This book was terribly frustrating for me to read. On one hand I appreciate that information like this is available to the general public and may actually be read due to Corwin's presence on television. However, the way it was written was potentially off-putting to the layman and added little to the knowledge of someone like me who has considerable knowledge in environmental biology (degree and all!) and keeps up to date on the woes of species across the globe.
I did not expect much going in, especially since I am not a fan of Corwin. He has always rubbed me the wrong way and when he got an extreme food show on the Food Network that pretty much solidified my feelings on the matter. I just cannot really trust someone who will proclaim you should save this species but then goes and eats another. Sorry, but it is a bit hypocritical, especially from my vegan point of view.
The book was published in 2009 and since then a number of things have changed. The general information is still accurate but such things as population figures etc. obviously won't be. But other figures have also changed, including major changes for elephant and rhino poaching. The level of poaching has skyrocketed since the book was published, with levels of poaching at record levels for 2010 and 2011. 2012 is expected to set yet another record. In just South Africa the number of rhinos killed in 2011 was 443, and there may be more that are unknown. Unfortunately the belief that rhino and elephant horns can cure cancer has become even more predominant in Asia, especially as more individuals can now afford the "cure". But really the ground horns are like consuming your hair--it won't do a damn thing. But despite scientific evidence to prove this time and time again, the price of one pound of rhino horn continues to grow. The cost of a pound has changed significantly since 2009 as it is up to $50,000 a pound. The cost is growing and will continue to spur on poaching. Sadly the fate of both rhinos and elephants is bleak due to the Asian horn trade.
Also, the small section on the thylacine, which is an interesting species extinct in Australia, also needs updating. The thylacine was persecuted much like wolves, mountain lions and other predators for targeting ranchers' livestock, namely sheep. Thylacine were largely hunted to extinction spurred by these beliefs. But recent studies have conclusively proven that a thylacine would be physically incapable of killing sheep due to their weaker jaw structure. Yet another persecution at the hands of ranchers that is false.
Speaking of ranchers, I felt like Corwin defended them a number of times. This is not only ridiculous but misleading. This was especially true in the section on gray wolves. Corwin states:
"As in the past, much of the animosity toward wolves comes from ranchers, whose livelihoods can be seriously affected by wolf atacks on their animals. [...] They also say the wolves' presence stresses their cattle, which keeps their weight- and the ranchers' profits- down."
First of all, the livelihoods are not SERIOUSLY affected as even a pack of wolves would/do take limited numbers from ranchers. Plus ranchers are compensated by environmental groups so they are less likely to kill the offending wolves. Corwin's use of adverbs overall in the book was pretty atrocious and misleading. In order for a rancher to be seriously affected that would have to have a very limited number of cattle or other livestock. Also, the mere presence of wolves stresses the cattle? Sure, but the reason they care is because it decreases their PROFITS. Not surprisingly, this is all the ranchers care about. Gods forbid the cattle be nervous wrecks...it might impact the RANCHER. Blech.
I understand Corwin attempts to show both sides of a situation in a number of scenarios, but it often comes across as supportive and as if he is conflicted himself. Such as he displays the important role such predators as wolves have in the ecosystem, then turns around and cries a river for ranchers.
Despite attempting to convey passion for species it did not come across as authentic to me, especially due to his wording. Such as he conveys the plight of one species while simultaneously putting down another species and relegating it to a pest (squirrels in one instance). What if squirrels go the way of the carrier pigeon? Will he suddenly stop calling them pests? Bats are called pests but their declining numbers could spell disaster for crop production and insect populations could boom. Relegating any species to a pest is a poor decision on his part.
One of my favorites, the elephant, was also discussed in the book. Corwin seems to have an affinity for them as well but shows major human condescension when speaking of them. One time when referring to elephants he states: "they're also highly emotional animals- maybe nearly as emotional as humans- capable of both despondency and joy." Maybe? Nearly? Could we be more standoffish about declaring them capable of human level emotion? He makes similar frustrating statements when referring to great apes in the book, such as saying great apes may very well have "souls" like humans. So only humans and great apes then? How about we do away with the whole idea of souls if you're going to ignore most of the species on Earth, kay?
Overall the book would appease someone interested in the plight of endangered species but is not very knowledgeable in the field. Also, if you are a fan of Corwin you may fare better than I as well. Two stars for the book hopefully enlightening more people and getting more people caring about species other than humans. However, not the best written or most interesting....especially if you are all too aware of the speciesism with which he writes.