Tales of an African Vet by Dr. Roy Aronson (Canada) - (US)
Finished: May 21, 2011
First Published: Oct. 5, 2010
Publisher: Lyons Press
Genre: non-fiction, memoir, animals
I was crouched in a small clearing in the dense African bush with the trackers about 10 meters (11 yards) ahead of me when all hell broke loose.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Globe Pequot Press.
Reason for Reading: I enjoy travel books and although I am not an animal activist I enjoy memoirs of vets along the lines of James Herriot and Gerald Durrell. This book simply caught my attention.
Roy Aronson has been a veterinarian in Cape Town, South Africa for twenty-five years and while he sees his fair share of cats and dogs, he's also had some unique African wild animals brought into his office. Plus he has friends who are vets on Wildlife Reserves and they often call him in to assist or simply to have a look-see at an interesting case and thus Aronson has led an eventful life caring for wild animals both clinically and in the bush. Each chapter of this book is a separate vignette and there is also no real chronological progression either making this an easy book to pick up, read a chapter and come back to again later.
While a couple of cases take place in Aronson's practice most of the stories take place out in the African bush on wildlife reserves or the Pretoria Zoo. He also goes out to farms, specifically fish farms, both trout and koi, and an alligator farm. Each chapter was interesting telling tales of elephants, lions, hedgehogs, snakes, rhinos, cheetahs, gemsboks, and many more. Each story usually involves some sort of danger, either to the animal or the animal handlers, so there is a sense of excitement to the reflections along with the author's apparent love for animals of all species. He also spends some brief time, without preaching, on educating against needless slaughter/poaching of animals for inane reasons. For example, rhinos are still killed in the wild for their horns which are sold for tremendous amounts of money to be ground into powder to make teas which supposedly are an aphrodisiac. The author has sampled said tea and can vouch for its ineffectiveness. Through such types of education of the masses, the author feels the slaughter can be stopped.
An interesting read that I really enjoyed. The author's voice was friendly and informative but was lacking an element of humour which I think would have made the book just that bit more enjoyable. He did have a sense of humour, of a sort, but if fell rather flat, leaving funny scenes without the laugh. Overall, though, an entertaining read.