Wild Life - Simon King

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Wild Life - Simon King

Even as a very young child, Simon King was passionate about the natural world.

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Review of "Wild Life - Simon King"

published 21/08/2017 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
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Best wishes to all, and thanks for your kind rates and comments, have been half-expecting the latest announcement for at least the last year. Have thoroughly enjoyed being a member over the last couple of years or so.
Pro Enjoyable read, wide scope, exciting, interesting, moving
Cons One or two "gaps"
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""Amazing Animals, Extraordinary People, Astonishing Places""

Wild Life - Simon King

Wild Life - Simon King



This book isn’t quite a biography, nor is it a carefully structured chronological account of the author’s work. It is, rather, a collection of anecdotes and experiences, though it does have a fair bit of personal detail, and it does seem to be more or less chronological. It’s just that there are gaps that some readers may have liked to be filled.

To be fair, however, it doesn’t claim to be an autobiography. In my opinion its subtitle is an accurate summary: “Amazing animals, extraordinary people, astonishing places.”


A familiar face (though less so in the last few years) to watchers of “Springwatch” and “Autumnwatch”, Simon King is an accomplished wildlife cameraman and television presenter. He’s produced a number of documentaries, too.


Simon writes in a down-to-earth style that is generally grammatically correct and that is easy to read. It’s very much a non-technical book that I feel would appeal to those who are familiar with him and his work, to wildlife television productions, or to those with an interest in wildlife.

Those who envy globetrotting wildlife cameramen and camerawomen may, however, have second thoughts when they read this book!

He writes with empathy and humour. At times his accounts are very moving; at times I wished he’d waxed lyrical rather more than he does. On the other hand, his approach of simply letting his accounts speak for themselves is more than adequate, and when his writing does become more emotional, it’s the more striking.

I never felt that the anecdotes – whether humorous, exciting, or recounting danger – were exaggerated.


I have the hardback edition of this book. It contains 305 pages (excluding acknowledges and index), 18 chapters and an epilogue. There are 16 pages of colour photographs, which are of good quality. I appreciated the generous font size.

Early days

Apart from the way that he was allowed a wide rein of “hands-on” wildlife encounters and study (including boiling a roadkill badger’s head in a pan on the kitchen oven to obtain a clean skull for his collection!), Simon’s early passion for wildlife struck a chord with me.

Like him I was fascinated by animals, especially African species. Like him, my favourite toys were plastic zoo animals (mine were made by “Brittains”, all to scale with each other and all nicely painted; they lived in a splendid zoo that my Dad made and that is still in my Mum’s loft!) And, like him, I became quite knowledgeable about animals from books.

I enjoyed his descriptions of his childhood feelings, the sense of wonder and joy that he derived from wildlife – even feeling like an explorer on quests for exciting discoveries in his own garden!

The globetrotter

Part of what makes the book an enjoyable read is the range of countries and habitats in which he worked, and the wealth of animal types and species that he documented.

He has the ability to enjoy – and to convey the wonders of – British wildlife. Africa was, however, the continent of his birth and whose wildlife holds a special place in his heart, and five entire chapters relate his experiences in various African countries (including lions, meerkats, African “painted dogs”, sometimes called “painted wolves”). He’s also worked with dingoes in Australia, with orcas in Patagonia, with albatrosses and other sea birds in South Georgia, and wild Indian elephants.


Simon speaks highly of various people with whom he has worked, and is generous in his commendation of Hugh Miles, Alastair Fothergill, David Attenborough, and others who helped him along the path of his career, and I appreciated this.

Along with his frankness in recounting some of his own mistakes and misjudgements, I found his manner genuinely self-effacing and endearing.


It should go without saying that Simon’s work has had some hair-raising moments, given the species that he has filmed and the habitats in which he has worked. Venomous (and aggressive) snakes, lions, an aggressive rabid animal (I won’t say which species!) African buffalo, and swarms of bees are examples of the dangers that he has faced.


This book contains many humorous anecdotes, and he is more than willing to laugh at many of his misfortunes.


Simon bares his soul from time to time throughout the book: the breakdown of his marriage, the death of his father, and some intensely dramatic and/or tragic events that he filmed.

To my mind some of the best examples of this are a close encounter with a (wild) orca, and the filming of a bushman endurance hunt of a kudu antelope. At times he writes with great feeling, and this really enhances the narrative and the enjoyability of the book.

The best example of all, however, is his work filming the attempt to rehabilitate two orphaned, hand-reared cheetah cubs into the wild.


I enjoyed Simon’s willingness to be controversial and to relate controversy. I may as well grasp the nettle at this point – or, to use another nature-related saying, take the bull by the horns, too.

Not all will agree with Simon’s stance on the ethics of keeping animals in zoos. I happen to agree with him, actually, and endorse his explanation of his position. Suffice to say that I disagree with many other naturalists on this issue!

Simon’s work with dingoes in Australia was undertaken soon after the trial of Lindy Chamberlain over the disappearance of her baby while camping near Uluru, the subject of the poignant movie “Cry In The Dark”. Opinion about dingoes – and about the baby’s mother polarised opinion in Australia. To some, the case proved that dingoes were vicious, dangerous beasts; to others, the real villain was Lindy Chamberlain. Simon takes a very balanced standpoint on the issue, in my opinion, backed up by his own experience and by the knowledge and experience of a leading Australian naturalist.

Concluding comments

I rate this 4 stars.


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Product Information : Wild Life - Simon King

Manufacturer's product description

Even as a very young child, Simon King was passionate about the natural world.

Product Details

Type: Non-Fiction

Genre: Biography

Title: Wild Life

Author: Simon King

All Authors: Simon King

EAN: 9780340981054

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

ISBN: 340981059


Listed on Ciao since: 30/07/2009