Approximately 30,000 species of animals and plants go extinct every year. Weidensaul's narrative concerns those rare occurrences when a supposedly extinct animal makes a surprise reappearance, and the much more frequent occasions when scientists or civilians only think they've sighted a vanished creature. His suspenseful naturalist detective stories take readers all over the globe to Madagascar, Indonesia, Peru, Costa Rica in search of these lost species. In the swamplands of Louisiana, the author and his guide brave swarming mosquitoes and deadly vipers to check out reports of an ivory-billed woodpecker. Weidensaul (Living on the Wind) recounts famous success stories, like the recovery of the coelacanth, a fish believed to be extinct for about 80 million years until fishermen landed one off the coast of South Africa in 1938, as well as various wild goose chases and his own obsessive search for the South American cone-billed tanager. Along the way, he shows how humans and nature have unwittingly conspired to condemn animals to oblivion, such as the dozens of Great Lakes fish species lost to overfishing and the inadvertent introduction of parasitic lampreys from canals built in the 19th century. For the most part, though, Weidensaul's gracefully written book strikes a hopeful note, reveling in the exhilaration of the searches themselves: the greatest gift these lost creatures give this too-fast, too-small, too-modern world [is] an opportunity for hope. Illus. and maps not seen b.
- an opportunity for hope. Illus. and maps not seen by
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Every so often a species thought to be extinct is rediscovered and officially brought back from the dead. Weidensaul, author of the lyrical Living on the Wind (1999), opens with his search for a lost bird in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, a search for a tiny gray warbler whose song was not even known to science. Other hunts for supposedly extinct animals follow: for the Australian night parrot, rediscovered as a flattened roadkill in 1990; for the Indian forest owlet, museum specimens of which were found to have fraudulent location data; for the possible cloning of extinct species such as the mammoth; and even for proof of cryptozoological species like the Loch Ness monster. He offers a wonderfully succinct treatise on the causes of extinction, the use of such protective laws as the Endangered Species Act, the politics of state versus federal agencies, and the role of captive breeding in endangered species conservation. Weidensaul is a graceful writer who works an amazing amount of scientific theory into his narrative. Nancy Bent
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I read quite a bit and this book is definitely one of the reasons why. It is a great read. I could not get enough about the thievery going on at museums in the past to fill... Read morePublished on Sept. 28 2002 by Richard Noll
We're facing the worst global extinction crisis in over sixty million years; yet once in a while a species presumed lost re-emerges. Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2002 by Midwest Book Review