Unspotted: One Man’s Obsessive Search for Africa’s Most Elusive Leopard

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Unspotted is a short novella by Justin Fox that follows his travels through South Africa in a valiant attempt to spot the elusive Cape Mountain Leopard.

To be honest I had never even heard of the Cape Mountain Leopard, a breed native to South Africa that is close to extinction before reading this short work of nonfiction. What I can do however, is relate and be drawn into a book with good storytelling. In this instance, that story was focused on Fox’s attempt to see one of the elusive leopards. Fox and Quinton Martins, a zoologist whose life and organization is dedicated to helping the breed survive share the spotlight of the book- other than the Leopard’s of course.

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What I did not realize before starting this ebook was that it was…short! The novella is about the length of a long narrative essay or short story. This format was interesting, and piqued my interest but I was mildly irritated that the story ended so soon. Instead of find solace in the ending I wanted more facts and details and for him to find a Cape Leopard, darnit!

My ranting aside, it’s not the author’s responsibility to tie a neat bow on top of an ongoing research project. The search for the leopards was intriguing and fun to read, and, having done some fieldwork in my own studies, I appreciated the literary representation of difficulties that inevitably arise while trying to collect good quality data.

In the end, I really enjoyed Fox’s writing. Vivid descriptions of the tracking and hiking necessary to attempt a glimpse at this leopard made me feel just as tired as he was! I felt a sense of friendship with the author because of his descriptions and willingness to put his thoughts and feelings into the story.

Although a quick read, Unspotted and Justin Fox manage to mix adventure, conservation, and humor into a story about a Leopard’s fight to stave off extinction. The lingering thoughts of the animal kingdom and our relationship to the natural world stuck by me long after I closed my kindle. All in all a wonderful short novella- especially if you are interested in conservation!

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