Dangerously desirable: the white-morph gyr falcon commands sky-high prices | Spectator USA

The art of falconry is more than 3,000 years old and possibly as popular now as at any time. Its devotees argue that in a pure form it is a deeply honorable tradition, requiring superhuman patience to coax a magnificent predator to hunt at the owner’s behest. It is a relationship, they would also claim, of mutual understanding and partnership between hawk and human. That’s the positive version.

At its most degraded, falconry seems to be a psychopathological obsession, rooted in a fetish for control over beautiful raptors, which sometimes drives practitioners to morally dubious, even illegal, behavior. The journalist Joshua Hammer has written a revealing portrait of the sport that is located at a point where these two versions intersect.

The book’s anti-hero is a complex, troubling and seemingly unrepentant figure called Jeffrey Lendrum, who grew up in white Rhodesia. There he became a passionate naturalist, placing his obvious physical courage and considerable knowledge at the service of research projects to protect rare birds of prey in Zimbabwe’s national parks. One of the specialities of this brave young man was to abseil down crags to check otherwise inaccessible eagle nests.
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