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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Last Chance to See

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine and is a rather slim volume, weighing in at just over 200 pages, that chronicles their adventures as the travel the world in search of endangered species.

For those who - like me - do not recognize the name Douglas Adams, he's the guy who wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That alone would be a reason for me NOT to read this book. I'm sorry, I TRIED to read that book but I just couldn't get into it. In fact, I hated it. Sorry, Hitchhiker fans.

But of course, I DID read Last Chance to See and it's all because of Nymeth's wonderful review. In it she explains that "This is a funny, passionate, informative and important book. It’s also very touching at times. It’s a book that makes you care." Add that to all the other great things she says about it and I just had to read it (and so, it counts toward the Irresistible Review Challenge - woohoo!).

So now, about the book. Adams, who has no experience with zoology, endangered species, etc., was asked by the BBC to travel the world to do radio broadcasts on several endangered species (keep in mind that this was in the 1980s). Reading his story was fantastic! Imagine a regular guy plopped in the middle of a jungle/savannah/forest and told to look for a creature that spends its life hiding. Add to the mix a dry sense of humor and a touch of sarcasm, and you've got Last Chance to See.

After finishing the book, I wanted to know what's going on with these animals today. So, like Nymeth, I did a bit of digging around, and here's what I came up with:

Aye-Aye - it's estimated that there are about 100 in the wild

Northern White Rhino - population was up to 30, but recent poaching brought that number down

Kakapo - the population is up to 62 now (update: thanks to one of my commentors, I can say the kakapo population is up to 91!)

Komodo Dragon - there are 3,000-5,000 now

Rodriguez Fruit Bat - still endangered, but there are now approx. 1,000 of them (if you recall from here, I just LOVE bats! they are so cool!)

Baiji River Dolphin - sad to say, it's believed to be "functionally extinct" ... although there may be a few left

Mountain Gorilla - there are about 700 left

Pink Pigeon - wild population = 21 ... captive population = 180

Echo Parakeet - now about 320 in the wild

Another Chance to See is a fabulous website that stemmed from this book. You can get updates on the animals above and also on a variety of other endangered species. I checked it today and there's an announcement about a new species of river dolphin just identified - wow.

I highly recommend this book, despite the fact that it is somewhat out of date (it was published in 1990). Using humor and personal experiences Adams brings you along on his journey and without preaching at you, makes you care about the animals and the people fighting to protect them.

If you've read/reviewed this book, please let me know so I can include your link in this post.


justareadingfool said...

You hated Hitchhiker's? Oh, my. I don't know if I can read your blog anymore....just kidding, of course...this book sounds like it would be very interesting to check out. Thanks for pointing us in directions we might not have thought of going before --well, at least, pointing me ;) in a direction I might not have thought of going.

Gareth said...

Thanks for the link, and apologies for not having time to analyze your findings closer.

But I would point out that we were out 86 kakapo for a long time. One older kakapo died earlier this year to put us down to 85, but then we had 7 new chicks hatched this year. Unfortunately one of those chicks died too, so by my reckoning we're currently on 91.

See my recent post here.

Heather Johnson said...

justareadingfool - Yeah, I know ... I really should try it again b/c it is one of those books that it seems logical I would like. Maybe I'll give it a try this summer ...

gareth - thanks for dropping by! I'm glad I found your site ... it was a bit difficult finding recent stats on these animals on the net. Be sure I'll be dropping in to check up on things from time to time.

thebluestockings said...

I have to say, I couldn't get into Hitchhikers either. (Though, I must admit I didn't give it much of a chance.) I'm a new reader of your blog and am enjoying it very much.

Nymeth said...

On behalf of all Hitchhiker's fans out there, I forgive you :P

What an excellent post! I love how you included pictures of the animals and a link to Another Chance to See. And I'm happy to hear that you were as impressed with the book as I was!

Heather Johnson said...

thebluestockings: I'm glad you're enjoying it. I wish other new readers would let me know that they're here ... it's nice to know you're out there.

Nymeth: Thanks for the great recommendation. I never would have picked this book up without your review.

Darla D said...

I had heard great things about this book, and Nymeth's review intrigued me, and now I give up - I absolutely must read it. Great review!

Beth A. said...

I read Last Chance to See in high school and just loved it. It's nice (although occasionally depressing) to be able to see how the animals are doing 15 years later - thanks for looking it up!

I've always been a Hitchhiker's fan, but I can understand how you could find it hard to get into. The silliness can be a bit aggressive at times. You might try listening to the radio series - I've always liked it a lot more than the book and the humor comes off a lot better when it's being conveyed by actors.

Becca said...

I LOVE that you include information about how many of each animal is left in the wild! What a great review. I've linked to you from mine. Thanks for telling me about it!

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