by J.A. Mills ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 6, 2015
A telling inside view of 20 years in international tiger conservation work, including the successes, failures and the work...
Conservation consultant Mills examines the failure of conservationists to stop the commodification and farming of endangered tigers.
In certain parts of the world, tigers and other exotic species are valued for their uses in traditional medicine, food, luxury clothing and taxidermy products. In recent years, there has been an explosion in the farming of these animals. The author fell in love with tigers after her first sight of one in the wild. However, despite her passionate descriptions and some cute nicknames for certain key players, this is not a romantic adventure story. It is a memoir of her two decades investigating the illegal trade in endangered animal products and her efforts to end it, dealing with farmers, politicians, medical professionals, sanctuary owners and warring conservationists. Mills argues that creating legal markets for farmed tigers and other exotic species only increases the illegal trade in higher-status wild animals and that if we want to prevent extinction in the wild, we must eradicate consumer demand for these products. She describes successes in convincing the traditional Chinese medicine community to back conservation and in using celebrity advertising directed at consumers. She also shows the daunting political and economic obstacles and the failures of conservationists, including herself, that led to the current situation: There are now more tigers on farms than in the wild in China, and there are thousands of privately held, untracked tigers in other nations, including the United States. As is often the case with stories of underfunded activists fighting against industrial and political interests, this is a frustrating and tragic story, but Mills offers neither false hope nor despair. The author provides a list of resources for readers inspired to take action, in addition to a substantial set of notes.A telling inside view of 20 years in international tiger conservation work, including the successes, failures and the work that is still required.
Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015
Page Count: 272
Publisher: Beacon Press
Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014
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A quirky wonder of a book.
A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.
Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.A quirky wonder of a book.
Pub Date: April 14, 2020
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
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Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.
An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.
In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.
Pub Date: May 5, 2020
Page Count: 256
Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020
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