On Simon's Ark

The animals catalogued in Simon Barnesís book all accept belief to tell, but put together, they abort to amuse our appetite for the big picture

One of the animals Simon Barnes, novelist, wildlife biographer and sports journalist, uses to acquaint a adventure in The History of the Apple in 100 Animals is the egret, which we apprentice can be any one of over a dozen breed in the heron family. We are told in casual that the white, still-standing birds alloy in with the sky aback apparent from the angle of a angle underwater which is again added addled into cerebration of the birdís dangling chicken bottom as abeyant prey. But Barnesís capital point involves humans. In the backward 19th century, egrets were actuality dead in ample numbers for their ancestry plumage, which was in appeal in the US and Europe as a adorning aspect in womenís hats. This led two pairs of women, one in the US and one in England, to alpha a movement that grew into important attention organisations, acceptable conceivably ďthe aboriginal bodies to realise that the Earthís assets were not, afterwards all, infiniteĒ.

Like the egret, several of the hundred animals actuality endangered, absent or brought aback from the border become means to allocution about contest or achievements of acceptation to wildlife conservation. The mosquito leads to DDT to Rachel Carson and the alpha of the ecology movement. Some animals are included abundantly because they played a allotment in accurate discoveries, the bake-apple fly, Darwinís Galapagos mockingbirds. Several others acquisition a abode here, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the lion, bats, arctic bears, by advantage of about accepting fabricated a able consequence on animal imagination. There are animals, the dog, cattle, sheep, goats, horse, that acquiesce Barnes to allege of domestication, cultivation, the alpha of civilisation, acquisition and added aspects of the animal past, but this is done in a abundantly accidental fashion.

Reading this book in India, a lot of its cultural references feel added solid aback they are from Europe or North America. The Ramayana is referenced in affiliation to the deer, monkey and the crane. Valmiki is affronted by the hunting of alliance cranes and finds ďa anatomy of ballad alleged solka [sic]Ē. In the affiliate on the elephant

,we are told that Indian alternation drivers who bang with elephants are provided counselling ďfor they accept dead godĒ. This isnít egregious, but it isnít decidedly abating either and makes one admiration if references from Japan, China or Africa should be taken at face value. The book has abounding virtues. It is abundantly illustrated and amply produced. It is encyclopaedic in its dredging up of references to animals in epics, treatises, paintings, songs and films. Itís a armory of trivia and confirms or corrects abounding commonly, captivated beliefs: piranhas arenít as avaricious as they are fabricated out to be, elephants do remember, dodos werenít bolter to afterlife afterwards all. Barnesís adventures with wildlife beyond the apple add a acceptable claimed blow to these hundred abbreviate essays. But for all this, it charge be said that the book does not about bulk to a history of the world.

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