Letter to the reader of Tiger

Dear reader,

As a troubled, animal-mad teenager, I left school early for my dream job as a zookeeper. The animals that drew me were those which retained their wildness even in captivity. Zookeeping being hierarchical, men looked after the dangerous animals while I started out on birds and marmosets. I would watch the tiger, pacing in her enclosure, mesmerised by her power and beauty.

I noticed that the tiger in literature is so often a symbol, but I wanted to write about them in a way that brought their realness alive. They need no symbolic layering from us. They are astonishing all by themselves.

The Siberian tiger is the largest cat on earth. Maintaining a territory of up to 500 square miles in one of the harshest environments in the world requires an epic memory and ruthless punishment of all infractions. I had to visit the Amur region and experience the extreme habitat it has evolved to dominate.

Terrified but intrigued, in deep snow and temperatures of -35C I learned how to track the tigers. What I didnโ€™t anticipate was the glimpse I gained into how people and wild animals coexist in this barely touched corner of the globe. I encountered human toughness and ingenuity that matched the tigerโ€™s and understood how interdependence is essential to their survival.

When you have read Tiger, you will know something of how to track and survive in the wilderness. Most of all I hope you experience the tiger as it truly is and love it as I do.

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