(Issue 71, Summer 2015)
The Impossible Five: In Search of South Africa’s Most Elusive Animals
By Justin Fox, (Tafelberg, Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-920434-94-6) *Please be aware that this book is only available in Southern Africa at present*
Most people go on safari, armed with binoculars and with their eyes peeled, in determined pursuit of the Big Five. But author and photographer Justin Fox steps it up a gear and goes in search of South Africa’s ‘Impossible Five’, an ambitious checklist including the near-mythical Cape mountain leopard, aardvark, desert pangolin, riverine rabbit and white lion.
With such a tricky task on his hands, the quest for each mammal makes for a delightful tale of adventures and frustrations, involving the assistance of a series of eccentric experts.
Fox finds himself tramping through the Cederberg with Cape mountain leopard specialist Quinton Martin, who is described as having reached a stage of ‘deep and abiding insanity’. The search for the elusive aardvark calls for the advice of a dynamic Swedish zoologist who is a world authority on bat-eared foxes. Finding a desert pangolin involves a barefoot scientist, and seeking out the riverine rabbit takes several thwarted night-drives. But to get, at long last, within range of a white lion calls for nothing more than a stiff G&T.
Fox, ever the artful storyteller, documents his experiences beautifully, imparting information with humour and warmth. It’s a delightful and inspiring read. It offers a fascinating introduction to five animals most of us know nothing about, and it provides plentiful insight into game-ranging, natural science, the protection of rare species and South Africa’s wilder regions.
Reviewed by Rose Gamble