cover image Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future

Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future

Gloria Dickie. Norton, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-1-324-00508-7

Journalist Dickie debuts with a superb study of the eight surviving species of bears. Recounting her travels in search of spectacled bears in Ecuador and Peru, sloth bears in rural India, pandas in China, sun and moon bears in South Vietnam, black and grizzly bears in the western U.S., and polar bears in the Canadian arctic, Dickie details the threats faced by each and profiles the conservationists who protect them. Among the more heartwarming stories are those of a Chinese scientist nicknamed Papa Panda, who teaches captive pandas how to breed, and Chris Servheen, the biologist who spearheaded the effort to bring grizzly bears back from the brink of extinction in the U.S. Other dispatches are more somber, as when Dickie discusses how deforestation in Southeast Asia is threatening sloth bears’ long-term survival and describes the horrific conditions under which caged sun and moon bears have their bile harvested for use in traditional Vietnamese medicine. The searching accounts of threats faced by bears across the globe illuminate the struggles conservationists face, and the crisp prose will transport readers (“I glanced nervously toward the dark bay in the distance. The cobalt sky concealed the secrets of the muskeg,” Dickie writes about the time she was in Churchill, Canada, and suspected she was being stalked by a polar bear). It’s a winning combination of travel and environmental reporting. (July)