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Soul of a Lion: One Woman's Quest to Rescue Africa's Wildlife Refugees

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  533 ratings  ·  87 reviews
For animal lovers, nature enthusiasts, and the vast readership for gripping true-life stories, this African saga is a must-read adventure. It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife. We meet Sam, the "AIDS" lion infected by m ...more
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published September 21st 2010 by National Geographic
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Barbara Bennett
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: written-by-me
This is my own book about an amazing woman I met in Africa and her drive to save wild animals. Of course I gave it five stars! Who wouldn't rate their own book this way? :) ...more
Holly Weiss
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Compassion and Care Protect the Souls of the Needy"

Buddha said, “May all that have life be delivered from suffering.”

Published by National Geographic, “Heart of a Lion” reveals the care given to injured, orphaned or otherwise challenged animals in the Harnas Wildlife foundation in Namibia, Africa. A contrast to “Gorillas in the Mist” and “The Cry of the Kalahari” where the animals were sought out in their natural habitat and studied, this book paints a discerning, enjoyable, but not romanticiz
Daniel L.
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In Praise of Creatures Large and Great

Ask any animal lover. I mean true animal lover. He or she will tell you that, contrary to what most people may believe, each animal has a purpose - indeed, feelings and even a soul. Animals give meaning to life, a sense of purpose and, oftentimes, a means of healing. Such is certainly the case of Zion, one of several lions rescued by Marieta van der Merwe, a white Afrikaans-speaking woman from Namibia who founded an animal rescue shelter and refuge named H
Sep 20, 2010 marked it as to-read
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
The work that Marietta van der Merwe and her family have done to establish a wild animal sanctuary in Africa is definitely worth reading about. They have also started a school for local children who otherwise wouldn't get any education, as well as a health clinic for native people who were badly in need of care. Her story is inspiring, but I think it could have been told in a more natural way. Although the author (a frequent volunteer at Harnas) is an English professor, she could have used a str ...more
Carolyn Macleod
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Soul of a Lion is a touching novel that you won't be able to put down until the very last word. You'll feel like you're the one in the wilderness of Africa, saving animals after being abused or mistreated.

This is a great book for not only animal lovers, but also anyone who enjoys reading about real-life adventures. Barbara Bennett did an excellent job molding this book out of dozens of amazing experiences and stories. Great novel!
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Let me start out by saying that I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

If you are an animal lover, read Soul of a Lion.

If you are a biography lover, read Soul of a Lion.

If you are interested in strong women, read Soul of a Lion.

If you like Africa, read Soul of a Lion.

If you like to travel, read Soul of a Lion.

This book is so wonderful. It tells the story of Marietta van der Merwe who started the Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia. She rescues and cares for every animal that is brought to her, givi
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. I am so glad I bought it and read it. I would have to say it was life-changing... I even emailed Harnas and asked them how or what I can do to volunteer. I got a packet back the next day, and will consider going to Africa one day to volunteer. I am passionate about helping animals, and Marieta sounds like someone I would love to meet one day. The only thing that is preventing me from giving this book 5-stars is that half the time when Bennett talked about the personal lives about ...more
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, animal-rescue
"Soul of a Lion" is more than just the story of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia. It's a story of love, courage, life (and death), and inspiration.

Barbara Bennett spent time living and working with Marieta Van Der Merwe and her family on their wildlife preserve in sub-Saharan Africa. During that time, she got to know the animal and human families there and learned their history. She writes movingly and honestly about her experiences and the challenges that the family has faced since the
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, nature
I picked this up thinking it would be an interesting look at wildlife refugee centers, and have to admit I was slightly skeptical at first. I wondered whether raising orphaned animals in captivity was really beneficial to the survival of wild species if the animals could never roam free. Boy did this book make me a believer. And what more, this book is so much more than just a story about animals. It is an incredible and inspirational story about the woman, Marieta van der Merwe, who changed her ...more
Michele Long
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up years ago when Borders was still around. It was in a bargain section for $5. Now having read about Harnas and knowing a portion of the proceeds go toward its mission, I actually wish I had paid more for it.

