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Jaguar versus Leopard

A couple of months ago I reviewed the true story of Owen and Mzee and this unusual friendship between baby hippo and ancient turtle. The book was written by a family team Juliana, Isabella and Craig Hatkoff, who, inspired by this first project in Kenya, have since written several more true animal rescue stories and about the zoos caring for them. They also wrote about the famous polar bear, Knut, which I wrote about here. Their Turtle Pond Collection website, though still not complete, does provide much extra information for interested children and adults.

The two books from the collection I am reviewing today struck me initially because on first glance I was convinced that we were looking at the same species. Well OK, I also cannot resist any baby, furry felines! Baby jaguars and baby snow leopards look very similar to me! However, there are some pertinent differences, which I think are harder to distinguish in the cubs than the adults. Jaguars have more massive heads             and are stockier as well as having larger blotchy rosettes on their fur. Leopards are more compact and have tightly clustered rosettes. Snow leopards have closely spaced rosettes over a very pale coat that goes to white underneath. Leopard’s spots do not have a center dot like the Jaguar. They have thick coats and big feet for living in snow. These two cats live on different continents. Jaguars live in the Americas, and leopards live in Asia and Africa. Leopards spend most of their time in trees, whereas jaguars tend to live and hunt on the ground.

Both species have been on the endangered species list since 1972. Leopard and jaguar hunting for its fur was once very popular causing a significant decline in the 1960s and 70s. Today threats to both species include trapping, shooting and poisoning by farmers who consider them a threat to their livestock, habitat loss, commercial hunting, and decline in prey populations.


Leo the Snow Leopard, The true story of an Amazing Rescue

This is a large hardback book full of exquisite color photos. There is a full page of text every other page, which would be accessible for children aged 8-11, but children from 5-8 will, I believe, enjoy listening to the story of baby Leo’s rescue. Our story begins in a remote, snowy mountain range in Pakistan where a goat-herder cannot turn his back on a tiny orphan snow leopard. Fortunately little Leo seems to have adapted well to a new diet of goat’s milk. The goat herder realized he couldn’t care long term for this cub so contacted the WWF offices in Gilgit. Snow leopards are on the red list for endangered species so as the Pakistani authorities recognized they didn’t have the facilities to  care for Leo they contacted the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the US, who agree the Bronx Zoo would make a great home. The WCS team flew to Islamabad and set out on the 17 hour drive only to be blocked by a landslide. It was a long trip there and back but Leo arrived safely at 13 months old in his present home in the Bronx zoo. Leo was introduced to a leopard his own age in the zoo, Shelby, who taught Leo much more about being a snow leopard. Kids will not only delight in this animal rescue adventure but also will understand a little of the international cooperation that was required and will learn of the importance of zoo conservation work. There are four full pages at the back dedicated to a deeper understanding of: leopards,  endangered species and the importance of captive breeding programs. I really welcome appealing educational books such as this.


Junior Buddy a Jaguar’s Tale

This is a small 32 page paperback published by Scholastic and is a Level 2 Reader (for grades 1-2). Developing readers, who are animal lovers, will love this book, also discovering more about other countries as in all the books by this family. This one is set in the jungles of Belize. One of the unique things about the Belize Zoo is that all the animals can be found in the nearby Belize jungle, including our hero, Junior Buddy, a jaguar cub. Once again there are beautiful color photos on every single page. This is another endearing rescue story. Junior Buddy’s mother, who lives in the jungle, is sick and unable to hunt wild animals so starts to kill farmer’s sheep. Fortunately for her the local farmer did not shoot her (which is illegal) but caught her in a trap and called the zoo. Springfield, as she was called, was very sick and the keepers didn’t know if she would survive. They also were unaware of her pregnancy and thus very surprised at Junior Buddy’s arrival. Springfield was too sick to care for her cub so the keepers took over what is a day and night job of hand-rearing Junior Buddy. We follow his simple story of being bottle-fed, learning to swim, playing and playing some more, until his teeth and claws become a little too sharp to continue those games. In order not to deprive him of the human contact he loves, the zoo comes up with the solution of building a mini cage within Junior Buddy’s cage so that he can still have lots of human contact. This book also ends with three pages of information about the species and programs that have been set up to help jaguars. Another excellent book about an endangered species.

