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Cheetah Sandwiches and Spiritual Forebears

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 10, 2010

Conservation Magazine has published a nice notice for The Species Seekers, with the flattering idea that the people I write about are my own “spiritual forebears.”  They are certainly the forebears of the wildlife biologists I have visited in the field, from African wild dog expert Tico McNutt to Madagascar ant man Brian Fisher.  But I’m just an interested observer.  Here’s the review

Award-winning writer Richard Conniff has spent much of his professional life chasing after weird and wonderful creatures. Or, as he put it in his latest book, Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time, “doing stupid things with animals.” Now, in The Species Seekers, he takes a step into the past and embarks on a lively search for his spiritual forebears: those men (and they were mostly men) who were drawn to the natural world when it was a wilder and more forbidding place, full to the bursting with unknown unknowns. Starting with Linnaeus in the eighteenth century and ending today, Conniff follows naturalists as they upend one of humanity’s cherished beliefs—namely, that rather than being the center of the known world, we are merely one among a great web of species.

Conservation Magazine has also published a notice about Swimming With Piranhas at Feeding Time, now out in paperback (and a very nice gift for the naturalists in your life):

Richard Conniff writes for Smithsonian and National Geographic and has traveled from Botswana to Louisiana to Costa Rica covering wildlife and nature stories. His new book is a collection of animal anecdotes from around the world. When not swimming in a tank of piranhas, Conniff observes the sex lives of dung beetles (prone to infidelity), describes termites who share food “from both ends of the digestive tract,” and considers paternity questions in cheetah society.

I think that paternal uncertainty reference may have to do with a sort of Cheetah Sandwich I once observed in Tanzania, a stack of three males named Daniel, Day, and  Lewis, atop one hapless female named Florence, described by biologist Sarah Durant as “looking rather squashed.”

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