Tiger Tracks: A review of Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger

Now available in paperback, Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger (Villard Books, $14.95) offers a cheap, entertaining way to travel to Australia and Tasmania and become intimately familiar with the local wildlife. Wombats, quolls, potoroos, little penguins, giant lobsters and pademelons all populate the pages of this eco-adventure with Brooklyn nature writers Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, but it’s the elusive, thought-to-be-extinct Tasmanian tiger (or thylacine) they track that is at the mysterious center of it all. The inclusion of the book’s illustrator, friend and celebrated artist Alexis Rockman, who collects animal scat for pigment and smokes a lot of marijuana, keeps it humorous, and the detailed accounts of the habitats, from underwater expanse to lush rainforest, draw a vivid picture of the world where the tiger once roamed and the dangers of both encroaching pests (like feral cats and foxes) and unchecked logging. Whether they find the live tiger they fell in love with in stuffed form at the American Museum of Natural History is beside the point. They learn the power an animal can have on a peoples” consciousness and they guide readers on an enthusiastic exploration of some truly remote places with some truly memorable characters.

—Brita Belli