Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review

I am reading the BEST BOOK right now.  It is called The Tiger, A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant.  It is about tigers and people who live in the forests of the far eastern Russia.  About a decade ago a man named Markov, who lived in the woods, came across a dead boar, an obvious tiger kill and he took the hocks.  Apparently that is a big no-no because tigers don't like when you steal from them and they know who did it. Markov kept one of the hocks for himself and brought the other one to a logging camp near his home. The tiger stalked Markov for days, destroyed all property with his scent on it, including his latrine, killed his dogs, killed him, ATE HIM, and then stalked the loggers who had the other hock.

The book tells the story of Markov and the tiger and the Tiger Inspection team, but it also tells a very compelling story of how predators and people have gotten along through time.  The chapter I read yesterday outlined the idea of ethology, a concept introduced by a guy named Jacob van Uexkull.  The idea is that all creatures share a common environment, but their realities inside that environment are vastly different.  He says it's like if you blew a bubble around each creature that is full of the perceptions which it alone knows.  His example is of a woman and her dog walking down the street.  She notices a for sale sign, a policeman coming toward her or a broken bottle in her path, whereas the dog notices the scent of cooked meat coming from a restaurant, urine on a pole and crumbs on the sidewalk.  The two are walking down the same path but having vastly different experiences.  The same goes for every creature.  Predators need to get into the minds (or bubbles) of their prey in order to successfully hunt it.  Tigers are especially clever when they do this, so if a tiger decides you look delicious and he's really hungry, or you have wronged him in some way, he is going to get revenge, you are pretty much dead meat.  It's fascinating.  Apparently tigers and people who live in the same environment have had sort of a deal not to kill each other for thousands of years, but sometimes people or tigers break the deal and then watch out!

I have about half the book left to read because apparently this tiger isn't done hunting people.  Yikes!  Can you imagine knowing that a tiger was out there coming for you?  When the Tiger inspection people were investigating the "crime scene" they noticed fresh tiger tracks all around.  They knew the tiger was close, that he considered Markov his kill and the people were interfering with it.  When they realized this, they knew the tiger was probably watching them but they couldn't see it anywhere.  Just then they heard a deep growl that seemed to come from all around.  They left the scene to try to figure out what to do next.  SOOOO scary!

There was also another interesting story in the book about predators and prey.  A scientist was interested in learning why baboons, who have so much bravado in the light of day, stay hidden in caves at night to avoid big cats.  He wanted to see what it would take to get them to go out in the dark, so this man hid in the cave during the day and then after the troop of baboons came in and went to sleep he jumped out and scared the crap out of them.  They totally freaked out, but they would not leave the cave so apparently whatever was inside the cave with them was not as scary as what was outside in the dark.  I don't know how wise it is to scare a bunch of baboons in an enclosed space, but I guess the guy proved his point.  Baboons know how scary big cats can be and will sacrifice one or two inside the cave with the scary unknown rather than risk the loss of the whole troop outside in the dark with the lions.  Spooooooookkkkyyyyyy!!!

I highly recommend this book.  It is very suspenseful and written very well.


  1. Wow....this is the stuff of nightmares!

  2. My dad wrote me an email and said, "...You mean you believe the author of the book you are reading when he says that the cougar is going to return to the deer, see that the hams and backstraps are gone, pick up my scent and plan a vendetta against me? Ummm, I think not............"

    Okay DAD.
    1. Everyone knows cougars are cowards with forgiving spirits. 2. Cats take an exhaustive inventory of the meat before they leave it and when they return to it. (also something everyone knows)
    3. A tiger would totally kick your ass if they could read what you said about them. You're lucky they don't read. (Or do they???)

    Watch out, Pop! And quit stealing hams from cougars!


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