Hope for Animals and Their World

Brainfood, Inspiration

Hope for Animals and Their World

Product details

Product name: Hope for Animals and Their World

Reviewer: Kate Arneman

Author: Jane Goodall with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Price: $35

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A book about critically endangered species with the word 'hope' in its title? I like it already!

"Action is the antidote to despair" is a quotation attributed to American folk singer Joan Baez, but it's also a motto embodied by British primatologist and environmental activist Jane Goodall.

Goodall's years living with the chimpanzees of Gombe in Tanzania, where she documented their behaviour, are enshrined in popular history and her contribution to science is highly respected. These days the indomitable optimist pours her energy into conservation and awareness-raising initiatives through the Jane Goodall Institute and offshoot programs.

In the course of her travels (she is on the road more than 300 days of the year) she has visited and been involved with countless projects aimed at preserving endangered species.

Hope for Animals and Their World is a compilation of good news stories about successful efforts to rescue all kinds of creatures from extinction - from black-footed ferrets in the US to Abbott's booby on Australia's Christmas Island.

More than 30 case studies are presented and the diverse methods of tracking populations, captive breeding and reintroducing animals to the wild are described.

The numerous case studies also reveal the complex and often unforseen ways in which human behaviour can affect various ecosystems and put animals at risk.

In California in the 1980s, the lead bullets used by hunters were found to be poisoning condors, which would ingest lead fragments when they ate game carcasses. Twenty years earlier, scientists had realised that the decline of the peregrine population in the UK could be traced to the pesticide DDT, a derivative of which was causing the birds' shells to be so thin that countless embryos did not survive to full-term.

The authors refer to the field biologists and conservationists who run these initiatives as "heroic", "determined" and "extraordinary", and reading about the lengths they go to it's hard to disagree. Take, for example, George Archibald, who 'courted' a female whooping crane called Tex.

Tex had been hand-raised and had imprinted on humans. As a result, she repeatedly refused the attentions of male cranes. Knowing that hand-raised cranes will sometimes lay eggs if they have a close bond with a human, Archibald became her 'suitor' and spent many hours with the bird, including performing the elaborate courtship dance on many occasions.

His dedication paid off - Tex laid an egg, which was artificially inseminated and hatched a chick called Gee Whiz.

The book includes sections on species that are new to science, being 'discovered' in recent times, and of so-called Lazarus species (thought to be extinct but then rediscovered), plus an appendix that lists where you can 'meet' each species (online or in person) and how you can support the relevant breeding/conservation programs.

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