Cries of the Savanna by Sue Tidwell – A Book Review

Hunting in Africa is a controversial subject that I have discussed with expert guests a few times on my podcast. I also follow related social media discussions. Unfortunately, I get the impression (confirmed on many occasions) that people taking part in these discussions have very limited, or purely theoretical, experience. This often leads to ridiculous statements and ill-informed opinions.

In contrast, in Cries of the Savanna, Sue Tidwell describes her own experiences and conflicting emotions related to hunting in Africa. The book tells the story of her first African safari, deep in the Tanzanian bush, with her husband, a handful of friends and a safari camp crew including trackers, helpers, government officials and, last but not least, a PH (Professional Hunter). I find this type of writing compelling since, in my opinion, it is the most honest way of conveying stories and events. It allows readers to taste the adventure and the realities of a safari camp as if they were there.

Even though I’m calling it an adventure book, in reality, it is so much more. It offers a blend of first-hand experiences and well-researched explanations of complex issues such as human-wildlife conflict, poaching and the ethics of hunting charismatic African megafauna. Sue describes in detail her own internal conflict related to hunting these animals. And even though she’s been around hunting from an early age, those beasts carried for her quite a different emotional load. She doesn’t shy away from these emotions and explores them in-depth.

I found the book’s layout interesting. Each chapter focuses on a different issue or animal. And even in the chapters devoted to complex problems, there is always a specific species being showcased in the background. The unique photos taken by Sue during her trip underline the authenticity of the message and make the book complete. They are not glamorous images of picture-perfect African landscapes and ideally presented animals but are documentary-style depictions of what the author saw.

I can honestly say that if I had to recommend only one book or article to introduce a reader to the complexities of wildlife conservation on the African continent, this would be it. Well researched scientific facts combined with first-hand experiences on the ground make this book a truly impressive package! And even if you’re not new to the complexities of African wildlife conservation or the realities of an authentic African safari, I would still recommend this book. Without a doubt, you will learn something new.

And remember if you buy the book (or any other items) through the provided links below, you will also support my work here on Tommy’s Outdoors.

Waking to her husband’s alarmed whisper, “Honey, get ready to run” was never in Sue Tidwell’s vision of Africa. Nor was skulking through snake-infested terrain or lying terror-stricken as the cries of lions and hyenas cut through the walls of her tent. Tidwell, a non-hunter deeply troubled by the concept of hunting Africa’s iconic wildlife, finds herself a reluctant sidekick on an epic 21-day big game hunting safari deep in the wilds of Tanzania

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Wildwoods by Richard Nairn – A Book Review

The subject of Irish native woodlands has come up on the podcast more than once. For instance, I devoted an entire episode to this subject in 2018. Being born and raised in a country with much more tree cover than Ireland, broadleaf woodlands are one of the features of the natural landscape that I miss the most.

Early this year, after visiting a few local patches of remaining native woods I decided to read and learn more about Irish woodlands. I searched the Internet and came across a book by Richard Nairn titled “Wildwoods: The Magic of Ireland’s Native Woodlands”. I approached it with a little apprehension, as the word “magic” in the title made me think that it might be a little over-romanticised at the expense of hard scientific facts. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.

The book is cleverly structured around the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. It’s based on the author’s experience of managing his own patch of native woodland. Nairn recounts the journey of learning about his woodland and his efforts to manage, restore and safeguard its future. He also takes the reader on his journeys to other woodlands where he met with experts to learn more about woodland history and ecology.

In the book, you will not only find solid information about tree species, plants and their ecology but also about insects, birds and other animals like badgers and squirrels. The author also doesn’t shy away from discussing social issues related to nature conservation and management such as badger cull. And as if that wasn’t enough, the book also contains an overview of Irish woodland history which is intriguingly intertwined with the history of the Irish state.

Overall, the book turned out to be a very engaging read. It’s packed with a lot of interesting and useful information. I’m definitely putting it on my list of recommended reads. And as always, I encourage you to buy it using the links below. That way you will not only get yourself a great book but also support my work.

Wildwoods is a fascinating account of his journey over a typical year. Along the way, he uncovers the ancient roles of trees in Irish life, he examines lost skills such as coppicing and he explores new uses of woodlands for forest schools, foraging and rewilding. Ultimately, Wildwoods inspires all of us to pay attention to what nature can teach us.

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The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann – A Book Review

I’m not exactly sure who recommended this book to me but I think it was one of my followers on social media. As always in such cases, I bookmarked it for later. After a few months I finally, and I must admit reluctantly, decided to give it a try. And boy, did I not regret it! So I’m writing this short review to return the favour and recommend it to you.

Given the topic of my podcast I am often entangled in discussions and debates about the natural environment, the role humans play in it and the best way forward for us. Those discussions are often heated and, I must admit, it is sometimes hard for me to make sense of some of the points being made. I’m sure that some of you can relate to this situation so I’m glad to let you know that this book will help you to make sense of it all!

The author discusses two fundamentally different philosophical approaches to humanity’s relation to the natural environment. “Wizards” rely on technology and human ability to change and shape the environment beyond what’s possible for other living creatures. “Prophets” insist that humans are just living organisms subject to the same natural laws as all others on this planet. These two opposing concepts result in different opinions as to the correct course of action for humanity going forward.

The book deals with a number of hot button topics and discusses them from both perspectives. The list includes climate change, farming, population growth, GMO foods, geoengineering and more. It is rich in historical facts and discusses important events, such as scientific discoveries, wars and famines, and how they changed the approach or caused a course correction for both “wizards” and “prophets.”

Don’t make the mistake, like I almost did, of thinking that reading this book would be a waste of time because you already have your own opinions on these subjects. As always, the differences are more nuanced than you might think. And as I said at the beginning, knowing the origin of these differences will help you understand why some people are making the arguments they do.

It is a highly recommended read and you can easily get the book using the link below. And by doing so, you will support my work as I will get a small commission. Don’t worry it won’t affect the price!

In forty years, the population of the Earth will reach ten billion. Can our world support so many people? What kind of world will it be? In this unique, original and important book, Charles C. Mann illuminates the four great challenges we face – food, water, energy, climate change – through an exploration of the crucial work and wide-ranging influence of two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt.

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