Big Cat Tales: Vintage Encounters and Stories

September 11, 2020

‘Pleasure at having secured a magnificent trophy was not unmixed with regret, for never again would the jungle folk and I listen with held breath to his deep-throated call resounding through the foothills, and never again would his familiar pug-marks show on the game paths that he and I had trodden for fifteen years.’

After fifteen years of watching him grow into youth and old age in the forests of Kumaon, Jim Corbett, the fabled hunter-naturalist and writer, shoots a tiger who has become a man-eater. His pleasure-mixed-with-regret at this victory which is also, in the end, murder is the central paradox that makes self-aware shikar literature a compelling exploration of our epic and imperfect existence. This collection of non-fiction and fiction about encounters between humans and big cats in the Indian subcontinent and Africa brings us the best of this genre of literature, with its gripping narratives, unforgettable images and splendid descriptions of wild nature.

Besides Corbett, it includes masters of the genre like J.H. Patterson, who writes about the terror of lions and men in Kenya during the laying of railway lines in the 1890s; Hugh Allen, who had thrilling adventures with tigers and leopards in central India; and Augustus Somerville, who wrote the neglected classic At Midnight Comes the Killer. There are also surprising gems: lyrical and humorous real-life and imagined stories by Mrs W.W. Baillie and Mrs M.A. Handley—two unusual women of the Raj; the naturalist EHA (a founding member of the Bombay Natural History Society); and writers Saki and Dhan Gopal Mukerji. And lest we forget that reluctant hunters were the exception and hunting was mainly about ‘sportsmen’ who delighted in chase and slaughter, there are also accounts of the horrors of shikar.

Compiled by a group of wildlife enthusiasts, this anthology showcases brilliant, old-fashioned storytelling, and some of the finest writing on adventure and wildlife produced over a century.

The Rise and Fall of the Emerald Tigers

July 27, 2018

In this seminal book about the Indian tiger, Raghu Chundawat, a renowned conservation biologist, shares his findings from the only long-term ecological research project on tigers undertaken in India till date.
Chundawat closely studied the Panna tigers and their prey, from 1996 to 2006—meticulously recording their space use, movements, feeding and reproductive behaviours—in the dry tropical forests of Madhya Pradesh. With support from the national park management, he oversaw a spectacular revival of Panna’s tiger population.
However, by 2002-03, the fortunes of Panna’s tigers, and Chundawat’s research, nosedived when the park management changed. Monitoring privileges and access to the park were curtailed, and subsequently, poaching and poisoning of tigers spiked. When Chundawat blew the whistle on the alarming decline, he faced immense backlash from the state wildlife authorities. Despite the systemic opposition, Chundawat continued the fight to save Panna’s tigers, collecting data and petitioning the government to intervene.
In this immensely informative work, Chundawat presents not just his research, but also an insider’s account of the politics and administrative apathy plaguing Indian wildlife conservation. He discusses the larger threats to Indian wildlife—and the possible solutions. Filled with stunning photographs, The Rise and Fall of the Emerald Tigers is a must-read for all wildlife enthusiasts and researchers across the world.

The Leopard’s Tale

September 1, 2017

Almost everyone on safari hopes for a glimpse of the charismatic and elusive leopard.

This classic account tells the story of the mother leopard as a solitary hunter providing for herself and her offspring. Chui was the first of a generation of leopards Jonathan Scott watched and photographed in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve in the 1970s and 1980s. He spent every available moment watching and photographing her and her cubs, Light and Dark, aware that he was only privileged to do so for as long as they chose to remain visible. Nobody has studied leopards more closely or known them more intimately than Jonathan and his wife, Angela Scott.

The Scotts record encounters with baboons, hyenas and humans, the hazards facing the cubs as they learn to fend for themselves and enjoy periods of play and relaxation. Some years after Chui disappeared, a young female appeared, Half-Tail. Jonathan and Angela have followed her and her daughter Zawadi, stars of the BBC’s Big Cat Diary, for the past twenty years, bringing the leopards’ story up to date.

Written with unprecedented access and knowledge, and illustrated with stunning photographs, The Leopard’s Tale is a unique and moving portrait of Africa and the most intimate record ever written about the secretive lives of leopards.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Tiger

January 31, 2017

Tigers don’t talk (well, at least not in ‘people’ language). Tigers don’t have names either. But then T-Cub is a very special tiger cub and he wants to tell you his story. It’s about his life in a forest in India, and his animal friends (and foes) including monkeys, peacocks and elephants.

T-Cub is naughty, curious, lovable and brave (and sometimes scared too!). He is living the good life of a wild tiger—prowling the forest, loved by his Ma, teased by his sister. He is learning the ways of the jungle, to hunt, to be a tiger… And then one day his mother vanishes, and T-Cub learns another lesson—it isn’t easy being a tiger.

Illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy.

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