Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review: The Man who Lives with Wolves

This narrative doesn't ring true. Some of the claims that author and subject Shaun Ellis makes are ignorant at best. The first glaring example was his description of the physiology of foxes when pursued by hounds. I even ran that one by my veterinarian, whose verbatim response was: "Total BS". His tale of living with a wild wolfpack for two years is simultaneously so incredible and so threadbare that it simply doesn't pass the smell test. No surprise, he complains often that scientists and biologists won't take him seriously. Speaking of things that don't pass the smell test, his perverse pride in not bathing or visiting a dentist becomes downright wearisome. His Native American "spiritual connections" are even more so. Co-author Penny Junor's previous books were unflattering exposés of celebrities and her father. She has no apparent qualifications for a book about wolves, and seems to have taken Mr. Ellis at his word with a minimum of vetting. The poor-quality photos of Ellis with caged wolves did nothing to corroborate his stories. His admissions, both tacit and explicit, that he was a drop-out and petty criminal who abandoned his families and cheated his employers fueled my doubts about his veracity, so I did a little online digging. The only credible interaction between Mr. Ellis and wolves that turns up is in an enclosure at a theme park/petting zoo in England. Shaun Ellis puts on a "daily howling exhibit", but the main attraction seems to be animated dinosaurs. He's currently making a good living as the star of TV reality shows filmed in the two-acre pen. The camera work must be difficult with the need to keep fences, litter, tourists and rubber dinosaurs out of the shots. Bottom line: He's a fraud, peddling phony research and mysticism to the gullible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't entirely pass my smell test neither. I live in the same part of the UK that he grew up in, I'm a few years older, and I worked at the local zoo that he mentioned that he saw his first wolf at. Thing is, that zoo never had any wolves. They had Maned Wolves - a very different species of canine. Certainly not yellow eyed as described in the book. So many things that he describes - about his early life in Norfolk, and British zoos in the 80s, just dont 'smell' right.

Maybe its just me.