Book Reviews – Journal of Zoo & Wildlife Medicine

Wrestling with Rhinos: The Adventures of a Glasgow Vet in Kenya, Jerry Haigh. ECW Press, Toronto, Canada. 2002, 390 pages. Price $21.95 (U.S.)
Review in the Journal of Zoo & Wildilfe Medicine. Dec 2002

Being another Glasgow graduate, I was particularly pleased to get to review “Wrestling with Rhinos” and to learn a little more about a figure familiar to the majority of the Journal’s readership. The book is a detailed autobiographical account of approximately a decade spent in Kenya beginning in 1965 and charting the progress of Jerry Haigh from new graduate and bachelor, to experienced battle-scarred large animal/wildlife veterinarian and family man. Anyone who has met Jerry will find, that he writes in much the same manner in which he talks. Consequently, I found that knowing the author slightly meant I could imagine him relating the story, especially with his frequent use of conversational style. The book is divided into thirty-two chapters with an epilogue; each chapter, in Victorian fashion, starts with a summary sentence to pique your interest for the tales to follow. Complete with accounts of fishing and mountain climbing trips, a recipe for chutney, a Swahili phrase list, suggested further reading on Africa, and illustrated with both black & white, and color images, there should be something in this book for everyone. Those that have a particular interest in Africa and its wildlife, will recognize several names along the way, particularly Joy and George Adamson, Wilfred Thesiger, and Toni and Suzanne Harthoorn.

Veterinary medicine was very much in its infancy when the author arrived in Kenya, to the point that he was present when Jomo Kenyatta officially opened the veterinary college and as a District Veterinary Officer he could make minor husbandry changes and cause a significant improvement in herd returns. Disease conditions mentioned in the text are covered in a brief and simple fashion, designed for the lay reader, but the types of disease referred to are not those frequently encountered, making the text of wider relevance, for example, cases of tick borne disease and altitude sickness. The capture of rhinos for transport to zoological parks to avoid their falling into the hands of poachers and, in Rwanda, the requested removal of problem elephants from areas into which the human population had grown, are described. While the author emphasizes how some concepts in wildlife management have changed dramatically over time, the whole book can be read as an interesting period piece, as there have been dramatic broader cultural changes too.

____Reviewed by Mary Duncan, B.V.M.S., Ph.D., Dipl.A.C.V.P., Staff Pathologist, St. Louis Zoo, One Government Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.