OTTAWA (AFP) ― Canadian author and pioneering environmentalist Farley Mowat died Wednesday. He was 92.
The acclaimed author wrote about Canada’s wilds, introducing its rugged landscapes and inhabitants to city folk around the world, while advocating for the preservation of nature and wildlife.
During a 50-year literary career, Mowat wrote more than 40 books about the adventures of wolves, whales needing rescue, and owls in rafters. His books, translated into 52 languages, sold 17 million copies.
His “The Dog who Wouldn’t Be” (1957) has been acclaimed as one of the best children’s books of all time.
He also wrote a biography about gorilla researcher Dian Fossey titled “Woman in the Mists” (1987) after she was brutally murdered in Rwanda, seeing in her passionate defense of mountain gorillas a kindred spirit.
And one of his most famous novels, “Never Cry Wolf” (1963), a fictionalized account of his time spent studying the species, is said to have changed how people see wolves, reportedly leading Moscow to ban the killing of wolves after the Russian version was published.
But his critics said he often twisted the facts to suit his environmental messages.
“We have lost a great Canadian today,” opposition New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair said.
“Farley Mowat’s work as an author and environmentalist has had a great impact on Canada and the world,” he said.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, whose family counted Mowat as a dear friend, commented: “Mr. Mowat was a passionate Canadian who shaped a lot of my generation growing up with his books. And he will be sorely missed.”
“He got along great with my father (late prime minister Pierre Eliott Trudeau) and actually gave us a Labrador Retriever who we called Farley; (it) had a penchant for running after porcupines as I remember,” he said.
“Farley Mowat was a champion for the wild things,” summed up Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “He spoke with unflinching courage against humanity’s destruction of each other and of the other species with whom we share this planet.”
Born in Belleville, Ontario on May 12, 1921, the only child of a librarian and his wife, Mowat cozied up to animals at first in search of childhood friends.
Later scarred by the atrocities of war ― he participated in the Allied invasion of Sicily during the Second World War ― his preference for the company of animals over humans was confirmed.
“I didn’t like the human goddamn race,” he told the Globe and Mail newspaper in 2005.
“I had seen enough of its real naked horror during the war to convince me that we weren’t worth the powder to blow us to hell.”
He spent his last years with his wife Claire in Port Hope, Ontario.