It should have been a good time. The two cubs had fed on her rich milk, and they now wormed their way cosily into her thick fur.
But she was worried. There were only two animals she feared. The first were humans with their killing sticks that made the noise of thunder. The second was the tiger. Humans had been in the woods with dogs. And she had smelled the strong odour of a big male tiger two days ago.
But something else was coming, something that was faster than any human, more deadly that a tiger. Something that would find her even in the deepest den.”
Five thousand miles away and Amazon had thought she’d be spending the summer stuck in her domitory block at boarding school in England while her parents were on an important environmental expedition deep in Alaska. That was until her thirteen year old cousin, Frazer, along with Dr Drexler from TRACKS – a secretive animal rescue organisation in America – turn up, uninvited, and recruit Amazon for their next daring mission – to rescue a female Amur leopard and her two cubs. Just these three animals represent ten percent of the world’s wild population of Amur (barely thirty remain in the wild) and they are in grave danger, trapped by a forest fire between two rivers in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range, far east Russia.
Next stop… the Russian wilderness then for Amazon, Frazer, Miranda and Bluey from TRACKS. Here they meet up with Doolins, “he’s probably the world’s greatest living expert on the Amur leopard”, along with some very dodgy-looking Russians, giving very good impressions of ex-KGB agents with their AK-47s, dark glasses and over-sized moustaches “bushy enough in which to hide a whole family of Amur leopards“!
Aaaaanyway, the race is on to save the mother Amur leopard and her two cubs. This is a fast paced story which flips between the human stories – of Amazon, Frazer, the TRACKS team members, the Russians and Makha and Dersu, the local guides from the Udege (the indigenous people from the region) – and the animal stories, of the tiger, the bears and the Amur leopards and their desperate stuggle to survive.
Boys and girls aged 9+ who are into animals, are passionate about the environment and who enjoy an action-packed adventure spanning the globe will love this book. I, myself, particularly enjoyed learning about the habitat of the Amur leopards, their behaviour and their real-life struggle to survive. I also enjoyed the way McGowan pitched modern tracking technology like GPS against the age-old methods employed by the Udege people.
Leopard Adventure is the first in a series of animal adventure stories to be published by Puffin to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birthday of Willard Price, a well-respected natural historian who travelled the world on expeditions for the National Geographic Society and the American Museum of Natural History and which inspired him to write the original Adventure series featuring brothers Roger and Hal Hunt, selling over 5 million copies worldwide. Now Anthony McGowan is continuing the adventure for today’s children.