I grew up loving animals of all kinds. I wanted to be a vet for a long time. I volunteered at an animal shelter. I did an internship at a zoo. I'm currently a claims processor for an insurance company. Somehow along my path in life, I deviated from my love and purpose an
I really enjoyed this biography of Mariete van der Merwe. Mariete grew up on a cattle farm in Namibia, married and sort-of accidentally started a wildlife sanctuary for injured, orphaned, abandoned and abused African wildlife. The story is written by a volunteer who was so moved by Mariete's story and her family that she was able to get their cooperation to write a book. I do have to say that some of the things I read kinda grossed me out - I mean, I love animals and don't mind my dogs sleeping ...more
Doreen Arnold
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
LOVED THIS BOOK!! True life adventure, triumph and heartbreak at the Harnas wildlife rescue. Not just for animal lovers although Tarali and Carol ann may find it disturbing that a full grown lion sleeps on the owners bed! AWESOME!! Unconditional love can heal the most wounded soul. I rarely read books twice , but this is one book that I will read over and over.
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing book for any animal lover...especially ones who love african wildlife :] It is an amazing journey through new life, old life, death, love, and adventure!! The ultimate best book i have ever read and wish I was there and experiencing every sentence. Especially the part with the cheetah, jaguar, and lion cubs!! Adorable and an amazing book, everyone should read!
Pamela Barrett
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What can be more enticing then an opportunity to cuddle and nap with a baby Cheetah? How about feeding a baby Giraffe, or playing with orphaned Baboons? When Barbara Bennett thought about writing a book about her experiences as a volunteer at Harnas Wildlife rescue in Namibia Africa, she soon realized that a more important and interesting story was about the woman who founded it—Marieta van der Merwe. She, along with her family run Harnas; a dream which began when Marieta and her husband Nick re ...more
I was really impressed by this book. An Afrikaans couple in Namibia initially run a cattle farm (as it is called in Africa) but gradually turn it into a wildlife refuge as they see a need in a place with dwindling places for wild animals to go. They also are willing to adopt infants and disabled animals. The farm grows into Harmas Wildlife Refuge and is supported by Angelina Jolie and Animal Planet. The book would seem to be very commercial as the celebrity monikers would indicate but it is not. ...more
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh my gosh. This book. This is one of the very few nonfiction books I've read that I have absolutely loved. I knew I would like this book but I never knew it would be one of my favorite reads of the year. This is basically a biography of Marieta van der Merwe, who is the founder of Harnas, a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, Africa. It takes you on a journey through Marieta's life and story of how she came to be such a huge inspiration to animal lovers and conservationists everywhere. This book mad ...more
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading the story of a native African woman's journey to save orphaned, injured, or otherwise helpless wildlife by creating a sanctuary. The book is extremely well-written; the author is an English professor who visited the sanctuary as a volunteer. Life in Africa is not easy, and a wildlife sanctuary cannot survive without involving the local community (especially tribes) and without opening up to volunteers and other eco-tourists. This is a story of success, and left me feeling like ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There are NO NEGATIVES with this book!! This is a fantastic book that I recommend that everyone read!! I also recommend that it goes on some kind of school reading program as it teaches family, what hard work is and what is produces, what life is about,along with love and heartbreak...this is NOT another BORN FREE book, please don't let the title fool you, however it does take place in Africa and takes place on a Wildlife Foundation..Please if you read, take a day or 2 and read this book!!! You ...more
Africa has such a treasure in its wildlife, yet most native people consider that wildlife a nuisance and/or a meal, so they have no qualms about destroying it. But occasionally there are people who recognize the animals for the value they have in just being animals, and work to save them. This is the story of one of those people, and the Harnas Wildlife Foundation she started, as told by someone who visited and volunteered there and just couldn't get the place out of her head. I loved reading th ...more
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing story of life, struggle tragedy and beauty!
Truly an wonderful book about an amazing woman and her family.The journey she takes and the hardships along the way all for the love of animals of all shapes and sizes. Its a beautiful story.

A true story that pulled on every fiber of my animal loving heart! Its a quick read and I highly recommend it, especially if you have a passion for conservation and preservation of all kinds of wildlife. It will make you appreciate the beauty all ar
Ali O'Hara
What a great book. If you love non-fiction or animals, you'll love this!

I love non-fic like this, that keeps you interested, but is easy to read in bits and pieces. This book is light and easy to read, but full of great stories, emotion, and compelling information. Volunteering at Harnas is now #1 on my 'bucket list'.
Donna Bijas
3.5 stars for a nonfiction story taking place on a wildlife preserve in Namibia. Asked to take a wounded animal led to her life long passion for saving all wild animals. Living and caring for lions, cheetahs, baboons and many other breeds over decades is a wonderful story about following your dream. Fabulous story.
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Never knew this animal sanctuary in Namibia existed, quite different from any other one of its kind. Great biography/adventure saga!
Anne Goodin
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I got this as a Christmas gift and was so pleasantly surprised!!! I felt I was right there at Harnas Wildlife in Namibia walking with Barbara and Mariete!!
Loved reading this one!!!
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing woman! Such an inspiration. We CAN all make a difference, just start.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down - it is a totally fascinating book. The author, Barbara Bennett, gives a factual account of Harnas and Marieta van der Merwe and her family (and their back stories). It is a fascinating story about how they go through the daily routine of rescuing, saving, rehabilitating, and sometimes releasing Africa's animals back into the wild. Bennett covers all aspects of the Harnas: volunteers (which is how she learns about the sanctuary), the animals; the rules they had to f ...more
Caroline Buckley
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful story within the book. Feels preachy at times and I personally feel like some of the stories are questionable when it comes to ethics, but overall a good read with many personal stories
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is written by a volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, about the sanctuary and its founders. I don't doubt the sincerity of the author or her love of animals. However, the writing style can be a bit overwrought at times, disjointed at other times. Overall, since I'm interested in animals and conservation, sanctuaries, etc. I found it interesting despite its flaws. If you are interested in volunteering abroad, animal sanctuaries, or people trying to rehabilitate and save wildlife ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is a tribute to Marieta van der Merwe and her family, as well as a tribute to the wild animal sanctuary she founded. It did focus on specific animals that have been rescued but it did not focus on animals as much as I expected. I admire the van der Merwe family for their love and devotion to animals ... all animals; however; I didn't like all of the narratives or examples described by the author. ...more
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Barbara Bennett is a professor of English at North Carolina State University and a frequent volunteer at Harnas Wildlife Refuge. When she isn't in Africa, she lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her partner Fred and her dog Milo. ...more

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