ROACH: I had never been to the Vatican city-state and I’ve always been curious. I mean, it’s this teeny-tiny nation with no children. I was brought up Catholic, so I’ve always been curious about the Vatican. When I stumbled onto the gull issue there I thought, well, I definitely have to visit the Vatican, which is not easy to do. It’s easy to go to the Vatican Museums, but anywhere else in the Vatican takes a surprising amount of finagling, so that made me all the more determined to spend some time there.
There was also the part of India in the middle of Himalaya that I’d never been to. It’s just gorgeous, and they have a unique situation with the leopards there. In other parts of India, leopards don’t stalk people as prey, which is typical of big cats. They’ve got prey that they normally like. Mountain lions here don’t stalk people. Every now and then someone is killed by a mountain lion, but for the most part they’re interested in deer and smaller animals. The leopard situation in the middle of Himalaya is unique in that they do, and I was interested to learn what makes an animal a man-eater, how did that happen, and to see how people deal with it.
GAZETTE: A lot of the people in the book have job titles most people will never have heard of. Can you describe a few of them, and would you want any of their jobs?
ROACH: There were titles like human-elephant-conflict specialist and bear manager, which I quite like. It has that kind of bureaucratic ring to it. Danger-tree-faller-blaster was a good one. I wouldn’t want to be a bear manager because it’s a really difficult job. You’re tasked with protecting both the public and the animals, and that’s a really hard and often emotionally challenging job because sometimes you end up destroying those animals. The people who do this job are often wildlife biologists, people who got into the line of work because they love the outdoors and they love working with wildlife, and they end up having to do this often because people have been careless with leaving garbage unsecured and leaving out things that attract bears and bring bears into a settled human community, which doesn’t typically end well for the bear. That’s a tough job. I wouldn’t want that. Danger-tree-faller-blaster seems like it could be fun. You get to spend time climbing huge, hundreds-of-years-old trees and you get to work with explosives. I don’t think I’d be good. I probably would have fallen from a tree or blown myself up within the first year but, still, it’s a pretty fun job.
The online talk with Roach is at 5 p.m. Oct. 5. Get tickets here.
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