Ruth Sophia Padel

Picture 144A prize-winning British poet who also writes acclaimed non-fiction including the bestseller Tiger in Red Wether. There was much to be learnt from this conservation genius greatly concerned with Tiger conservation during her visit to Corbett National park and stay at Vanghat. Ruth Padel is a fellow both of the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society of London, a Member both of the Royal Geographical Society and Bombay Natural History Society. She has won the UK National Poetry Competition; individual poems from her seven collections have been widely anthologized, broadcast, and short listed for all major British prizes. Her awards include First Prize in the National Poetry Competition, a Cholmeley Award from the Society of Authors and an Arts Council of England. Her poetry collection, Darwin – A Life in Poems, is a biography in poems of her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin.  Her nature book, Tigers in Red Weather, about her quest through Asian jungles to find what is going on in tiger conservation, drew on her scientific background and Darwinian descent, but also carried an appendix of poems related to her search.

Picture 137About Tiger in Red Wether

Asia in the twenty-first century as China’s shadow grows, Asia poised on the edge of change – and a woman exploring its threatened jungles for the animal they call the soul of Asia. Is this the tiger’s last moment before extinction or can it be saved? Who is trying to save it, and how? Are there any tigers left, and if so, where? After ending a long relationship, award-winning poet Ruth Padel finds herself inexplicably drawn to the great animal solitary; potent, myth-laden, and now gravely endangered. She comes across an advert for a cheap trip to India and visits a tiger reserve. So begins a remarkable journey, and an obsession. With her granny’s opera glasses and a pair of cheap Tunisian trainers, asking how and where do tigers live and what are their chances, she plunges into tiger myths, tiger dreams, and leech-infested jungles.

Among the cobras, bears and golden langurs living tangled lives in the tiger’s shadow from Nepal to Siberia, Karnataka to Indonesia, and with poems in her pocket to keep her going, she meets tigers, leopards, bee-keepers, forest guards, espionage teams pitted against ruthless poachers. She kayaks through rapids, camps on rainforested mountains, but above all she travels with and questions “defenders of the wild”: the scientists and conservationists struggling to protect the forest and its denizens from armed poachers, and from the mining, logging and development mafias that threaten the world’s last remaining wilderness.

What does wild mean? Why does it matter that wilderness should continue, that wild tigers still exist, when there are thousands of tigers in zoos and always will be? How, faced with wildlife crime, poaching and the loss of forests, do you deal with despair? What about the symbols and meanings we load the tiger with, which lead us both to revere and destroy it?

There are animal books, there are travel books, there are getting over someone books, but you don’t usually find them all together. This one is about loss and survival, poetry and science; about what you find when you enter the forest. Secret remote Bhutan, the taiga of Far East Russia, vulnerable to the mafia and changing forest law; the jungles of Laos, full of landmines and rapidly being emptied by the wildlife trade; snowy forests of north-east China; equatorial Sumatran rainforest with its illegal chainsaws, landslides, and tiger shamans.

This is a wise, captivating and above all a timely study in natural history, a beautiful piece of travel literature driven by deep reverence for nature, wildlife and science, and a meticulously focussed snapshot of Asia on the edge of irreversible environmental change. It opens your eyes to wider issues of bio-diversity in all their urgency and humanity, to knife-edge moral questions about a balance between poverty and conservation.

Finally, Tigers in Red Weather is an exploration of love – a quest for generous disenchantment, for falling out of love while honouring the past. It is an inner as well as an outer journey.

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