Intimate, savory portraits of imperiled animals and environments, by the author of A Natural History of Love (1994), etc. Extinction is a natural part of evolution, often "unmalicious, intentionless, random." We humans too are part of the natural matrix and may wish to explain our agency in the extinction process as such--natural, evolutionary. But it is well to remember, advises Ackerman, that mass extinctions--like what is happening right this minute--tend to wipe out the culprits as well, and that means you and me. Ackerman finds our role in the destruction of creatures and places reprehensible; she states, "As a member of the species responsible for their downfall, I feel an urgent need to witness and celebrate them before they vanish." And celebrate them she does, beautifully, in six finely crafted evocations: monk seals and golden lion tamarins, the Florida scrublands and the Amazon, the migration of monarch butterflies. Ackerman drinks in the whole picture; she went to the remote, storm-tossed island of Torishima, off Japan, to observe the short-tailed albatross ("vibrant white, with radiant yellow heads and coral-pink bills tipped in blue"), but she is just as attentive to the landscape, "a glacier of crushed lava . . . ground singed with bright yellow sulphur salts and hot black scabs." As always, she likes her nature raw, "dizzyingly sensuous and deeply spiritual," reveling in the promiscuity of it all, and as for her oft-mentioned anthropomorphism, she has a neat response to the chiding she takes at the tamarin camp: "As a higher primate female, I'm hard-wired to respond to the young of all mammalian species as cute. . . . Think of it as part of my evolutionary program." Smart and polished and totally entertaining, Ackerman is a pure pleasure.