Tigers In Red Weather – A Quest For The Last Wild Tigers
On the dust jacket of my copy of Tigers in Red Weather is this tribute to the book: “Tigers in Red Weather is the most entrancing book on tigers that I have read – vibrant, lyrical, and sad, yet in the end, with a spark of hope.”
That was written by George Schaller, field biologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, grandfather of conservation biology, and prolific writer. If anyone out there was hoping to write “the most entrancing book on tigers” that George Schaller has read, Ruth Padel got there first. Just pick up a copy of her book instead. It belongs on a shelf of the best works on the tiger.
It is Matthiessen’s Tigers of the Snow meets Ward’s Tiger Wallahs, with its own questing sensibility.
Reeling from the bitter break-up of a long-term relationship, (Padel’s digressions into this particular source of heartbreak feel self-conscious and out of place), the author comes across an advertisement for an inexpensive sojourn in south India and goes, only to find herself swept up in the magic of the subcontinent, and the magnetism of the tiger.
She plunges into a two-year tour in search of the world’s remaining tigers and those who protect them or simply live near them. Travelling from west to east and then west again, Padel journeys through India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, Korea, China, Southeast Asia and Indonesia, before returning at last to south India. One of England’s most prominent poets and the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, Padel has a sensitive and lyrical pen, and her vivid and sometimes off-beat descriptions of the animals, people and places she encounters along her journey are memorable.
Padel describes in detail the personalities – Thapar, Karanth, Rabinowitz et al – tackling the problems – habitat loss, poaching, wildlife trade ad nauseum – facing the tiger. Tigers in Red Weather is ambitious, but never forced, weaving travel, science, adventure, conservation, natural history, mythology and countless other disciplines into a riveting, personal account of one person’s exploration of the meaning of wildness. Hanging over every page is the exhilaration and despair of the tiger. Where there is life, there is hope, Padel recognises, ending this lovely book with the phrase, “… I’ll go for hope.”
Ruth Padel, Published by: Walker & Co. Ltd., Paperback, $ 15.46