One strong conviction that governed the idea of this book, and to some extent the choice of writings, is my belief in the power of words. My interest in wildlife is not born of a childhood spent in nature’s lap. I had a very urban upbringing, and my association with wildlife was largely restricted to an occasional visit to Gir, the last refuge of the Asiatic lion. Those days, lions were usually baited with terrified buffalo calves, to lure the feline predator for VIP visitors. The other ‘wild’ encounters-if you can call them that-were visits to zoos and circuses. These excursions-erringly perceived as entertainment and educational pursuits-did little to inspire within me any awe for the natural world. Indeed, I found the concept distasteful, and these visits left, even at an early age, only a sense of shame and guilt. But that is another debate, and I digress. The point I am trying to make is that my passion for the wilds-and it is an emotive affair-has literary roots. I have devoured book after book on the subject, haunting libraries and pavement book-vendors (who had the money for new books?). The first ‘animal* book that piqued my interest was James Herriot’s delightful and thoroughly addictive account of a vet’s life in the English countryside. Not nature writing, strictly speaking. Yet, Herriot had an art of bringing animals ‘to life’. His intricate portrayal of his patients and their idiosyncrasies drew you in, and your involvement in his works was complete. Herriot was the first ‘animal’ writer I encountered, and he set the ball rolling. Next was Gerald Durrell, with his fascinating.