Selected as "one of the best nature books of 2014" by The Guardian's science blogger, When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer is a memoir of James Currie’s experiences as a game ranger and birder in Africa, in which he tells of many a narrow escape from the jaws of death, whether they be those a puff adder that literally catches him with his pants down, or those of a lioness charging him while out birding.
Each chapter in When Eagles Roar is prefaced by a few lines of poetry from the renowned Zulu poet, Mazisi Kunene, whose literary goal was the retelling of African history in a way that he believed would make it relevant and authentic to the non-African. In such a way does Currie, with the assistance of Bonnie Fladung, share the wonders of life in the bush (including a great deal more than just the Big Five) with those of us who have only limited awareness of what such a life entails.
Currie prides himself on his ability to tell stories well, which he certainly does. His acute awareness of both the dangers and the lyricism of the African bush comes alive in these pages, which are illustrated with many an artful line drawing by Margo Damian. The threats to which those living in Africa are subject not only come from the never-ending cycle of predator and prey, of which humans form an inevitable, and largely dominant, part, but also from the onslaught of one of the most deadly of modern-day scourges, AIDS. Currie’s solid bond with his trackers, who come from the local African communities, is made heartbreakingly real in his telling of how they and their families are affected by this dread disease. His ability to make close connections with them can, to a large extent, be attributed to his knowledge of their native isiZulu language. Although Currie does not dwell on politics, one is made aware of his opposition to the apartheid regime of yesteryear, which has left so much poverty in its wake, to which the country as a whole is still subject, in the form of its depredatory legacy.
This book is likely to have widespread appeal to both old and young, and should especially be made available to youngsters who are intent on choosing a worthwhile career path for themselves. However, those who are prurient of mind should be aware that they might find some of the wording in When Eagles Roar offensive, as this is a tale that does not pander to the euphemistically inclined, but which is rather one of nitty-gritty existence in the bush, despite much of it revolving around the trials and tribulations of a game ranger living on the five-star Phinda Game Reserve in the more rural areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
In short, this memoir roars with the pulsating life of Africa, which, although under threat, nevertheless has a magic all of its own. The humanitarian nature of this work gives it a power that transcends the individual magnetism of the author, with it having a transcontinental appeal that should prove a true draw card worldwide not only among conservationists, but also among all those who are intrigued by other life forms that hopefully will continue to share our planet for eons yet to come.
Heading to South Africa? National Geographic recommends reading before you go: When Eagles Roar - the riveting memoir of South African native James Alexander Currie, an internationally acclaimed wildlife, conservation, and sustainable development expert.
Proud to be selected by the New Hampshire State Library for "Book of the Week"
The Guardian science blog selects "When Eagles Roar" as one of "The Best Nature Books of 2014"