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Predictability isn’t a word you will find in any Bushveld dictionary, and the life of wildlife guardian Mario Cesare has been anything but. After years as warden of Olifants River Game Reserve, his feet are firmly planted in this magnificent slice of Big Five country to the west of the Kruger Park, where he has experienced a rich life packed full of incidents far from routine.
In Heart Of A Game Ranger, Cesare recounts some of these hair-raising, heart-breaking and heart-warming moments: a buffalo calf reunited with its pining mother, injured lions given second chances and rhinos lost, one by one, to poaching. Nestled among these tales, Cesare pays homage to the brave, dedicated and curious personalities engaged in a deadly combat on the most majestic of battlefields. Yet, while rhino poaching is by far the reserve’s biggest problem, Cesare reveals how the daily struggles of a game ranger are so much broader – and the rewards, when they come, immense.
Heart Of A Game Ranger is a story of extremes, one of fierce loyalty and devastating betrayal where spectacular days that end in exhausted satisfaction and achievement are balanced by those that leave behind only despair and frustration. Seen through his eyes and spoken from the heart, Cesare tells a deeply personal story – not only of a life lived wild, but of the joy of Africa’s incredible natural world.
Mario Cesare wrote about his life as a game ranger in his memoir Man-eaters, Mambas and Marula Madness. Through these stories his readers have come to know and love, Shilo, a dog in a million and the love of Mario’s life.
Though Mario is a game ranger and conservationist, this is not just another “40 years as a game ranger” type of book. It is the story of an adventurous life - spanning both pre- and post-1994 Southern Africa – which is interwoven with the tale of an intense, loving 14-year relationship between himself and his dog Shilo.
This relationship between man and dog was clearly meant to be from the day Mario first took the tiny newborn pup into his hands. It has lasted through innumerable adventures of duck-hunt and killer crocodile, wounded buffalo, lion, leopard and poacher.
The Man with the Black Dog is permeated by the same love and empathy that made Jock of the Bushveld such a classic and it is also, of course, a very South African story. Never before has the story of a man and his dog revealed so much of the flavour of life in such an exquisite wild location and, though over a century has passed since the transport wagons carved their trails to and from Delagoa Bay, the scent evoked of dust and rain remains the same and the grey ghosts of kudu and elephant still melt into the bush.
Mario Cesare’s career has taken him, and Shilo, from Timbavati and Mala Mala to Olifants River and beyond – and he delights in sharing his good fortune.
What started as a vision about the Olifants River Game Reserve has become the story of a game ranger's life. With a naturalist's eye for detail as well as the bigger picture of managing a fragile ecosystem through years of drought and plenty, Mario Cesare brings a storyteller's delight – and a dash of Italian passion – to sharing his world. Life-and-death encounters with lion, elephant and buffalo are balanced by rescues and interventions as these giants of the lowveld suffer the effects of human interference in their ecosystem. There are problems with poachers and with rapacious neighbours; then the delights of success – and in the case of the elephant population, the conundrums of too much success. Mario Cesare's career has taken him from Timbavati and Mala Mala to Olifants River and beyond – and he delights in sharing his good fortune. His latest task: to develop and nurture the Olifants River Game Reserve as the fences of the Greater Kruger National Park area fall, undoing generations of damage. Man-eaters, Mambas and Marula Madness: A Game Rangers Life in the Lowveld provides a wealth of lessons on conservation as well as stories of life in the bush as it is enjoyed only by those fortunate enough to live on a 'Big Five' reserve.
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