Owls Of The Eastern Ice

Jonathan C Slaght is a wildlife biologist and author, who works for the full time for the Wildlife Conservation Society as their Russia & Northeast Asia Coordinator. His territory includes apex predators like the Amur/Siberian Tiger, and the Blakiston Fish Owl, of which he is one of the world’s foremost experts. The terrain he focusses on is the far eastern coastal fringe of Russia, a gnarly lanscape of forests and mountains that is almost completely unpopulated by humans. I first read about this place in John Vaillant’s The Tiger, which documents an intense human/animal interaction in the late 1990’s that’s as compelling a “wilderness adventure” as anything Jack London wrote. This is a landscape that wants you dead, so anything that can live there is hard as nails and has zero interest in anything but survival in its rawest state.

Jon’s new book, Owls Of The Eastern Ice, will be published in the UK later this month and it’s top of my reading list.

In it he focusses on the on the rare and spectacular Blakiston’s Fish Owl, which looks like an inspired Brundle between a Mogwai and a Haast’s Eagle. These birds are hardcore, living in terrain that no-one sane and with more comfortable options would stray into, so why are they so rare? As with many endangered species, they are losing their habitat to the the rapacious demands of unrestrained capitalism, and until that madness stops, I suspect Jon Slaght is going to remain a busy man.

Jon’s blog for Scientific American: East of Siberia

Jon’s talk on tiger conservation (2014)

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