So often we’re determined to find a plausible reason that will credibly explain a physical feature or characteristic of an animal. While there are most certainly some adaptations that may be explained through the process of natural selection, we should be wary of thinking all characteristics of plants or animals are some sort of remarkable feature purposely ‘designed’ for the perfect adaptation of the plant or animal to its environment. Put differently, we should be cognizant of the human need to want an explanation for everything and our reluctance to accept that some things simply are what they are.Part 1, page 43
Book Club Notes
The Buck That Buries its Poo (and 101 other fascinating facts about SA’s wildlife) is one of the most interesting books on animals I’ve read. Granted I haven’t read many, but I’ve read enough to know when a book is something special. And this is. It’s interesting, surprisingly easy and enjoyable to read (nothing like an encyclopedia on animals), and I found myself learning surprising and interesting new animal facts. Little facts like bats are not blind, nor are they drawn to your hair, chameleons color changes depending on their mood, and it is the hippo that is responsible for the most human deaths in South Africa. One of my favorite parts of the book was his section the end on collective nouns for animals. A camouflage of chameleons. An intrusion of cockroaches. A flamboyance of Flamingoes. I’ll stop now to save the rest for you to discover along with 101 other fun facts.
I also got the chance to ask author Quinton Coetzee some questions, his answers (unedited) give you a taste of what to expect in his latest book – The Buck That Buries it’s Poo
When did your fascination and love of animals and biology begin?
Since early childhood I’ve happily nestled in the embrace of mother nature’s wonders. I’ve always been entranced by the marvels and mysteries of the natural world, surrendering helplessly to their spells that effortlessly captivated, seduced and encircled me. As a moth is drawn to light. As a young boy I spent most of my free time in the bush – observing, catching, collecting, rescuing, raising, growing, caring for all manner of living things. It was my happy space then. It still is.
What’s your most memorable animal encounter?
In my lifetime, a large part of which was spent living close to animals, I’ve had many encounters that I’ll never forget. Some encounters were filled with wonder and admiration (on both sides), some were spiritual. Not all were entirely peaceful – tense encounters based on guarded respect. And some were downright dangerous…life threatening! For me, almost any encounter with wild, living things presents a captivating opportunity, even momentarily, to escape into the wonderfully uncomplicated world of nature – a seduction to which I offer no resistance.
“Your new book, The Buck that Buries its Poo is so interesting and enjoyable – what was the inspiration behind it and how did you choose what trivia, fun facts, and animals to include?
Having spent so much time in the wild with people of all ages and from different backgrounds, I was struck by the realisation that their interests, conversations and questions about nature were often about the same things. Whether professional naturalists or safari guides, nature-loving adults or wide-eyed children, our curiosity about the fascinating world of nature has no bounds. How often have I been asked questions like:
- Is a zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes?’
- Are dassies and elephants really related?
- Do frogs and toads cause warts?
- How do geckos stick to walls?
- Why do giraffes have such long necks?
- How old do baobabs grow?
- Why do flamingos stand on one leg?
So, I decided to answer these and many more frequently asked questions. The book would also be the perfect platform for busting countless myths, legends and old wives’ tales about Southern African wildlife. I also tried to create more of an appreciation for, and understanding of some critters that are typically (and mostly unjustifiably) reviled and feared as dangerous or mysterious horrors, such as bats, snakes and owls. And sharks!
You mention in the book that humans have the need to have to have an answer for everything, but sometimes things don’t have a reason, they just are. As a researcher, when do you know it’s time to stop trying to find a reason and just accept something at face value?
It’s a great question, and one that I referred to a number of times in the book. In a biological sense, the human’s enquiring mind is inclined to need definitive answers for why creatures look or behave like they do. In many cases, there may be a clear explanation. But when there’s not, we’re too quick (in my opinion) to attribute a creature’s characteristics to some sort of evolutionary “adaptation” to adequately justify its form or action – sometimes even most implausibly! It’s in our nature to question, but let’s keep the answers real! Perhaps there is no evolutionary reason why spotted hyena cubs are born black?
What did you learn in the writing of this book?
“Stuff we didn’t know… about things we know!” That was my brief. As I progressed with the book, I was amazed at how much there is that we can still learn about our wildlife… captivating snippets, yarns and facts that are often not portrayed in the many identification guides available on the shelves. Much of the devil in the fascinating detail lies buried deep within scientific journals… simply waiting to be excavated, exposed and colourfully retold.
You love animals, the game reserve or knowing random facts.
Writing – 9/10
Applicability – 6/10
Timelessness – 10/10
Shareability – 10/10
A note on our book ratings
Readability: How easy is it to read and understand what the author is saying? Do you need a dictionary or PhD to understand it?
Writing: How well written is the book? Do you find yourself wowed by the writing or unimpressed?
Applicability: How applicable is this book to daily life? Is there enough advice and actions that are easy to start applying?
Timelessness: Is the content of the book timeless or is it something that in a few years won’t have relevance?
Shareability: How likely are you to share the book?