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The Kingdom of Rarities 2nd annotated edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1610911955
ISBN-10: 1610911954
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Editorial Reviews


"The well-traveled Mr. Dinerstein presents vivid case studies on the world's least common creatures, from a red hummingbird stranded on Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile to a cryptic forest-dwelling bovine in Vietnam . . . gripping."
(The Wall Street Journal)

"What makes his book a good read is his deft writing and ability to bring his audience to the places he and his scientific colleagues have visited."
(The Washington Post)

"This is a truly fascinating and entertaining read—and a quick one as it is rather hard to put it down once you've started into it—and will no doubt have you looking at rare species in a whole new light, questioning what we really know of them, what their ecological roles truly are, and what might be done to preserve them in a way that is meaningful to their role in the local and global ecosystem."

"[T]his personable travelogue was such an intellectual delight that I just had to tell you about it...Rereading this book was a joy—it was even better the second time through. The writing is compelling, the stories, captivating, and the scientific data, illuminating and well-chosen. ...engaging and thought-provoking chronicle... Passionate but never histrionic, Dinerstein deftly weaves together findings from many disparate fields of research, along with the urgent necessity to conserve these species."
(The Guardian's GrrlScientist blog)

"Extraordinary and engrossing account . . . with a friendly intimacy, he offers a personal narrative, a travelogue, and a celebration of the natural world, not a polemic. When Dinerstein asks questions about biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, and conservation biology, he is constructive, engaging, and exceptionally well informed. He is also balanced and realistic, daring to ask which species are the most important to protect and why."

"The book provides a superb balance between description, science and conservation. It's an easy, pleasant, and even exciting read, with the science gently fed to the reader as part of the book's adventure narrative."

"What makes an animal rare? Eric Dinerstein explains the nuanced answer in his book."
(The Nature Conservancy Magazine)

"Dinerstein captures this innate fascination in a worldwide tour of exotic places and spectacular species, from jaguars in the Amazon to birds of paradise in New Guinea. Along the way, he weaves in lessons in ecology as well as passionate calls for conservation action."

"Dinerstein's book offers a kaleidoscopic and highly entertaining picture of some of the world's most remote and diverse ecological hotspots."
(Earth Island Journal)

"In prose that is both lyrical and exact, he takes readers through various 'motherlodes of rarities' in search of answers, from Cuba's Zapata Swamp through the jaguar-dense Madre de Dios region of Peru to the still little-known Vietnamese jungle."

"Dinerstein (Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations), Lead Scientist with the World Wildlife Fund, provides nature lovers with an armchair tour of the world, focusing on rare species from New Guinea to Hawaii. In clear, concise prose he discusses the circumstances responsible for rarity like evolution, habitat loss, and war. . . . [H]ighly recommended for readers with interests in biology, natural history, and ecology."
(Publishers Weekly)

"An evocatively described natural-history tour of the world's rare species. . . . Dinerstein enthuses and informs without being overwhelming."
(BBC Wildlife Magazine)

"Dinerstein's text is admirably accessible to the non-scientist. . . . Besides the passing nods to ethnography, the book is also enlivened by occasional poetic touches, and an unexpectedly numinous regard for the aesthetics of the flora and fauna encountered."
(The Ecologist)

"As well as a scientific journey, The Kingdom of Rarities is also an adventure story—to meet the rare species that are central to this tale, the reader travels with the author to exotic locations including remote New Guinea, Hawaii, the heart of the Amazon, and the foothills of the Himalayas . . . this book's topic is fascinating."
(The Guardian GrrlScientist blog)

"Excellent example of storytelling, nature writing, and science."
(Greg Laden's Blog)

"Eric Dinerstein has given us a clear and expert account of a subject of increasing importance for the twenty-first century. The world is filling up with humans and species made rare—to whom we most urgently must devote more of our attention."
(Edward O. Wilson University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

"In colorful prose that conjures up the rich spell of each landscape, Dinerstein takes us along on exhilarating expeditions that crisscross the globe and travel deep into the heart of rare species, while sharing his own rare expertise and a luminous sense of wonder."
(Diane Ackerman Author of The Zookeeper's Wife)

"The Kingdom of Rarities is a rarity itself, a book whose author is so in command of his material that you don't realize how much you're learning; you're too caught up in the adventure of it all."
(Carl Safina Author of Song for the Blue Ocean)

"Why are jaguars rare, despite being South America's most powerful predator? Why, indeed, are most species rare? How can rare species exert a big effect on the landscape's structure and function? If you, too, are open to the fascination that rare animals hold for adventure travelers and passionate ecologists, you'll love the romance and exciting science that this book offers."
(Jared Diamond Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Professor of Geography, UCLA)

"He has cumulated over 40 years of his studies and experiences to highlight how rare species have developed intricate and complex webs, and how their existence has profound impacts on the ecosystem(s) in which they live . . . expertly weaves in examples to provide a solid context for layperson."

