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THE TAPIR SCIENTIST by Sy Montgomery Kirkus Star


Saving South America's Largest Mammal

From the Scientists in the Field series

by Sy Montgomery ; photographed by Nic Bishop

Age Range: 10 - 15

Pub Date: July 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-81548-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

The writer-and-photographer team who introduced readers to flightless parrots, snow leopards, tree kangaroos and the Goliath bird-eating tarantula turn their attention to the elusive lowland tapir.

Traveling in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands with biologist Patricia “Pati” Medici and her team, Montgomery and Bishop experience long, hot days, cramped conditions, nervous waiting and itchy tick bites while searching for this solitary, nocturnal animal. There is a satisfying natural structure to this tale of science research in the field, as initial difficulties give way to the team’s most productive expedition ever. In less than a week, they see tapirs in the wild, find their tracks, take photographs, locate them through radio telemetry, collect “samples of tapir poop, skin, fur, and blood,” and capture and collar two new tapirs, with more to come. This research matters, and the author clearly explains why. Chapters about the team’s day-by-day experiences, written in a lively, first-person voice, include memorable detail; interspersed are sections introducing team members, the ranch where they (and a team investigating giant armadillos) are doing their research, a British teen who helped fund an expedition and record-keeping. Clearly labeled photographs of scientists at work, ranch life, tapirs and other animals of this unfamiliar part of the world add to the book’s appeal.

A splendid addition to an exemplary series. (bibliography, websites, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)