Hope for An­i­mals and Their World: How En­dan­gered Species Are Be­ing Res­cued From the Brink by Jane Goodall, Grand Cen­tral Pub­lish­ing, 392 pages

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

Oh, the au­dac­ity of Jane Goodall, in­sist­ing on hope in an era of cyn­i­cism. What true Bri­tish pluck to ad­mon­ish the hu­man race to buck up and get to work fix­ing the mess we’ve made while there’s time.

As with 2000’s A Rea­son for Hope, Goodall’s lat­est book points to places where peo­ple are be­hav­ing with con­sid­er­a­tion to­ward the fate of other species. That ear­lier book traced Goodall’s own philo­soph­i­cal and spir­i­tual jour­ney as a sci­en­tist. This book is a se­ries of vi­gnettes about the heroic ef­forts of oth­ers who have ded­i­cated their lives to the res­cue of an an­i­mal or plant so des­per­ately close to van­ish­ing that sci­en­tists in some cases could find only one or two sur­vivors gone to ground as far from peo­ple as pos­si­ble. Some species were in­deed ex­tinct in the wild and were in­tro­duced only through cap­tive breed­ing of the few re­main­ing relics.

Read­ers hear detailed back­ground on the now-fa­mil­iar sto­ries of the ef­forts to save the red wolf, the gray wolf, the Cal­i­for­nia con­dor, the pere­grine fal­con, and the black-footed fer­ret, and we meet the peo­ple who led th­ese ini­tia­tives— peo­ple who re­fused to ac­cept the in­evitabil­ity of ex­tinc­tion for species that couldn’t adapt to the ways in which peo­ple were re­shap­ing and de­plet­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

If not for the in­di­vid­u­als pro­filed in Goodall’s book, the rest of the world might never have known about Prze­wal­ski’s horse of Mon­go­lia, the Amer­i­can bury­ing bee­tle, the Su­ma­tran rhino, or In­dia’s pygmy hog. Only nine crested ibises re­mained on Earth be­fore Chi­nese sci­en­tists in­ter­vened to build their num­bers to 1,000. Only seven Chatham Is­land robins re­mained in 1976 on a mi­do­cean rock 500 miles from New Zealand, and only one of the two sur­viv­ing fe­males could re­pro­duce; to­day there are 200 Chatham Is­land robins.

In 1979, bi­ol­o­gists risked their lives climb­ing the steep cliffs of Mau­ri­tius, an is­land nearly 600 miles east of Mada­gas­car, to snatch an egg from the nest of one of the last two breed­ing pairs of Mau­ri­tius kestrels. The kid­napped chick was hand-reared as part of a cap­tive breed­ing pro­gram. By 1994, 333 of th­ese fal­cons had been re­turned to the wild.

While thou­sands of mostly small, lo­cal species slip away for­ever ev­ery year in what some con­ser­va­tion­ists call the “sixth great ex­tinc­tion,” new species are be­ing found deep within the Earth and its oceans and in parts of the planet only re­cently pen­e­trated by peo­ple. As each new species is found, its dis­cov­er­ers are act­ing to make sure it isn’t lost. Other species thought to be ex­tinct are also be­ing dis­cov­ered and nur­tured. One is the Lord Howe’s Is­land phas­mid or stick in­sect, whose hold­outs were dis­cov­ered on a sin­gle bush on a re­mote slab of rock called Ball’s Pyra­mid. Sci­en­tists sal­vaged the species from the eggs of the last liv­ing in­sect cap­tured from the is­land.

Sure, it’s ex­pen­sive and heart­break­ing and time­con­sum­ing to save dis­ap­pear­ing species this way, Goodall ad­mits. But the peo­ple she writes about acted on im­pulses born of ur­gency, pre­fer­ring action to hand-wring­ing or looking back later to pon­der what the loss of this bug or that bird might mean to the planet’s nat­u­ral bal­ance.

Sav­ing an­i­mals or plants isn’t enough if the only re­sult is that they live on as mu­seum pieces, Goodall stresses. An­i­mals need a place to live that is truly “wild” and as faith­ful as pos­si­ble to the crea­tures’ habi­tats be­fore peo­ple in­tro­duced preda­tors and dis­eases against which they couldn’t com­pete. For re­cov­ered an­i­mals and plants to have a fight­ing chance re­quires pro­tected habi­tats, and that means res­cuers must work with— not around— the peo­ple who live in or near them. This is the hard­est but per­haps most last­ing of all con­ser­va­tion work, Goodall writes.

“Demon­strat­ing the value of wild an­i­mals to the peo­ple in an area where they live is the num­ber one way to help pro­tect those species and their habi­tat,” writes Thane May­nard, di­rec­tor of the Cincin­nati Zoo & Botan­i­cal Gar­den, in one of the sets of field notes he con­trib­utes to the book. Peo­ple are find­ing that pro­tect­ing their own fate and that of their chil­dren is tied to pro­tect­ing what re­mains of bio­di­ver­sity.

And it doesn’t end there. “In an in­creas­ingly mod­i­fied world, we are go­ing to have to look af­ter and man­age the wildlife if we want to keep it,” Goodall writes. “In a world so dam­aged by our hu­man foot­print, it is likely that we will have to re­main eter­nally vig­i­lant to pro­tect threat­ened and en­dan­gered species: they need all the help we can give them.”

Per­haps the book’s most re­as­sur­ing mes­sage is that, while Goodall won’t live for­ever, she comes from a branch of the hu­man tree that isn’t as en­dan­gered as it seems. By nur­tur­ing in­ter­species em­pa­thy in youngsters around the world through her Roots & Shoots pro­gram and by salut­ing the Her­culean work of oth­ers who share her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all liv­ing things, this tire­less op­ti­mist is en­sur­ing that we, too, don’t lose the wilder­ness from which our own kind emerged.

— Sandy Nel­son

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.