Ever heard of the growing business of environmental crimes? I had no awareness that opportunistic oologists and enterprising egg thieves threaten endangered species all over the globe. Even if you’re not a bird lover, you’ll love this new release.
By Joshua Hammer, Simon & Schuster, February 11, 2020, 336 pages
The Not Inspirational Book that Inspired Me
As a long-time member of NetGalley, I often receive emails promoting a book. I don’t often click through and request the book, because they seldom fall into the genre I normally choose (middle grade, or one of the many inspirational genres). But when an email about The Falcon Thief hit my mailbox, I immediately clicked through. After all, who could resist an adventure book about birds?
I promptly forgot about it during the rush of holidays and hordes of company. When I saw the title The Falcon Thief on my books-to-read list, I planned to include it in next month’s review of inspirational romance. I had completely forgotten the genre and subject of the book. It definitely doesn’t belong in the inspirational romance category.
Instead, The Falcon Thief highlights the phenomena of birdwatching gone wrong, and hobbies turned into obsessions. Hammer artfully combines true crime with a history of falconry, the biography of a law enforcement officer with the biography of an inveterate liar and egg smuggler.
Along the way, the reader will learn about oology (the study of eggs), conservation efforts to bring the peregrine falcon back from the brink of extinction, and raptor races with $11-million-dollar purses in the world’s wealthiest country.
I first learned about environmental crimes against birds when I saw a post on Facebook about a man trying to smuggle hummingbirds in his pants.
When I read the NetGalley email about the Falcon Thief, I wondered how in the world one would smuggle raptor eggs. It turns out criminals will try just about anything if the payoff proves worthy. Viable raptor eggs sell for up to $10,000 each on the black market.
Who Pays the Price for Environmental Crimes?
Readers will also learn about the nascent efforts by countries to fight wildlife crimes. In many countries, law enforcement officers in the wildlife crime divisions operate with the smallest budgets and the least amount of recognition for their efforts.
Environmental crimes, especially those against threatened or endangered species, don’t hold the cachet of organized crime hits. A shame, because as Lord Justice Stephen Sedley, an appeals-court jurist in England says,
“The environmental crime strikes not only at a locality and its population but at the planet and its future.”
In an era when strides in environmental protection seem stripped of their potency, the story of Jeffrey Lendrum’s exploits highlights what happens when one person takes his thrills from robbing the nests of endangered species. Everyone suffers.
Lendrum, who has served jail time on three continents for his obsession, faced his first brush with the law in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). A judge found Lendrum and his father guilty of stealing eggs for their personal collection.
Each time Lendrum gets arrested for stealing and transporting eggs, he claims he does it for the best interest of the species. As if someone appointed him a one-man vigilante out to save endangered raptors.
But nothing in Lendrum’s life points to a source of income great enough to support his exploits. He flies around the globe, buys expensive equipment, and rents helicopters to pull off his daring thefts.
Hammer speculates that Lendrum’s funding comes from wealthy Arabs who value wild-born raptors. According to the author and others familiar with the Arab falconry industry, the Arabs treat their birds like royalty. Dubai boasts a state-of-the-art falcon hospital. It comes complete with air-conditioned rooms, top-of-the-line X-ray equipment, heart monitors, ophthalmologists, veterinarians, and any medication a raptor could possibly need.
What YOU Can Do
Hammer’s extensive investigation highlights the role of wildlife lovers and observant citizens in stopping crimes against wildlife. If something doesn’t look right or sound right, let someone know.
Take part in citizen science projects such as eBird. Read books like The Falcon Thief to educate yourself on the threats to wildlife. We can’t stop the destruction of habitat, illegal capturing, and plundering of our shared resources alone—but we can do our part to slow it down.You CAN do something to help stop environmental crimes. Tips from ordinary people helped bring down the Falcon Thief. #conservation #birder #bookreview Click To Tweet
I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.