“Nature’s Wildlife Weapons” by James Ryan. Published by Bateman Books. Price $19.99. Reviewed by Tony Orman
Twelve year old James Ryan has long been fascinated by natural history from a very early age. Oh what a pity more youngsters were into Nature than some of the negative distractions about today. As James says of his book, “This book is for girls and boys like me.”
James is a member of the Canterbury Museum Explorer’s Club, which he started attending as a toddler. The book started out as a school project but blossomed into something more.
It all started at a very young age when James found a brightly coloured feather, then some fossil shells which he took home. So grew his passion for living things, some sadly now extinct.
“When you go to a real museum you start to realise something sad. No matter how hard you try to find them, some of these animals have gone forever.”
So James’ writing started out as schoolwork and so absorbed was he that he could not stop.
The result is a book of Nature’s creatures’ defences be it teeth, claws, horns and antlers. One section focuses on antlers revealing that the extinct Irish Elk had the biggest antlers of all time. The Megaloceros or elk, became extinct 8,000 to 10,000 years ago as the Ice Age waned.
James’ research results in a page with legendary deerstalking guide Jim Muir with a magnificent set of Fiordland wapiti antlers. The giant Haast Eagle that preyed on moa, gets a good mention. But there’s also mammoth, rhinoceros, sharks, musk deer, sabre toothed tigers and more.
And a page on the late Joan Wiffen of Hawkes Bay who famously found dinosaur bone fossils in the backcountry of northern Hawkes Bay.
James Ryan’s book is a cracker, ideal for any youngster in the 10 to 15 age bracket hopefully to stimulate a outdoors interest. But it’s so well researched even adults may learn a few things.
James plans to share any profits he makes from book sales with his beloved Canterbury Museum.