Watching, from the Edge of Extinction

Beverly Peterson Stearns, Author, Stephen Stearns, Author, Stephen C. Stearns, Joint Author
Beverly Peterson Stearns, Author, Stephen Stearns, Author, Stephen C. Stearns, Joint Author Yale University Press $52 (288p) ISBN 978-0-300-07606-6
Reviewed on: 03/08/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-300-08469-6
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-585-35104-9
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Beautifully written and lovingly illustrated, this powerful report on endangered species--and on the efforts of conservationists, scientists and activists to save them--personalizes the ongoing saga of mass extinctions of animals and plants around the globe. Stephen Stearns, a zoology professor in Switzerland, and his wife, Beverly, a freelance journalist, relate stories that are inspiring, heartbreaking, touching, infuriating. Their dispatches from the environmental frontlines are peopled with unsung heroes, like marine biologist Aliki Panou, fiercely protective in her efforts to save Mediterranean monk seals that hide in remote caves in Greek islands in order to avoid tourists, fishermen's nets and developers' dynamite; biologist Jeremy Thomas, who since 1983 has led a project to reintroduce the spectacular large blue butterfly into Britain; and environmentalist Wendy Strahm, working to save hundreds of rare plants and animal species overrun by an exploding human population on the island of Mauritius. The authors detail inadvertent man-made disasters, like the introduction of the Nile perch into Lake Victoria, which led to the extinction of hundreds of species of fish, jeopardizing traditional livelihoods. Yet much more often, the destruction is deliberate or due to indifference, caused by wanton habitat destruction, poaching, indiscriminate hunting and fishing, the greed of private interests, and governmental and public disinterest. By focusing on people whose work and lives have been linked with disappearing species, these survival tales summon readers to respect the uniqueness of earth's other inhabitants. This important, often shocking report shows that loss of the planet's biodiversity--exemplified by the collapse of entire ecosystems--ultimately affects everyone. Drawings and photos. (Apr.)
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