(Issue 67, Summer 2014)
The Hunt for the Golden Mole: All Creatures Great and Small and Why They Matter
By Richard Girling (Chatto & Windus)
Hardback, 312 pages, ISBN 978-0-701-18715-6).
The clue to the broad thrust of Richard Girling’s brilliant book lies in its subtitle. One such creature is the Somali Golden Mole, an animal noone has ever seen, known to science only through the presence of a tiny fragment of jawbone found in an owl pellet in 1964. Intrigued by the mole’s shadowy existence, Girling embarked on a journey to Florence by way of Africa to track down the Italian professor who made the discovery fifty years ago. But his quest leads the reader ever more deeply into the shocking history of extinction and our relationship with the countless diverse species whose fate now lies in our hands. Here, from the early days of animal collectors and big game hunters, he traces the development of the conservation movement that offers our only hope of redemption.
The chapters in which he visits Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique and Ol Pejeta in Kenya will be of particular interest to Travel Africa subscribers, although the statistics relating to elephant and rhino poaching make for grim reading. Conservation is a complex business, but Girling, consummate wordsmith and master storyteller that he is, has transformed the dry-as-dust language of science and produced a work of pure gold.
Reviewed by Brian Jackman