat-like people in hats, dresses riding bikes about a quaint little town then you should pick this up. Le Sport Sac also offers multiple styles in this adorable, chic print.

Finally, everything is going 3D these days from movies to TV’s  but how about bed sheets? 3D bedding is all the rage (who knew?) and Beddinginn online store offers some crazy, kitschy 3D digital print bed sheets including duvet covers, pillow shams, flat sheets – ensuring you or a loved one is covered in big cats.

Tigers, Leopards, Lions, Panthers, Cheetahs – oh my!

3D bedding, digital Prints, Big cats, Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Panther, bedsheets, homeNow you can really get “wild” in bed