Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals

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Overview

“Hilariously informative. . . . This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.”—Outside
In this thrilling foray into the animal kingdom, Richard Conniff takes readers on an adventure-packed journey as he courts the most dangerous animals and lives to tell the tale. He lets African wild dogs sniff his neck to test the idea that they are vicious man-eaters, sticks his hand in a fire ant mound and does multiple takes for a pretty camerawoman on a television shoot, and flings chicken carcasses ...

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Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals

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Overview

“Hilariously informative. . . . This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.”—Outside
In this thrilling foray into the animal kingdom, Richard Conniff takes readers on an adventure-packed journey as he courts the most dangerous animals and lives to tell the tale. He lets African wild dogs sniff his neck to test the idea that they are vicious man-eaters, sticks his hand in a fire ant mound and does multiple takes for a pretty camerawoman on a television shoot, and flings chicken carcasses into piranha-infested waters to clock how quickly they disappear—before diving in himself. This collection offers a rare chance to go along on these death-defying treks and see life through the eyes of a bona-fide field naturalist.

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Editorial Reviews

Seed
“A quick and intensely pleasurable read.”
Sacramento Book Review
“Conniff writes with vibrancy and verve. His prose crackles with the leaves on an African savannah and shimmers with the sun on a Louisiana bayou.”
Publishers Weekly

Travel writer and field naturalist Conniff (Rats) shares such outrageous vignettes from his career as feasting on warthog sausage with an occasional side of beetle larvae, having insects copulate on his forehead and communing with packs of African wild dogs. His acute descriptions and self-deprecating humor keep such sections riveting, but the chapters profiling other experts' research and involvement with various species read a bit laboriously. Particularly tedious is his investigation into Madagascar's lemurs with Patricia Wright, a housewife-turned-primatologist, who names the lemurs and spends nights in the forests observing them. Conniff's perspective is nowhere to be found in this chapter, only a historical and contemporary account of Wright's experiences and her effort to preserve the lemur colonies. Readers will likely crave more chapters spotlighting Conniff's personal experiences of the animals and his keen wit and insights. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
National Geographic and Smithsonian contributor Conniff (The Ape in the Corner Office, 2008, etc.) offers a delightful collection of pieces about his encounters with spiders, crabs, leopards and other fauna. With warmth and simplicity, the author spins a beguiling web as he recalls his travels to rainforests, deserts, inner-city neighborhoods and other locales in search of interesting creatures and the often-quirky scientists who study them. He jumped into a tank of flesh-rending piranhas and emerged unscathed. He tried to build his own spider web between two climbing walls after watching a spider attach a silken thread to running water in a stream in Costa Rica. Conniff also recounts his visits with wildlife biologists and others in the field, such as primatologist Patricia Wright, a MacArthur Foundation award winner whose work in Madagascar has led to the creation of a national park for lemurs; entomologist Justin Schmidt, who has "sampl[ed] the stings of 150 different insect species on six continents" to develop his insect-sting "pain index"; and Frans de Waal, the Emory psychologist who dispelled the "killer ape" stereotype, positing that chimps live by a system of "reciprocal altruism." Whether sharing his fascination with the mites on his forehead, the unexpected meanness of hummingbirds or the inner complexities of seven-foot-tall termite mounds, the author writes with the enthusiasm of someone who follows entomological news "the way other people read the sports pages or the funnies." In brief personal interludes, he describes the joys of giving "sustenance to mosquitoes" on rainforest treks and his earlier career in journalism-from obituary writer for a small New Jersey paper tomanaging editor of the late Geo magazine. He credits zookeeper and author Gerald Durrell with teaching him that it was possible to write about the natural world "and still have fun."Bright entertainment from a great explainer of the lives of animals.
Seed Magazine
“Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures ... are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page ... a quick and intensely pleasurable read.”
Outside Magazine
“Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.”
New Scientist
“Richard Conniff's account of his adventures travelling the globe with researchers studying animal behaviour is as entertaining as the title suggests.”
BBC Focus Magazine
“Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching. An excellent read.”
The Day (New London
“... frequently hysterical and always compelling essays ...”
The Daily Star (Oneonta
“Animal lovers will enjoy these true tales of adventure that make you laugh aloud or gasp in fear.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393304572
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 983,856
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Coniff, a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the National Magazine Award, writes for Smithsonian and National Geographic and is a frequent commentator on NPR's All Things Considered and a guest columnist for the New York Times. His books include The Natural History of the Rich, Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time, and The Species Seekers. He lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    Excellant

    Wonderful book. Well written, interesting, humorous, the whole package. Would reccomend to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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