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Constructive Life Across Species
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Barbara Bennett
Soul of a Lion (Washington, DC:  National Geographic, 2010.  292p.)

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To participate in this adventure we are transported to the exotic town of Gobabis, sitting at the edge of the great Kalahari Desert.  Gobabis a cattle center in northeastern Namibia, in southwest Africa, not far from the Botswana border.  Gobabis is a rail terminus and a cattle marketing center in a huge sparsely-populated land area.

Gobabis is a small urban center in the midst of large farms and cattle ranches, mostly owned by people of European descent.  There the van der Merwe family had a large ranch.  They lived there with traditional San (commonly called "Bushmen"), who once dominated this area of the world.  The San worked with the van der Merwes on the ranch, in a pleasant symbiosis of various levels.

Bennett tells the fascinating story of Marieta van der Merwe became concerned for the welfare of the animals, disregarded and abused by many of the ranchers, hunted as vermin.  She began to take in injured animals and nurse them back to health.  On the extensive acreage of their ranch Harnas, Marieta's energies and efforts grew into the Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary, operated by a huge family trust with worldwide backing and an international team of volunteers.

The title, Soul of a Lion, arises out of Bennett's observation of the close relationship the van der Merwes and their volunteers developed with the animals.  Emblematic of the effort was the one- eyed lion, Savanna.  living in such a positive and deep relationship with a huge panoply of animals, the whole van der Merwe clan came to see the animals as individuals, with a personality and what they came to think of as the animal soul.

Bennett is an accomplished journalist, and presents a full dramatic experience as she recounts details recounted to her of the family and Harnas history.  There is danger in dealing with wild animals, and there were some harrowing experiences.

We gain insights into the horror of accidents, as the van der Merwe's learn how to develop a relationship with these very different creatures while honoring their wild nature and instinctive characteristics.  We see the children playing with lions and baboons.  The whole house filled at times with baboons, frightening and irritating newcomers.

Family tragedies of tropical illness, injuries by animals and death in airplane crashes fill this insightful real-life drama.  The van der Merwes saved animals from defunct zoos, injured wild animals and orphaned cubs.  You will be enriched to learn how they gained appreciation for these often feared or ignored creatures with whom we share God's world.

They have worked with the government of Namibia and other countries to raise awareness of our natural heritage and the rapid loss of species at the hand of human greed or morbid sport.  This is an informative, entertaining and endearing story you should read.

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First reviewed on Amazon 29 September 2010
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 9 October 2010
Last edited 28 February 2022

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010, 2022 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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