Saturday, April 19, 2008

The launch in Saskatoon

Refinery Launch of The Trouble With Lions

What a turnout! Thanks so much for everyone who came along, we had about ninety folks take a big slice out of their evenings and come to join Jo and me at Saskatoon’s Refinery for the public launch. The intimate space of the basement gave everyone a chance to mix and mingle and lots of folks purchased copies of the book. My hand got a bit tired signing and also making sure that every single copy had the typo on page 237 corrected. More of this below.

After a glass of what-you-fancy we headed upstairs to the theatre where Cynthia and Jim had laid out the chairs on three sides of the room and set up a couple of tables for my toys – a computer and projector, as well as the sound system for Brother Kurt, who would play some music in the “intermission”.

Jim McCrory, well known broadcaster in the Saskatchewan scene led the event of with an intro, and then I told a few stories about some of the work in the early days, when I was translocating rhino. I ran an old two minute movie clip, shot on Super 8, of the actual techniques of rhino capture and with the technical revolution this has been digitized for use on PowerPoint. I also related the account of how a San man (used to be called Bushman, but that is no longer appropriate) captured ostriches with a small snare and a piece of ostrich shell. Ostriches are fatally attracted to anything white, so Anton, which was the man’s Westernized name, gave us a dramatic demo of how a bird will dip its head into the trap and end up with the snare around its neck. As the snare, made of very strong natural fibre, is tied to a stout tree the ostrich is doomed and the man and his family have a nice pile of meat. Of course this is just one example of how humans have acquired their meat from wild animals since time immemorial. This leads into a discussion of the wider subject of what is now dubbed “Bushmeat”, an emotional subject that has become a high-profile issue in many forums.

From there we listened to Kurt, who is a member of my writers group, as he played a couple of well-known tunes for us – Wimoweh, and She’s Got Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Feet.

After that break I headed into the newer territory of our work in Uganda, and this occupies the last six chapters of the book, covering conservation, human tragedies, teaching, humour and the very complicated human x livestock x wildlife interface. One of the humorous events occurred when a female member of the party, standing in what passed for a shower, sluicing herself off with water from a cup repeatedly dipped into a plastic bowl, became convinced that a Peeping Tom was giving her the once over. It was a local member of a wildlife troop.

And the typo? The caption of the photo of the hyaena on page 237 has one crucial word missing. Here is the photo, and anyone not in the know would at once recognize it as being of the groin region of a male. It is not. The caption reads “External genitalia of a juvenile spotted hyaena.” One crucial word is missing. Between juvenile and spotted should come the word “female”. For a fuller explanation you can take a look at the text, or for the real detail buffs go to the actual science references in the bibliography. The ultra short version is that early in the life of the fetus the chemical events that lead to either testosterone or oestrogen being the major sex hormone are not the same in hyaenas as they are in other mammals.

It seems as if no book is ever published without a typo or two. Peter Midgley, the managing editor on this project, himself a published author, told me that Persian rug makers would always insert a deliberate error so that their work would not rival the perfection of Allah.

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