About this book
This new autobiography by wildlife celebrity Jonathan Scott celebrates the extraordinary life of one of the world's most popular wildlife presenters and photographers. From his childhood on a Berkshire farm in the UK to his rise to international fame as a presenter on the Big Cat Diary, one of the BBC Natural History Unit's most popular and long-running wildlife series, Jonathan Scott has lived a life that many people can only dream about.
Following a degree in Zoology he travels 6,000 miles overland to Africa, where he becomes first a wildlife artist and then a safari guide in the Maasai Mara. His experience allows him to write his first major book The Marsh Lions, followed by The Leopard's Tale. At the same time, his TV career is launched when he becomes a presenter on the long-running American series Wild Kingdom.
Over the years Jonathan's observations of wildlife prompt him to reflect on his own life, revealing a side to his character that he has struggled to overcome since childhood. Aged nearly forty, he finally finds peace through meeting and marrying his wife, Angela, and together with her two children they go on to prove you can mix domestic life and an adventurous career when you share a love of family and wilderness, art and photography.
From their base in Kenya Jonathan and Angela travel to Antarctica, a continent which grips them no less than their adopted homeland, followed in later years by travels to India and Bhutan. Throughout, the call of Africa always draws them home, but Africa and the rest of the world are under siege from the tide of humanity that threatens to snuff out the last wild places.
Having travelled the globe in search of award-winning photographs and lived a life of adventure, Jonathan and Angie find their world changes forever the day she is diagnosed with a cranial aneurism requiring urgent brain surgery. Facing up to that challenge draws them even closer together and forces them to examine the meaning of life, leading them on a spiritual journey to rival anything they have undertaken before. Ultimately, The Big Cat Man is a love story: one man's infatuation with Africa and his unfailing devotion to the woman who shares his passion.
Jonathan's writing makes for a fascinating safari through a life lived in the world's most spectacular wilderness area. His book raises uncomfortable questions about the future of wildlife on a continent where the needs of the people sometimes seem overwhelming; it will bring hope to those who have struggled with their own demons and been afraid to seek help; but most of all it will be an inspiration for those who, like Jonathan and Angie, long to follow their dream, whatever it may be.
About the author
Press reviews"Jonathan Scott understands the animals he photographs so well that it is as though he has entered their minds and can see the world as they do."
"I have just turned the final page of this fascinating, intriguing and very personal story. I turned it with some regret as I had found Jonathan's account of his life - his fears, uncertainties, loyalties, discoveries and his passionate devotion to all things living, deeply moving. Few people know and continue to know, as profoundly as he does, the fearful challenges that face the natural world and its unique inhabitants. So when he raises the alarm and voices his deep fears for the future of those creatures and their vanishing homelands, we would be wise to listen to his words. They come from 40 or more years of living and breathing Africa." Virginia McKenna
"Nobody knows lions like Jonathan Scott. He has been patiently observing them in Africa for many years and his Big Cat Diaries have given us all a wonderful chance to share his knowledge."
"You can't make, buy or fake passion. It's pure and precious and probably the most valuable thing on earth. And when it comes to big cats, Africa and wildlife Jonathan has it in buckets. Along with knowledge and a great love." Chris Packham
"Jonathan Scott - our man in the Maasai Mara - has written evocative account of his life with the lions, leopards and cheetahs. A true insight into one of the world's greatest locations for wildlife." Stephen Moss
"A cracking tale - and crackingly well told with deftness, compassion and humour. From the man whose name is synonymous with big cats, this is the brutally honest and insightful story of a life lived to the full." Mark Carwardine
"An engaging, thought-provoking read, presented by Bradt in truly sumptuous style, richly illustrated with Scott's own sketches and photographs." The Lady
An inspiring book
But for those who have read his earlier books and followed his TV programs over the years, deeper expectations emerge. What perspective has Scott gained after witnessing the changes that have taken place in his beloved Africa since he arrived there? What kind of transformations has he himself undergone during a lifetime observing and learning from Nature at her rawest? Scott does address these matters, and the answers may not be simple but they are fulfilling. While the book is a true page-turner, there are major themes in it that you see better after finishing. One of them is how achieving one's dreams not only implies a struggle against the obstacles of the world outside, but also a fight against the darker forces of our own minds -an insight you don´t often find in autobiographies. He also makes it clear how sharing his life with his beloved wife Angie helped him find and develop his true self. The general impression that transpires is that only deep commitment brings about fulfillment, something that Scott experienced early in his life, when he renounced the chance of an academic career in South Africa that conflicted with his abhorrence of the apartheid system. Then, as often happens in life, giving up something leaves an open door for something better to come.
“The Big Cat Man” is a story about Africa as much as it is about Scott's life. As the narration progresses, you can feel how Africa lured this young British farm boy through the early documentaries he saw on TV, which built his romantic view of the adventure-filled savannahs. Then, during Scott's first exploration of the continent, Africa showed him her teeth, but also enough of her charm to keep him firmly hooked. And with the years, he not only came to enjoy her gifts to the full, but he also became what Africa had needed of him all along: a champion, a tireless defender of her nature and a chronicler that told the amazing tales of the wild, and especially of the big cats, for millions of people to read and watch all around the world.
Like so many people, I first came to Kenya attracted largely by the stories Scott told in his books (“Kingdom of Lions”, “A Leopard's Tale”) and films (especially “Big Cat Diary”), and I was not disappointed in the least, but also I have seen change over the years, and not always for the better. Scott is the best promoter of Kenya's natural wonders, but he doesn't turn a blind eye to the problems that beset them. In the last chapters of the book he addresses these problems and gives hints to their possible solutions, but always with a sober touch of realism. He has seen too much of what greed and corruption can do to wildlife to believe in easy ways out of Nature's current predicaments, which are after all, our own.
The life of Jonathan Scott is largely about his experiences with Africa's big cats, but there is only so much of them that can be told between two covers. So, for those who aren't familiar with his previous books, “The Big Cat Man” is a good introduction which should be followed by reading such classics as “A Leopard's Tale”. But there is one final consideration that comes to mind when talking about the autobiography of a person who remains active and in full shape: why write an autobiography at all? Why expose one's intimacies to the world? Scott himself reflects about this in a delightful essay in his blog, which I recommend you to read:
( http://www.jonathanangelascott.com/main/wordpress/2016/08/other-peoples-lives-who-cares-why-write-an-autobiography/ ). Inspiring others comes up as one of the best motivations, and it is well summarized in a phrase that he quotes from Roderick High-Brown: “It is a rare book that changes a life, a poor one that adds nothing to it”. I am sure that time and the readers will put “The Big Cat Man” firmly in the first category.
Mauricio Anton, author of "Sabertooth" and "The big Cats and their Fossil Relatives"
(Posted on 01/11/2016)
An amazing book
(Posted on 06/09/2016)
01 IN SEARCH OF AFRICA
02 AFRICA MY HOME
03 THE MARSH LIONS
04 WILD KINGDOM
05 THE LEOPARD'S TALE
06 THE GREAT MIGRATION
07 PAINTED WOLVES
09 AFRICA TO ANTARCTICA
10 BIG CAT DIARY
11 THE NATURE OF LIFE