"Dinerstein's accessible prose and informative, inviting style informs the reader without sounding like a textbook or a polemic."
(Rhode Island Natural History Survey)

"...The Kingdom of Rarities has many virtues. It succeeds in presenting biodiversity research as an adventure and biodiversity conservation as crucial, necessary work. It describes numerous fascinating animals, greatly facilitated in this effort by Trudy Nicholson's beautiful and accurate illustrations. Dinerstein wears his learning lightly but deploys it to good effect. An annotated bibliography identifies books, articles and scientific papers for those who want to learn more about different aspects of rarity and conservation. As is usually the case with books from Island Press, the overall production is of high quality. All in all this is an excellent book."
(Biological Conservation)

"Eric Dinerstein's engaging new book [is a] . . . zoological travelogue, observing rare species across the planet and contemplating, as he does so, why rarity is profoundly important for our understanding of nature and our efforts to conserve it."

About the Author

Eric Dinerstein is Director of Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions at RESOLVE. Previously, he was Lead Scientist and Vice President for Conservation Science at the World Wildlife Fund. Over the past forty years he has studied bears, rhinos, tigers, bats, and plants and many other creatures around the globe, and he remains active in the conservation of rare species. He has published over one hundred scientific papers and several books, including The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations, The Kingdom of Rarities, and What Elephants Know: A Novel. In 2007, Tigerland won the American Association for the Advancement of Science's award for science writing, the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 2nd annotated edition edition (January 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610911954
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610911955
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By FictionFan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This book has taken me on a joyous jaunt round the world in the company of some amazing creatures and a guide whose enthusiasm and love for his work shines through every word. A storyteller of extraordinary skill, Dinerstein could make the smallest, greyest rodent fascinating if he chose. But since he has a world full of rare species to tell us about, instead we are treated to tales of the golden-fronted bowerbird, the scarlet minivet, the red panda, the jaguar, Mrs Gould's sunbird...

There is a serious purpose to this book: to look at why rare species are rare and to determine what intervention is required to conserve them and their habitats. Dinerstein shows us the effects of Big Ag in the rainforests of South America, of war in Vietnam and Cambodia, of species invasion in Hawaii, and speculates on the possible effects of global warming on these threatened rarities. Sometimes such books are read with a sense of duty and a heavy heart - but not this one. All through Dinerstein highlights the positives as much as the negatives, offers solutions, tells us of the amazing things that are already being achieved both by nature and by man; and left this reader, at least, with an enormous sense of hope.

Generously Dinerstein name-checks many of the naturalists and ecologists, past and present, who have and are doing so much to reverse the trend towards extinctions, and plays down his own role as a leading conservationist and Lead Scientist at the WWF. The sciency stuff is slotted in so seamlessly amidst the glorious descriptions of flora and fauna that it's easy for a non-academic to absorb - especially if a dictionary is close to hand!
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Format: Hardcover
On behalf of conservation efforts throughout the world Dinerstein provides first hand experiences with his work with fellow scientist in the field that at times you almost feel like you are there with him. Simply put, THE KINGDOM OF RARITIES, is must reading for any one who is interested in, and concerned about the many species across the planet, some more rare than others, that are, or may be in danger, of being wiped from the face of the earth because of either the indifference of the human race or the sheer callousness of many of our actions throughout the world. There is no better example of such indifference to the survival of a species than the poaching of the one horned rhinoceros in Nepal. Increasingly. they are being driven to the edge of extinction. As he so eloquently states in his final chapter, "Developing our gift for compassion is a critical contribution to the persistence of rarities." Can we afford to not show and demonstrate such compassion in this world that is so caught up with technologicial advancements at the expense of the rarities that either grow on, fly over or walk this earth? Throughout this book Dinerstein makes a most compelling case that we cannot.

Dinerstein tells us that "Wild species that leave footprints larger than our own are now among the rarest of all mammals. Places where they once dominated the landscape must be part of the legacy we bequeath to future generations." This plea, or premise if you will, is at the hallmark of this remarkable book that provides profound and new insights into what is commonly called "the animal kingdom" and the world of nature that seemingly is under constant attack by the human priorities of the moment. How sad a world it would be if we were unable or unwilloing to heed his words here.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm glad I bought this book in the Kindle version and not as a hard copy because it would not pass the test of a 5-star book - giving it to a friend to read and share.

There are some very good chapters- the scientific trip to New Guinea - wow, the author writing about his own rhino research (my favorite chapter) and the Kirtland Warbler chapter. However, too many of the chapters ended up being a birding trip report where the author's bird list became the focus of the chapter. Some of the chapters such as the section on Hawaiian birds have been better told elsewhere.

For me, there was not enough focus to the book and it ended up with stories that overly featured the authors bird (and mammal) life list. For a birder looking for travel ideas, this book is recommended. But there are better written books that describe the conversation challenge of saving rare species (such as Perter Matthiessen books including my favorite of this genre - The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes", the science behind rare animals - The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen.
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Format: Hardcover
A really solid book about the ecology of rare species. The author demonstrates great expertise. It is highly informative and reveals a good deal of information available only in journals. I recommend it. That being said, the book also has its weaknesses, the primary one being unnecessarily florid prose. As just one (incredibly laborious) example: "The rest of us hunched over a glowing fire, waiting for Vishnu's return. Our game trackers chatted as they took their continental breakfast of tea and biscuits. A short, bow-legged man poured steaming cups of Darjeeling thickened with sugar and water buffalo milk." And on and on for four pages. It's part Bulwer-Lytton and part Gould. If you like science books that lapse into novelesque prose, you'll love it. If it bothers you, you won't. If you're indifferent to this kind of tangent, you'll probably rate the book highly. Realistically, the book could lose 30-50 pages.
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