As a writer I’m familiar with spending long periods in isolation in confined spaces. But after a few months of lockdown even that has proved to be challenging for even the most die-hard isolationist. So I used the opportunity to write my new book “The Cat That Changed America” for young readers, about the true life story of P22 mountain lion who lives in Griffith Park in the middle of Los Angeles. After all, P22 can relate to being geographically stuck in the centre of an urban sprawl.
In case you’re not familiar with his true life story, P22 was born in the Santa Monica Mountains, and crossed two of the busiest freeways in America, the 405 and the 101, before he settled in Griffith park. Yet P22 is now trapped, hemmed in by freeways and houses all around, with little chance of ever finding a mate. My new book is based on my documentary film which explored his plight and the development of the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon in Los Angeles. Conservationists are trying to save the mountain lions of the Santa Monica Mountains like P22, as they raise $85 million dollars for the new crossing.
Male mountain lions need very large home ranges – around 200 square miles – they need to be connected to open spaces, otherwise they will fight to the death over territory. It’s our responsibility as considerate neighbours to ensure they have enough space to thrive, otherwise they suffer from the effects of inbreeding and infighting.
It was a story that had to be told. I was in awe of fortitude of P22 who crossed two major freeways. I also had an intense physical reaction when I heard about the extent of the rodenticide poisoning, and thought that the public should be aware of the devastating effects upon our wildlife.
I think my book is very timely, as the National Wildlife Federation and the Save LA Cougars campaign are striking ground in 2021 with the development of the wildlife crossing.
I chose the title “The Cat that Changed America”, because P-22 has moved the dial in our thinking about where urban wildlife can thrive, especially wildlife as big as a mountain lion. P-22 is living in the middle of the second largest city in the United States, and one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world. If we are to coexist with nature, we radically have to change our lifestyle and our way of thinking, and become part of nature, even if we are living in one of the densest urban areas on Earth. Species are disappearing at an alarming rate; we are Nature’s gatekeepers, the responsibility of the planet at this moment in time rests solely in our hands, brought to light by the current pandemic, and P-22’s story and the wildlife crossing truly shows that charity begins at home, right on our doorstep.
The Cat That Changed America is published on October 22nd by Sabana Publishing and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Ghost
Maven, a story about a girl who falls in love with a ghost, is also published in a new edition on October 27th.