Exploration of the creatures that share our urban centers, including giant house-eating snails in Miami, leopards in Mumbai, wild pigs in Berlin and red foxes in London.
Donovan, a British freelance journalist (Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, 2013, etc.) with a degree in ecology, chronicles his journeys with local experts in dozens of cities as they deal with the animals in their midst. In Phoenix, he accompanied a calm rattlesnake catcher responding to calls from alarmed householders. In Cape Town, South Africa, he learned about rogue baboons from the head of the University of Cape Town’s Baboon Research Unit. While Donovan’s outings were often with men and women coping with unwelcome intruders, such as black bears, grizzlies, lions, coyotes and rats, in Chicago, it was a different story. That city is on the Mississippi Flyway, and every year, thousands of migratory birds die from crashing into buildings. The author joined the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors as they patrolled the city’s streets, gathering up, counting, examining and cataloging the bodies of dead birds. Squeamish readers, be warned: Donovan features less charming wildlife in the later chapters, in which he examines some of the undesirable insects, such as cockroaches and bedbugs, that thrive in our cities. The author devotes a small portion of this entertaining jaunt through city wildlife to the serious question of conservation. We can use cities to supplement wider efforts at preserving biodiversity, but first we have to stop thinking of cities as barren, anti-nature zones.
A clear demonstration that the world’s cities are full of nonhuman life, best read in small doses, say a chapter at a time on one’s daily commute to and from the city.