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Review: Working for Wildness by Colin Souness

January 18, 2019


This book’s full name includes the sub-title ‘A naturalist’s travels in the Arctic, Antarctica,  Africa, India, Russia, New Zealand and Scotland’ and it really covers all these astonishing regions.

The author, Colin Souness, writes in an academically anecdotal way, if I can put it like that. The book is divided into chapters that cover his different experiences in the countries and regions mentioned and poses questions that challenge our perception of conservation like no other. I was intrigued, fascinated, horrified and saddened in equal measure. However, I also felt the author’s love for what he does, his respect for the natural world and his overriding passion with the wilderness, whether it be Antarctica or Africa. I particularly enjoyed the parts about Africa, but that’s probably no surprise with my background.

One aspect struck me with some force, however. Colin Souness writes about his work in the efforts to protect, conserve and develop the Kiwi population in New Zealand where these special birds are a national symbol and yet frighteningly close to extinction. Sadly, they are prey to a number of other ‘imported’ animals, such as possums and domestic cats, so much of his labour was to trap and despatch these predators. The author says with some (I believe) sadness that to protect one animal, he has to kill an awful lot of others, and that is the paradox of this type of vocation. It is a tough call, and not an easy one to make.

What the book also made me realise is that the life of a naturalist is not for the faint-hearted or lily-livered. I know I would not be fit for the job. Many animal species live on other animals; nature is tough. The author also shows how many interests have to be considered in conservation (not least, the needs of humanity), and above all, the factor of relevance must be examined, in all its different contexts.

This is a fascinating, absorbing book that has given me completely new insights on conservation, preservation and environmentalism. It is both thought-provoking in content and entertaining in style. I would say that in today’s complicated world, it is a must-read if we are to begin to understand the concept of conservation and what it means to us as individuals.

A link to the book is here


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