Review of The Storm Leopard

Cover of the Ist edition of The Storm Leopard

 

This review was published in the October 2011 edition of Primate Eye, the journal of the Primate Society of Great Britain. Could this be the start of a Stu fan club?



The Storm Leopard is a factual account of a journey across Africa. From the opening chapter introducing us to the reasons behind Martyn Murray’s need for the journey to the closing chapters, we are led to question current conservation thinking. This thought-provoking book seeks to address a dilemma facing all those wanting to ensure the survival of species into our future – balancing the needs of a modern lifestyle with the desire to protect the environment.

Martyn starts with the challenge set from conversation many years ago with a character described as ‘the old timer’, a safari operator working in Kenya who, with dramatic poise, states “You mark my words: they will all disappear one day. Every single wild place.” Thus starts the author’s trip to discern whether the wild places he knew still exist and to answer, if he can, the question “Why are we so destructive of nature?”

Dungbeetles in action with a ball of elephant dung. Sketch by Isla Murray.

In his quest to answer this question, Martyn begins a wandering journey across the continent led by the stories he hears. The descriptive prose leads us on via bushman art and legends. On the way we stop for a discussion of lion fieldwork, the dilemma of elephant culling in protected parks and a healthy section of reminiscing on his own previous fieldwork with antelope, all underpinned with the imagery of the bushman’s storm leopard moving across the continent.

Martyn is accompanied by his friend, Stu, who plays a cynical counterpoint to Martyn’s own beliefs and attitudes. The interplay between the two travellers moves from the tension of differing viewpoints to the camaraderie of the campsite, with Stu’s counter-arguments often proving the perfect foil for Martyn’s perspective.

Throughout the book the descriptive prose brings to life the landscape and animals surrounding the journey, and gives a flavour to the message that Martyn is trying to put across to the reader. It’s easy to feel immersed within the text, and develop a desire to see the places described.

In all, this book was a challenging read for me. Perhaps I should be classed as being as cynical as Martyn’s travelling companion. Even so, I feel this book has tasked me to think more widely and look at my reasoning and beliefs, and I would always recommend that as a worthwhile process.”

Kirsten Pullen

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park

About Martyn Murray

I fell in love with nature when I turned twenty-one camping under Acacias in East Africa, surrounded by giraffe and zebra with my nape hair raised by the distant roaring of lions. I went on to work for fifty years in Africa, Europe and Asia as an ecologist and conservation consultant. A few years ago I moved to the Isle of Lismore to pursue my passion for reconnecting people with the natural world. My first book, The Storm Leopard, is a journey across Africa and into the heart of the environmental crisis. My second, Origin of Species: Bite-Sized, contains the essence of Charles Darwin's greatest work – his theory of evolution by natural selection – in a text that is 15% the length of the original. The third, Beyond the Hebrides, is the story of a sea voyage in an old leaking boat and on how to keep personal freedom alive. I am currently working on a fourth which is about the global collapse of the natural world. Its working title is, In This Together. It challenges us all over our current connections with nature. More details are on my website, www.martynmurray.com.
This entry was posted in Nature Books, Reviews, The Storm Leopard, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Review of The Storm Leopard

  1. Erin Mooney says:

    Hi Martyn, I finished your book last night. It was wonderful. And sad. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your love of wildlife/the wild.
    You are more optimistic than I. I think the old-timer is right. It certainly seems to be enforced by Rio+20 and the everyday news.

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