I recently came across a book that I just had to read called “Changing a Leopard’s Spots” by Alex van den Heever with Renias Mhlongo. As you will know from my recent blog post [Spotting Leopard’s in Kruger] my favourite animal is the Leopard so I was instantly drawn to find out what this book was all about.
The book is a true life account of the lives of two wildlife trackers, Alex, a white boy from the Western Cape and Renias, a Shangaan tracker from a rural village called Dixie near the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Alex and Renias meet each other at the infamous Londolozi Game Reserve where they start working together as a guide and tracker team looking for the big five animals to show their guests visiting the reserve. This resonated with me as in fact my husband proposed to me at Londolozi Game Reserve ten years ago so it just brought back so many good memories.
The book goes onto tell the story of how Alex not only learnt about the art of tracking from Renias but at the same time formed an unique brotherhood bond by learning to understand each other’s different cultural and social backgrounds. In the book, Alex shares stories of adventures he and Renias embarked on together tracking leopards and lions in Londolozi, grizzly bears in the US and jaguars and pumas in South America. And ultimately how they managed to turn their passion for tracking into a Tracker Academy to continue to keep the art of tracking alive.
The book also highlights some harsh and sad realities of wildlife conservation in South Africa especially around poaching of rhinos. But it also stresses the importance of how the skill of tracking is definitely a key element required in the fight against poaching. I have always had a lot of admiration for trackers in the bushveld – their ability to track animals not only from physical tracks but also intuition is just incredible.
So in summary I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in wildlife, South African culture and tracking. It really is a great easy-to-read book that had me hooked from the first chapter.