By Malcolm Smith | Whittles Publishing | Paperback | July 2016 | 201 Pages | ISBN: 9781849951777


The Publisher’s View: Travel stories about some of the most amazing and unusual parts of the wild world

Vivid descriptions of an array of wild animals and the places they inhabit

Strange and amusing encounters with local people and occasional brushes with authority

Often amusing, sometimes romantic or fraught with danger, these 30 short stories are about local people, spectacular places and the special wildlife the author sets out to find. The stories include seeking out Arabian Oryx on the searing plains of the Saudi desert; eiderdown collecting in Iceland, crouching in swirling clouds and darkness on a knife-edge ridge in the rugged Madeiran mountains and swimming with Grey Seals off the Pembroke coast.

The author describes incredible encounters with spectacular animals from lumbering manatees and dangerous rhinos to unforgettable experiences such as being led by a honeyguide with a Kenyan Dorobo tribesman to the nest of wild bees and watching cranes tip-toeing their courtship dances. He also attended a Parsi funeral where the corpses are no longer consumed by vultures; experienced a close encounter with armed Omani police, bluffed his way on to the largest refuse tip in southern Asia and canoed along Mali’s Niger River watching black and yellow ‘bishops’ displaying along its banks. These are just a few of the remarkable experiences recounted by Malcolm in a lifetime searching out some of the most interesting, and some of the rarest, animals on earth.

These hugely entertaining tales visit places as diverse as the Florida Everglades, England’s New Forest, Iceland’s offshore islands, the Empty Quarter of the Saudi Desert, the tiny remnants of the Jordan’s Azraq wetland and the impressive oak dehesas of Extremadura. Sit back and visit the world!

The Author: Dr. Malcolm Smith is a biologist and former Chief Scientist at the Countryside Council for Wales. He is a prolific writer on wildlife, environment and travel and has had numerous features published in a variety of magazines and newspapers. He is the author of the acclaimed Life with Birds: A Story of Mutual Exploitation and Back from the Brink

Fatbirder View: The first thing I have to say is that Whittles have done the author no favour by using a small font which old codgers like me will find difficult even with their reading specs on! This small print makes for long pages and the bright white paper makes it hard to keep your place… I checked with a couple of other people and its NOT just me. Its a shame as it meant I chose random chapters to read rather than going cover to cover.

My first impression was that these tales were the originals written for publication in newspapers or magazines before the blue pencil chopped them down to a size right for a periodical. I think this is because of the detail one usually finds in newspapers that are, in fact, completely irrelevant to the story. In our local rag this is usually along the lines of ‘Jane Doe, 57-year old grandmother from New Town…’ There is a point at which an anecdote becomes a shaggy dog story and my feeling is that sometimes the line was crossed.

Maybe this was unfair as the more I read the more there was of interest. I could still have happily forsaken the ‘human interest’ detail when it comes to French farmers protesting about Brown Bear re-introductions, but the technique serves the reader well when one needs to know that a journey was prolonged because the rickshaw driver was rather too old to make sufficiently fast progress.

You will have to judge for yourself of course, and while doing so will travel around the world to some very interesting places seeing lots of wildlife on the way.

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