Travel & conservation company, since 1991
See how we earn 5 starsTrustpilot - 5 stars
Africa Geographic Travel

Gareth Patterson is one of Africa’s great conservationists – he has the scars to prove it.


I met Gareth a few years ago and frankly did not at the time fully appreciate his true contribution to conservation in Africa. During our lengthy discussion over a few cups of tea at a lovely spot near Plettenberg Bay, I was immediately drawn to his quietly contemplative take on life and well-disguised steely resolve.

I was aware that he was lion-man George Adamson’s protégé back in the day and that his recent study of Knysna’s elephants was shaking a few trees in the musty old Cape Nature conservation corridors. I also knew that he was hounded out of Botswana’s Tuli Block by the South African hunting fraternity and fled to the peaceful Garden Route to recover from massive stress overload, and make a fresh start.

The final day of filming on a documentary of George's life © Nick Gray)
The final day of filming on the last documentary of George’s life © Nick Gray

What I did not realise though was how unbelievably special his relationship was with the lions he rescued from Kora in Kenya and relocated to Tuli when Adamson was killed.

Gareth Patterson with the lion Batian who he considered his son © Louise Gubb, 1990
Gareth Patterson with the lion Batian who he considered his son © Louise Gubb, 1990

His book My Lion’s Heart is the incredible story of one man’s determination to give a small group of young orphaned lions a fresh start in life. He taught them how to survive in this arid wild land – even how to hunt, deal with aggressive elephants and defend the territory against other wild lions. Along the way he lived like a lion, behaved like a lion and even thought like a lion.

This riveting story is full of wonderful anecdotes and revelations and I was left wanting to know more, to better understand what it means to almost become a lion. It’s full of incredible highs but also not short on anger, sadness and despair. Importantly though, Gareth was ultimately successful in his endeavour, because the genes of his lions still live on in Tuli. Pity that the seemingly ever-evil trophy hunting industry tried so hard to stifle this great man’s efforts – but I guess a leopard never changes its spots.

Buy this book to learn more about what it is to be a lion, and to support Gareth’s kind of conservation – the kind where outdated viewpoints are challenged and inconvenient truths faced head-on.

The great bond that existed between Batian the lion and Gareth Patterson. © Louise Gubb, 1990
The great bond that existed between Batian the lion and Gareth Patterson. © Louise Gubb, 1990

My Lion’s Heart print edition is available in most bookshops in South Africa and the is available on Amazon and

To comment on this story: Download our app here - it's a troll-free safe place 🙂.


  • Travel with us. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Browse our famous packages for experience-based safaris, search for our current special offers and check out our camps & lodges for the best prices.

    Enquire now

  • Subscribe to our FREE newsletter / download our FREE app to enjoy the following benefits.

AG Logo

I am a proud African and honoured to be CEO of Africa Geographic. My travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, elusive birds and real people with interesting stories. I live in Hoedspruit, next to the Kruger National Park, with my wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells. When not travelling or working I am usually on my mountain bike somewhere out there. I qualified as a chartered accountant but found my calling sharing Africa's incredibleness with you. My motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". Connect with me on LinkedIn

Africa Geographic Travel
[wpforms id="152903"]
<div class="wpforms-container wpforms-container-full" id="wpforms-152903"><form id="wpforms-form-152903" class="wpforms-validate wpforms-form wpforms-ajax-form" data-formid="152903" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data" action="/stories/book-review-my-lions-heart-by-gareth-patterson/" data-token="43ebfdaae2377c0e947764994980f356"><noscript class="wpforms-error-noscript">Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.</noscript><div class="wpforms-field-container"><div id="wpforms-152903-field_1-container" class="wpforms-field wpforms-field-email" data-field-id="1"><label class="wpforms-field-label wpforms-label-hide" for="wpforms-152903-field_1">Email Address <span class="wpforms-required-label">*</span></label><input type="email" id="wpforms-152903-field_1" class="wpforms-field-medium wpforms-field-required" name="wpforms[fields][1]" placeholder="Email " required></div></div><div class="wpforms-submit-container"><input type="hidden" name="wpforms[id]" value="152903"><input type="hidden" name="wpforms[author]" value="122"><input type="hidden" name="wpforms[post_id]" value="35212"><button type="submit" name="wpforms[submit]" id="wpforms-submit-152903" class="wpforms-submit" data-alt-text="Sending..." data-submit-text="Subscribe" aria-live="assertive" value="wpforms-submit">Subscribe</button><img src="" class="wpforms-submit-spinner" style="display: none;" width="26" height="26" alt="Loading"></div></form></div> <!-- .wpforms-container -->