Monday, April 10, 2017

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengence and Survival, by John Vaillant (author, narrator)

Random House Audio, August 2010

In a remote village in Russia's Far East, in the bitter cold of December 1997, a tiger started killing and eating people.

As terrifying as that was, it soon became clear that the attacks weren't random; the tiger was engaged in a vendetta. The first man killed, a poacher named Vladimir Markov, had not just injured but antagonized the tiger, and the wounded, sick, starving beast was hunting down everything with the smell of him or his dogs on it.

The lead tracker is Yuri Trush, an officer of Russia's Inspection Tiger, intended to protect the tiger, prevent poaching, and kill tigers only when absolutely unavoidable. Trush and his team have to track the tiger on foot, in a frigidly cold winter, with public fear and anger on the rise as the tiger stalks them.

Vaillant weaves a remarkable portrait of not just Trush and his team, but the native tribes and their history with the Siberian tiger; the Russian settlers and the economic boom followed by bust of this remote town; the deadly mix of poverty, desperation, and greed that further endangered the already rare Siberian tiger.

What's especially moving in all this is Trush's understanding that everyone involved, the tiger, the poachers, and everyone around them is simply doing what they need to do to survive in the post-Soviet collapse, failing economy, and increasingly threatened habitat. Vaillant's telling of this story is an amazing evocation of the human relationship to nature, unavoidable for both good and ill.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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