For those who would like to know more or become involved with either of these endangered species, may I recommend the following websites.

The Jaguar Corridor Initiative and

The Snow Leopard Trust.

For general information: the Wildlife Conservation Society.

These are Books 60 and 61 in the Read to Me Picture Book Reading Challenge.

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16 Responses to BIG CATS

  1. There is something very old-soul about cats: big cats; haughty, Egyptian cats; huge snarling cats (cougars, jaguars). While these are not the usual books that would speak to me, I can see how it would appeal to early readers and a young audience. My nine year old seems more fascinated now with ‘real’ stories (we are on a horrible histories theme) – this may be something that she’d enjoy.

    • Joanna says:

      Myra, you are doing really well considering my strong focus on animals on this blog 😉
      These big cats can indeed be quite regal and aloof! These are definitely not mass market books but have quite a broad appeal as many kids simply love animals and have a soft spot something young and helpless being saved. I love the horrible histories myself!

  2. Excellent post (as always). I, too, cannot resist a baby feline! In fact, when I got to the cover of the first book with that heart-meltingly adorable photo, I said aloud to the computer screen, “Hello, sweetheart!” (I need to get a life, perhaps?)

    I am grateful to learn of two more successful rescues — but oh, how I wish that there was no need for an endangered species list. We humans, collectively, have a lot to answer for.

    • Joanna says:

      Beth, that first photo of Leo reminds me so much of some of Fudge’s expressions it’s hard to hold back the ‘ahh’!
      We, of course, do not tend to read as much about the less successful stories, but it is good for children to see what can be done with concern and international cooperation. It was a costly thing for both the goatherd in Pakistan and the farmer in Belize to take the initial steps to reach out to these animals.

  3. After I posted my comment, I started thinking about what a wonderful education Isabella is receiving, learning and writing about these animal rescues. I have a feeling she will go far in this life…

    • Joanna says:

      I tried to google Isabella’s age but came up with nothing concrete but estimate she is in her mid teens now as she was six when she first saw the photo of Owen and Mzee. I wonder what direction her life will take after all these exceptional experiences.

  4. Diane says:

    aww Joanna I love anything to do with big cats. And this took me back to my very early school years when I could drawn them…. especially the lions. Love the research you put into your posts. It is good to have children informed about conservation and what they could do.
    I enjoyed this Joanna.

  5. Lori says:

    You know we are going to love these! 🙂

  6. Patricia Tilton says:

    I am not a cat person, but am fascinated with Big Cats. The Cheetah, my favorite. I will watch any Big Cat movie/documentary. There is an elegance about them. The Jaguar and the Snow Leopard look a lot alike, especially as young cubs. My grandson would love these books because he is obsessed with Big Cats and has a huge collection. He even adopted one at the Columbus Zoo. Again, you really capture the essence of the stories of both books in a special way. I thoroughly enjoyed the post and the history about the two. Shouldn’t tell you my grandfather was a furrier from the 1930s-1960s, much to my horror as a child.

    • Joanna says:

      So cool that your grandson has adopted a Big Cat at the zoo.
      It is amazing what previous generations were involved in, oblivious to some of the moral dilemmas we consider today. Which part of the US did he live in?

  7. Patricia Tilton says:

    My grandfather lived in Cleveland and Columbus, OH. He mostly designed and made mink stoles. Yes, a different era. My grandmother and mother had beautiful fur coats — but over the years I don’t know what my Mom did with them.

  8. Lori D says:

    We read “Leo The Snow Leopard” this week (finally came in at the library). Great story! The boys loved it.

  9. Pingback: A-Z Endangered Animal Haikus | Miss Marple's Musings

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