Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin

Samuel Turvey, Author Oxford University Press, USA $29.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-19-954947-4
Turvey, a conservation biologist with the Zoological Society of London, was a researcher and lead author of the 2006 scientific report that found that the baiji-a pearly-white freshwater dolphin formerly endemic to China's Yangtze River-were probably extinct. This book chronicles the last-ditch efforts he and others took to save them. Industrialization in China has had incredible ecological costs; the Yangtze is not only a superhighway of ship traffic, but a receptacle for continuous discharges of raw sewage and toxic industrial effluents, and the baiji are just one of many species to suffer rapid declines (shad, sturgeon, paddlefish, aquatic birds). Among human inhabitants on the Yangtze basin, dysentery and intestinal cancers are already epidemic. Though grim, Turvey's work is also a primer on the science, politics and ethos of conservation, including case histories of successful recovery programs (e.g., the California Condor). Withering in his criticism of the Chinese bureaucracy, the rivalries between competing research institutes, the reluctance of outside scientists to become involved, and the frequently self-serving machinations of environmental activists, Turvey's book is a harsh cautionary tale that's honest and realistic about what's needed to save species facing extinction.
Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 12/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 233 pages - 978-0-19-954948-1
Ebook - 250 pages - 978-0-19-156359-1
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