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These days, it’s tough to find any cheery news in the world of wildlife conservation. From polar bears to the ploughshare tortoise, it seems that every day there’s word of a new species on the brink of extinction.
But amidst all those gloomy headlines, there is hope for the animal kingdom, argues world-renowned scientist and New York Times bestselling author Jane Goodall in her new book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink (Grand Central Publishing, $26.99).
Together with Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard and coauthor Gail Hudson, this collection of short stories intricately details the work of the many unsung heroes who have kept countless species from being completely wiped off planet Earth.
Combined with colorful photographs that beautifully illustrate the lives of such iconic (and delicate) creatures as the California condor and China’s giant panda, these images will soften the hearts of even the most hardened skeptics who are convinced that the world is on a rapidly accelerating course of mass extinction that simply cannot be stopped.
Goodall’s tales of the inspiring efforts of field biologists across the globe, all completed in the name of conservation, effectively argue otherwise by combining her own firsthand experience with compelling research from premier scientists.
Mindful parents wishing to expose their children to the exotic animals of the natural world, as well as to the idea that there is still time to save them, also will benefit from Goodall’s conversational prose, which instantly catches the reader’s curiosity and doesn’t let go.
Readers will be inspired by such incredible cases as:
• The glorious whooping cranes that learned a new migration route from Wisconsin to Florida by following an ultralight aircraft.
• The peregrine falcon, once devastated by the chemical DDT, bounced back after being bred in captivity at a place affectionately known as Peregrine Palace.
• The Vancouver Island marmot, about the size of a domestic cat and covered with thick chocolate-brown fur and a white muzzle, was ultimately saved from complete extinction by a local woodcutter’s love of the landscape.
• The tahki or Przewalski’s horse, a native to Mongolia’s high desert grasslands, was declared extinct in the wild in 1968 with only a handful existing in European zoos for decades, before being reintroduced to its native homeland in the 1990s.
Most encouraging are the tales of recently discovered species, such as the Wollemi pine, a tree that’s one of the rarest and oldest plants in the world, or the coelacanth, an enormous shark-like fish that has survived completely unchanged for the last 65 million years. Proof of these exotic and wondrous creatures will hopefully encourage a new generation of field biologists eager to discover the next “new” animal or plant species.
The book closes with a personal message from Goodall explaining how the famous primatologist can be so optimistic about humanity’s ability to right their wrongs even as all landscapes — tropical and old-growth forests, woodlands and wetlands, prairies and grasslands, moorlands and deserts — continue to disappear at a terrifying rate.
She argues, quite convincingly, that: “My four reasons for hope … are simple — naïve perhaps, but they work for me: our quite extraordinary intellect, the resilience of nature, the energy and commitment of informed young people who are empowered to act, and the indomitable human spirit.”
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Additional photo credits: Jane Goodall by ZUMA Press.