How Humans Can Coexist With Other Animals
Having spent decades observing them, Brand often writes in characteristic field lingo. The female is a vixen, a male a dogfox. A fox family is a “skulk” and dens are “earths.” For sustenance, a fox generally needs a daily rat, or the caloric equivalent — roughly nine voles, for instance.
Brand, who has set out to write of foxes as an “honest biographer,” is by turns lyrical, salty, funny and scholarly as she describes the nuances of fox existence. Foxes are not social, exactly, she notes — they can’t compete with the “intensely cooperative” wolf pack — but “there are moments in which they appear to enjoy not being alone.”
While her writing about fox issues can occasionally verge on crankiness — misleading information in British tabloids regarding the behavior or habits of wild foxes annoys her — for this naturalist who grew up in England’s Surrey Hills, the sight of foxes can lift her prose into poetry, as when she describes the “gentle amble” of a handsome fox hunting voles in frosty winter meadows and weaving through the “quiet tussocky grasses.”
Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion
By Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone
294 pp. Simon & Schuster. $27.
In this compendious book Newkirk, the founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Stone, an author and co-author of numerous titles, have separate but closely related agendas.
The first half of “Animalkind,” on the wonders of the animal world, offers a torrent of stories and research findings. Meant to evoke both admiration and empathy, the content ranges from animal achievements — male dung beetles haul 1,100 times their body weight! — to research and observations on the emotional lives of animals. Elephants, for instance, have been observed removing tranquilizer darts from friends, or tending to their wounds.
The tone in this section is often light and jokey: “Rolling a ball of poo is not quite as easy as it may seem to all of you who have never tried it,” the authors note. They compare the cannibalistic courtship of the praying mantis to a bad Tinder date, and their disquisition on the male elephant’s hormonal state of “musth” is headlined “Musth-Dos.”