Of Silk and Sand
The origin, life and times of the lion and leopard
J. du P. Bothma
When seeing a lion or leopard move as smooth as silk over the sands in the golden glow of the afternoon sun one cannot but agree with Jean-Baptist Charbonneau that: "However long your stay [on Earth] ...... and whatever happens during it, the most important thing is that from time to time you feel life's sweet caress". Life is a long and unknown journey which starts with the first uncertain step but as one journeys on these steps eventually create memories that last forever.
Lions and leopards are fairly recent mammals but their evolution has followed a long path of development. The roaring cats were the first of the living cats to diverge from an ancestral cat in Asia some 10.8 million years ago but the lion and leopard only diverged from this ancestral lineage 2.8 million years ago in Africa to spread over much of the World. They shared much of their development with that of early humans upon whom they preyed and with which they competed for food and space. As a consequence humans developed an innate fear of lions and leopards and have persecuted them mercilessly.
Yet, lions and leopards are vital elements of terrestrial ecosystems and their mindless persecution can ultimately lead to the collapse of the very ecosystems on which humans depend to survive. The wildlife philosopher Aldo Leopold once said that humans abuse land because they see it as a commodity that belongs to them instead of seeing it as a community of which they are a part. This is a basic concept of ecology, but that land and all its inhabitants must be respected is an extension of the ethic that you cannot respect wild things and yet hate large carnivores.
This book is the end product of many years of studying lions and leopards in the Kalahari and it describes their journey through time. It attempts to open a window onto the role that lions and leopards play in the mysteries of the natural world of Africa and is based on the ultimate philosophy, that in our journey on the Earth, there are some people who can live without lions and leopards and some who cannot.