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.
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.
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.
For general information: the Wildlife Conservation Society.
These are Books 60 and 61 in the Read to Me Picture Book Reading Challenge.