The Falcon Thief by Joshua Hammer

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird is a thrilling book.

Heists/thefts. Second book from my 12 categories. I chose this category specifically because the book fit the criteria. A South African (Jeffrey Lendrum) who steals rare bird eggs from the wild and the British detective from the National Wildlife Crime Unit (Andy McWilliam) who catches him.

Did you know that peregrine falcons are the fastest animal in the world? I was shocked to learn this.

Falcons can also perceive ultraviolet light, making colors stand out even more vividly and enabling the falcon to identify the shape and texture of plumage from afar as a mile away.

It starts off with Lendrum getting “apprehended at Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach.” The parcel contained fourteen peregrine falcon eggs. It’s such a great start to the book because you know that the rest of it will be about finding out why he had them. Sometimes the information seems superfluous but I don’t really care when it comes to birds. The more details there are, the more interesting it gets.

“It is very rare in the UK to have a national police operation of this kind,” Alan Stewart, the police officer who started Operation Easter with Shorrrock in the face of rampant nest robbing, and a man once described by the nature magazine Scottish Field as “Britain’s foremost wildlife detective,” told The New Yorker in 2012. “The others are for drug trafficking, human trafficking, and football hooliganism.”

There is more of the biography of Andy than I expected but I liked getting to know the man who finally catches the thief. Jeffrey was an interesting character. You don’t really learn why he did what he did besides the fact that he was obsessed with birds and eggs and is smart and adventurous. There is also a little of the history of falconry and how the wildlife crime unit began. From what I learned I’m surprised the trafficking of rare animals doesn’t have a more severe punishment, which makes me sad. The adventure goes around the world as well.

In 2002, Sheikh Hamden bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, son and heir of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the billionaire ruler of Dubai, introduced a new sport to the Arab world: falcon racing. While the crown prince had the luxury of hawking his own private hunting grounds and on royal expeditions, he recognized that such an opportunities were out of reach for the average Gulf citizen. Racing was Sheikh Hamdan’s ambitious attempt to keep Emiratis connected to their heritage, The populist move also turned falconry into a multimillion-dollar global enterprise.

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