Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Trouble with Lions coming this April!

The Trouble with Lions: A Glasgow Vet in Africa (UAP, April 2008)

From the cover:
“The trouble with lions is that while you are conducting a pregnancy test, you need to be equally, if not more, aware of what you can learn from the lion’s other end.”—Jerry Haigh

Such is the kind of dry, canny wisdom that Jerry Haigh brings home with his fascinating collection of stories about working with wild animals in Africa. Conversational in tone, conservational in theme—you will be right beside Jerry, wife Jo, and a colourful cast of vets, guides, and wardens as they scour Africa’s sprawling vistas “troubleshooting” lions, rhinos, humans, and other indigenous mammals. Veterinarians, conservationists, and fans of real-life adventure tales will want to keep this memoir handy on the dashboards of their Land Cruisers.

“Dr. Haigh has written a book that tells the interconnected stories of people, agriculture, and wildlife conservation, about species as diverse as rhinos, chimpanzees, domestic cattle, and Ugandan kob. In writing The Trouble With Lions, as in choosing a career as a veterinarian and teacher, Dr. Haigh made a decision to make a difference. His book will make you want to do the same.”—Jane Goodall, from the Foreword

A Glasgow-schooled veterinarian, Jerry Haigh developed much of his wildlife expertise and storytelling acumen over years of working and living in Africa with his wife Jo. He currently works at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

Praise for Jerry Haigh’s first Africa memoir, Wrestling with Rhinos:
“…a lively and detailed glimpse into the life and thoughts of a dedicated and down-to-earth young veterinarian as he experienced Kenyan life.”—Elizabeth Abbott, The Globe and Mail

“…a free-flowing colourful series of yarns from a veterinary enthusiast. A great read.”— The New Zealand Veterinary Journal

“Wrestling with Rhinos reads like a James Herriott on safari, filled with amusing anecdotes, as well as more serious life-threatening situations.”— The Scottish Field

The University of Alberta Press
Wayfarer, a literary travel series
Book design by Lara Minja
Printed in Canada
$34.95 in Canada

ISBN-13: 978-0-88864-503-6

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January 23rd
Here we are preparing to head off to Uganda for another of the annual teaching trips.  Jo and I have everything packed (more or less) and will spend a few days in Europe before heading south to Africa.  The students will join us on Feb 5th and after a day in Kampala we will head into the field to begin working.

Meanwhile, the newly designed cover for The Trouble With Lions: A Glasgow Vet In Africa is out.  Lara Minja has done a wonderful job with the layout and I can hardly wait to see the finished book, which will be out in early April.  I will try to post the book cover to this blog, but I failed the first time.  Technological incompetence or something!

Maybe the folks at the U of Alberta Press can send it.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lion health check

My examination of the lioness that night followed a practiced procedure conducted by the men I was with. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to be as up-close-and-personal with her as I was without the aid of some bait, some drug-filled darts and the support of a team.

Read more!
When the lions arrived, Lue darted both animals from the safety of his Land Cruiser. Soon, the lions were lying on their sides, bathed in a pool of light coming from the vehicle parked no more than ten metres away. Ten metres farther on the light faded rapidly and beyond that lay who-knows-what in the pitch dark of the African night, a sliver of the old moon just appearing over the horizon, not enough to make any difference.
My burly, bearded colleague Mike Briggs approach the animals with commendable caution, prodded them with a pole he kept in the vehicle and pinched the upper ear of each in turn. Their lack of reaction was reassuring and meant that we could all get out and start work. I followed Kallie from my somewhat uncomfortable seat astride the gear shift, stethoscope in hand, and checked the vital signs of the lioness, Heart rate, sixty beats a minute, six breaths in thirty seconds. All was well.

Preface to The Trouble With Lions: (First 3 paragraphs)


The lion is a beautiful animal, when seen at a distance.—Zulu proverb

We carry within us the wonders we seek without us: there is all Africa and her prodigies in us.—Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1643)

In 2005 Canadian veterinary students travelling with me in Uganda were horrified to learn that villagers in Queen Elizabeth National Park had poisoned two lions. The lions had killed a cow, and there is nothing an African pastoralist values more highly than his cattle. What the students learned first-hand was that the killing was merely that latest skirmish in one of the longest running wars on the planet—the war between wild animals and humans. As one student put it, “That’s not quite the same as the nature films we see on the TV at home.”

There can hardly be a better example of the conflict between wildlife, on one hand, and livestock and humans, on the other, than the history of lion–human interactions. Jonathan Kingdon, whose magnificently illustrated, seven-volume East African Mammals is the pre-eminent text on many species, including lions, has described our relationship with lions as being governed by “the fact that for centuries lions have been predators of, competitors with and above all a source of symbolism for the human race.” Each of these components of the relationship has created problems for the most charismatic of Africa’s big cats. But, there are two other elements to our interactions with the so-called “King of Beasts” that are relevant to this particular story of the human–livestock–wildlife triangle. First, lion parts have long been used in witchcraft and for a variety of traditional medical practices. Second, within the last fifteen years a new element in the conflict has arisen as domestic animal diseases crossing into wildlife populations has become more prevalent.

Two hundred years ago lions ranged over most of Africa, the only exceptions to their large territory being a belt across the two great deserts, the Sahara and the Namib, and a swath of tropical rain forest stretching from the coastal regions of what is now the Ivory Coast across through to the Congo Basin. There were also lions in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, and across much of northwestern India, almost as far east as Delhi. As with most other wild species, today their range is much reduced and dwindling. The only wild population outside Africa lives in the Gir Forest of India’s Gujurat state, where numbers are said to exceed three hundred, on a positive note up from the approximate twenty animals recorded a hundred years ago. More evidence of the former extent of lion presence, even beyond Africa and the Near East was revealed when the Chauvet Cave in southeastern France was discovered in 1994. The cave is adorned with more stunning lion images than all other European art caves combined. It has been dated back about 35,000 years.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rhino capture in the early days

For many years black rhino were captured from vehicles using ropes. I became involved in rhino translocation in 1969 as the techniques changed to drug immobilization. Here a partially drugged rhino is pulled down before he can run into a deep gully and injure himself.

Memoir as Storytelling

As a wildlife veterinarian I have worked with Canadian species such as polar bears and moose. Many years of African work experience in several countries has included work with elephants, eagles, rhinos and lions.

I enjoy relating stories about my work, which range from having soldier ants up my shorts to giving an enema to a rhino. My first book was Wrestling With Rhinos (ECW 2002). Look for my second book of African memoir in April 2007, The Trouble with Lions (University of Alberta Press).