“Whatever happens to beasts happens to man.”
Combining moments of danger with moments of profound introspection, mountaineer/explorer Ridgeway details his journey from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro through the Tsavo game reserves to Mombasa, a month-long journey on foot, which allows him to experience man’s primal relationships with the environment. Traveling with an experienced guide, two members of the Kenya Park and Wildlife Service, and two sharpshooters (in case of life-threatening danger), Ridgeway follows dry riverbeds across the savanna, seeking “tactile knowledge of Africa’s wildlands and wild animals.”
Far more than a search for thrills, the journey offers Ridgeway an opportunity to observe breath-taking vistas and the full panoply of wildlife, from the elephant to the tiniest of birds, paying equal attention to all. Mourning the absence of once-plentiful animals from the bushlands near Kilimanjaro, and the decline of species elsewhere, Ridgeway contemplates the long-term effects of colonialism, big game hunting, poaching, traditional tribal values, climatic changes, and tourism, as well as man’s seemingly innate tendency to kill certain species into extinction.
Ridgeway, long a hunter himself, is an engaging author, both observant and thoughtful. A great admirer of hunter-turned-game-park-adminstrator Bill Woodley, whose two sons from the Park and Wildlife Service are on the journey, he provides a sensitive and impartial treatment of conservation issues. Extolling the work of elephant researchers Cynthia Moss and Joyce Poole, the latter of whom joins the group for part of the journey, he points out that they have acquired through study a kind of knowledge not available to hunters. Without preaching, he conveys “the big picture,” making a compelling case for the fact that to preserve Africa’s large mammals one must “fight fiercely not only to preserve, but even to expand, their wild habitat.”
The photo of the Tsavo Game Reserve is from http://www.maasaicamp.com