From Publishers Weekly
Approximately 30,000 species of animals and plants go extinct every year. Weidensaul's narrative concerns those rare occurrences when a supposedly extinct animal makes a surprise reappearance, and the much more frequent occasions when scientists or civilians only think they've sighted a vanished creature. His suspenseful naturalist detective stories take readers all over the globe to Madagascar, Indonesia, Peru, Costa Rica in search of these lost species. In the swamplands of Louisiana, the author and his guide brave swarming mosquitoes and deadly vipers to check out reports of an ivory-billed woodpecker. Weidensaul (Living on the Wind) recounts famous success stories, like the recovery of the coelacanth, a fish believed to be extinct for about 80 million years until fishermen landed one off the coast of South Africa in 1938, as well as various wild goose chases and his own obsessive search for the South American cone-billed tanager. Along the way, he shows how humans and nature have unwittingly conspired to condemn animals to oblivion, such as the dozens of Great Lakes fish species lost to overfishing and the inadvertent introduction of parasitic lampreys from canals built in the 19th century. For the most part, though, Weidensaul's gracefully written book strikes a hopeful note, reveling in the exhilaration of the searches themselves: the greatest gift these lost creatures give this too-fast, too-small, too-modern world [is] an opportunity for hope. Illus. and maps not seen b.- an opportunity for hope. Illus. and maps not seen by
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From Scientific American
Weidensaul writes superbly about animals and his role as an amateur naturalist in studying them, as he showed in Living on the Wind (1999) on migratory birds. Here his subject is the search for lost species, often as a participant. Among the species are Semper's warbler, the golden toad and the ivory-billed woodpecker. Most searches fail, but Weidensaul describes some successes: the rediscovery of lost species, including Gilbert's potoroo, the large Jamaican iguana and the Congo bay owl. Imagining [a rediscovery] leads to a germ of hope, he writes, and hope sometimes leads to belief, to obsession and piles of old maps, to fruitless expeditions and squandered life savings. All of which would seem a sad and farcical pathology, except that just often enough, some lucky searcher hits pay dirt, and the world stands surprised and delighted with the discovery.
Editors of Scientific American