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The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird Hardcover – February 5, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Barcott (The Measure of a Mountain) relates the dramatic and heart-rending story of one woman's struggle to save the scarlet macaw in the tiny country of Belize. Sharon Matola, an eccentric American who directs the Belize Zoo, learned in 1999 that a Canadian power company planned to build a dam that would destroy the habitat of the 200 scarlet macaws remaining in Belize. Helped by native Belizeans and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Matola mounted a six-year campaign against the dam, undaunted by government officials who branded her an enemy of the state and threatened to destroy her zoo by locating a new national garbage dump next to it—a vindictive act halted only when Princess Anne of Great Britain, which gives Belize millions in aid, planned to speak out against it. But the combined forces of a determined corporation and a corrupt government were unrelenting, even after it was revealed that the power company's geological studies of the site were faulty and the dam could put human lives at stake. Barcott's compelling narrative is suspenseful right up to the last moment. (Feb. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Contributing editor to Outside magazine and author Bruce Barcott (The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier [1997]) has constructed a gripping and suspenseful account of one woman’s crusade against corrupt foreign governments and multinational corporations to save the habitat of an endangered bird. Barcott’s simple and eloquent prose, vivid descriptions, and ability to render the most complicated business deals and legal concepts in clear layman’s terms allow him to tame this unwieldy tale, which has unexpected twists and turns. The biggest point of divergence? Most critics found Barcott’s many narrative tangents informative, interesting, and even integral to the plot, while others called them tedious and distracting. Though the Chalillo Dam was completed in 2005, Matola’s story proves that one person can make a difference. (The jury is still out on the fate of the scarlet macaws.)
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062934
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062935
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Barcott is a Guggenheim Fellow in nonfiction and an award-winning author who writes about science, the environment, and the outdoor world. His new book, Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America,will be published by Time Books in April 2015. For the past 15 years Barcott's science and environmental writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Outside Magazine, and other national publications. His previous books include The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw; The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier; and Northwest Passages. He lives on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, with his wife, author Claire Dederer.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a Belizean-American with an advanced degree in electrical engineering, a rare sub-species in my own right. I grew up in a family steeped in the history and politics of modern Belize -- many of the politicians named in this book are people whose careers and histories are intertwined with those of my own family. I have been to the unbelievably beautiful Belize Zoo with its amazing collection of animals and in 2004 I swam in a tributary of the Macal river with cascading pools like the one mentioned in the first chapter of the book. Belize is indeed a country blessed by God with beauty beyond its fair share and in general Belizeans jealously guard their natural resources. Belize's reputation as an eco-tourist haven is justly deserved.

Mr. Barcott has written an incredible book capturing much of the culture and spirit of Belize and its people, a gem of an introduction to the complicated country I love. I strongly recommend reading this book not just for the narrative about the dam or the eco-politics surrounding it, but also as a way of understanding the impact that technology and engineering ethics (or lack thereof) can have on a developing population with a limited or biased exposure to the facts undergirding complex technical issues. This is a narrative filled with enough double-dealing, courtroom drama, dirty tricks, quirky eccentrics, natural beauty and noble causes to keep the most jaded reader enthralled.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1982 Sharon Matola, a feisty, curly-haired native from the rusty working-class town of Baltimore, left home for adventure - after some false starts hopping trains and training lions, she eventually landed in the green jungles of Central America where, in the tiny country of Belize (pop: 250,000), she created the first and only "zoo" (more like an animal rescue). Because of her passion for animals and the environment she earned a reputation as the 'Jane Goodall of Belize'. So it was inevitable when a corrupt Belize government wanted to build a fiscally questionable dam that would obliterate some of Belize's richest biological resources - including the unique roosting area of the beautiful but endangered Scarlet Macaw - she became the driving force behind a movement to stop powerful and shadowy forces. Bruce Barcott, an environmental journalist with Outside magazine based in Seattle Washington, heard about Matola's struggle and for a number of years followed her story as it went from a single womans crusade into an international turmoil involving Fortune 500 companies, the Canadian Government, movie stars and Englands secretive and rarely used highest court the Privy Council.

_The Last Flight_ is structured as a "non-fiction narrative", meaning there is a main character (Matola) following an evolving story (struggle to stop the dam) in which the reader is kept in suspense to find out what happens.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

You probably won't find Bruce Barcott's The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw in the travel book or nature guide sections of your local bookstore or of Amazon.com, but it just may be the best field guide to Belize you'll ever read.

Ostensibly the story of Sharon Matola, founder of the amazing Belize Zoo, and her campaign to defeat the Chalillo Dam on the Macal River in Western Belize and to save the nesting ground of what are believed to be the last 200 Scarlet Macaws in Belize, it's actually a 313-page crash course on Belizean culture, society and politics.

It's also the most riveting, gossipy and entertaining book on the country since Richard Timothy Conroy's 1997 memoir of British Honduras in the 1950s, Our Man in Belize.

Barcott names names. He pulls no punches. As an American writer - he's a contributing editor to Outside Magazine and the author of a book on Mount Rainier, among other things - he doesn't have to worry about making a living in Belize or raising a family there. He points to the high-level corruption that Lord Michael Ashcroft, the British-Belizean politician and entrepreneur, helped introduce in Belize and who "turned the sovereign nation of Belize into his own tax-free holding company," to the fast-buck shenanigans of the second generation of People's United Party politicians, to the seamy Dark Side of the PUP's "Minister of Everything" Ralph Fonseca, to the shrill shilling of party spokesman Norris Hall, to the fellow-traveling of the Belize Audubon Society and even to the bumbling efforts of some well-intended but barely competent Belizeans.

I've been banging around Belize for more than 17 years, but Barcott's book is full of insights I've missed or didn't understand.
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Format: Hardcover
I love this book, which is a strong statement coming from me, a guy who typically reads mysteries, science fiction and the occasional pulitzer winning novel. Typically I find non-fiction interesting at first but too dry and it rarely holds my interest for long. This book is a wonderful exception. I found it fascinating and informative from start to finish, it has a plotline filled with characters and events worthy of a Carl Hiaasen (One of my favorite authors) novel. I highly recommend reading The Last Flight Of The Scarlet Macaw.
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