Monday, 30 September 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With Tony Walkden

According to the Writers AMuse Me website, Tony Walkden has spent his life studying and learning about the world around him. He has developed a great understanding of nature and the challenges faced by many species. His ambition is to help educate people about the need to protect and preserve the environment. Anthony has spent his life in western Canada where he has taken every opportunity to increase his knowledge of local fauna.

His full name is Anthony Douglas Walkden. He will sometimes acknowledge Anthony, but he says 'my friends call me Tony'.

With A Dying Breath is a wonderfully written, well-researched book by one of the most passionate people on this earth. You will be amazed to learn of all of the preventative measures that can help slow and one day, hopefully stop the extinction of so many of the Earth’s gorgeous creatures. Mr. Walkden has put so much love into his work and should be very proud of his efforts to raise awareness for these animals. 

Complete with pictures donated by over 70 photographers and artists, this book discusses why some of theses species are endangered, why recovery is a challenge, and what we can be doing to help, before more of these amazing animals are gone forever. All royalties raised from the sale of this book will be donated to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and the IUCN Red List. 

Mariah: Which came first, the desire to write a book, or the desire to help animals?

Tony: That’s an easy one. The desire to help animals came first. It’s all I’ve wanted to do. The book came about when I was given a school assignment (I was home schooled because of my autism). I can read with no problem, but I have what my mom calls a ‘disconnect’ when I try to write. The message gets lost between my brain, my eye, and my hand, so even to write my name is really challenging, no matter how much I practice. The assignment was to write about three endangered animals on each continent so that I would have more practice with writing, but it grew from that.

Mariah: What were some of the unique challenges you faced writing and publishing your book, With a Dying Breath?

Tony: The first challenge would be that I have a very hard time writing. My mom created work sheets for every animal, so I could research it and write down the information. That helped a lot. When it came time to turn it into a book, I would read what I had written on my sheets, and Mom would type it for me. For some of the animals, finding verified information was a bit more challenging because they were so rare and not much was known about them. Another huge challenge was to find pictures of all of them, especially the very rare and endangered ones. We were able to contact people through the internet though, and the result is that we had photographers and artists from around the world donate their work to the book. There were over 70 contributors.

Mariah: Besides award winning author, what would your dream job be?

Tony: Working with animals, especially endangered ones. I was lucky enough to be Zoo Keeper For a Day at the Kamloops Wildlife Park. It was heaven. Now whenever I go there, they let me help out with the animals. You can see a video we made about it here.

MariahDo you have any unique talents or hobbies?

Tony: I do a lot of photography, especially of wildlife, and I draw a lot of animals. I am also taking a course through the University of Calgary on Paleontology  It’s my first university course, and I love it. It won’t be my last.

Mariah: I imagine it must have been challenging to collect all the photographs for your book. Was there an animal that was particularly hard to get a photograph of?

Tony: There were several, and there are two or three in the book that we have no picture or artwork for. The Riverine Rabbit was very hard to find, so we had an artist provide that one, as well as the image for the Smith’s Dwarf Chameleon. Some of the ocean animals as well were a problem, but we managed to find almost all of them. The Speartooth shark we could not get at all, and Baiji, an Yangtze River dolphin also was too elusive, and in fact, between the time we started the book, and the time it was published, the Baiji was declared extinct.

Mariah: What was your favorite animal from your book? If you can't narrow it down to just one, a top five will do nicely also

TonyThis is like asking my mom which of her kids is her favorite (of course, it would be me). I love the big cats but also the sharks. Some of the animals in the book impacted me more because of the ridiculous reasons for them being in peril. Some are beautiful, some have amazing abilities... I just love them all.

Mariah: If there is one message you could send the world, what would it be?

Tony: That there is still hope. These animals can still be helped. We don’t need to see any more animals going extinct. Every one that we lose does impact us... we may not know how, but eventually, it will impact us, so we have to protect them, and their environments, in order to protect ourselves.

Mariah: Are you working on any new projects?

Tony: I’m right now working on three new books – another on endangered animals, one on introduced species around the world and what harm they can do, and one on recently extinct animals, the ones since the dinosaurs, although I would also love to do a book about dinosaurs. Who wouldn’t want to write about them – but I think I have my mom convinced to include that in one of her books instead.

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I want to take a moment to thank Tony Walkden for the amazing work he has done on this book and for his commitment to helping the animals of our world. I want to also take this opportunity to show everyone what some other people are saying about With A Dying Breath.

“With a Dying Breath” is an amazing book about our world’s precious wildlife.  So many animals today are being faced with challenges to thrive in the wild, and Tony Walkden tells the stories of some of the rarest creatures on Earth!”

Jack Hanna,
Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo
Host, TV’s “Into the Wild” and “Wild Countdown"
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Tony, you are an inspiration. Thank you for all you do for our world, and never give up! You bring home to us all.

Philippe Cousteau

Dear Tony, Congratulations on this important book. Thank you so much for sending me a copy. I hope it finds a wide audience, especially in school.

David Suzuki

Dear Tony, Very many congratulations for producing such a fabulous book. With A Dying Breath is a fantastic collection of informative writing. All the best,

Stephen Fry

Thanks for stopping by, Tony. It was a pleasure hosting this interview. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent interview and an awesome guest! With such a love for wildlife and endangered species, it is hardly a wonder that Stephen Fry (himself a champion in the field) got so excited about it.