The Crusader

We have a couple items we’d like to share from the very nice press Gregory Dehler is getting for The Most Defiant Devil, his new biography of conservation pioneer William Hornaday. The New York Times focuses on the scrapbooks Hornaday kept, much of it from his time as the founding director of the Bronx Zoo.(The zoo, which Hornaday designed and built, is now digitizing this material.) The Times article notes that he documented his conservation efforts meticulously. There was a lot at stake, after all: “What fueled his compulsiveness,” the Times writes, “was a conviction, unchanged during his directorship from 1896 to 1926, that American wildlife would be extinct by 1950.”

An AP review of Dehler’s biography addresses the seemingly contradictory nature of a man who fought to preserve wildlife and yet took part in hunting expeditions that were shocking in their sweep. Hornaday crusaded for the American buffalo but killed many of them himself (as well as more exotic fare, including elephants and orangutans). The Most Defiant Devil attempts to understand a man who seems to embody both the best and the worst impulses of his era, but who created lasting change in his country’s attitudes toward wildlife.