Curiously, Where the Animals Go begins with criticising itself: ‘not every species needs to be tracked to be studied. For many, a pair of good binoculars and a camera will suffice,’ the authors write. ‘But for other species such as polar bears, that kind of extended observation is not feasible.’ Enter tagging. Evolving technology to record behaviours at intervals has unlocked troves of information about how animals behave within their ecosystems.
From albatrosses circling Antarctica to bees in back-gardens, the book is full of detailed maps that trace the complex migrations of animal herds across terrain. Some species such as terns need a whole world atlas to plot their global routes. While group formations are fascinating to interpret, it is through rooting for known individuals – such as ‘P-22’, the mountain lion trying to maintain a foothold in California, and ‘Slavc’, the young wolf taking a coming-of-age trek across the top of the Italian alps – that awareness about conservation can be raised.
These remarkable individuals all link back to ‘Annie’, a female African Elephant who Uberti was commissioned to map ten years ago. Though she died at the hands of poachers, ‘her story was the first time a map had ever engaged me in the life of an individual animal,’ says Uberti, ‘and the shift in consciousness it provoked was irreversible.’