The natural world is once again under attack. The list of endangered species is long and the animals listed are quickly dwindling.
As I was reading Beyond Words by Carl Safina, our own government greatly weakened the Endangered Species Act, a landmark piece of legislation that protected thousands of animals and habitats that were on the edge of extinction and now unfortunately are again.
This has triggered multiple environmental groups -including the NRDC, National Parks Association, and the Humane Society – to sue the Trump Administration.
So in response, I put together a short reading list of powerful books who’s purpose is to call us to action. Full of heartwarming stories and gut-wrenching truths, these 6 books on endangered species and wildlife conservation are a must read for anyone who wants to help make a difference.
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A heart-gripping look at the private lives of the individuals that make up the natural world, Beyond Words passionately argues against the idea that animals have no conscious mind. Carl Safina combines decades of field research with a truly emotional touch revealing that the thoughts we think and the emotions we feel are aligned with those of elephants, wolves, and even shellfish.
Stories of orcas returning lost dogs to their human owners and guiding lost boats home in the fog; elephants chasing a woman who threw rocks at them but skidding to a stop when she fell so they would not hurt her.
A monkey, who had lost two of her babies, weeping over a researcher when she had a miscarriage.
When I read this book, I was laughing one second and crying the next. It’s a truly incredible study that includes countless firsthand encounters with animals that are completely unexplainable and unfathomable.
Proving to us there is great potential for communication between species, Beyond Words forces us to look at ourselves and our insecurities that surround our detachment from the natural world. It calls on us humans to show animals the same empathy and compassion they have inexplicably shown us for generations.
Our current government denies climate change and has scrapped all the policies that helped protect hundreds of animals, plants, and habitats from becoming an industrialized wasteland.
With the fight to save the planet more urgent than ever, Nature’s Allies hopes to motivate a new generation of conservationists. This is a retelling of eight eco-warriors who opposed fierce political opposition to help change the world for the better.
Enlightening and inspiring, this book emphasizes the importance of the individual and shows just how big a difference one person can make.
“Zoos argue that they are fighting for the conservation of the Earth, that they educate the public and provide refuge and support for vanishing species. And they are right. Animal-rights groups argue that zoos traffic in living creatures, exploiting them for financial gain and amusement. And they are right.”
Activists condemn zoos as a prison and angrily protest their importation of wild animals. But zookeepers who give their lives (sometimes literally) for these animals and have nurtured injured creatures back to health see zoos differently. Zoos have long been at the center of a fierce debate. Zoo Story gives a voice to both sides of the argument and shows why both are equally true.
Thomas French follows the journey of the “Swazi Eleven” – eleven elephants that were transported 50 hours all the way from the Swaziland Savannah to Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa in an effort the save them from another cull (a government ordered massacre to help keep the elephant population in check.)
While the zoo and the owners of the Swaziland nature reserve believe they are saving the animals from certain death and their families from unthinkable trauma, they face fierce opposition from animal rights groups insisting that even death is better than a life in captivity.
Entwining the elephant story with the human side of the zoo and the lives of its other inhabitants (including a chimpanzee with a weakness for blondes and a tiger with a love for perfume) Zoo Story is a heartwarming tale of preservation and perseverance, and an unbiased look at both sides of the debate over animal captivity
4. The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It by Vanda Felbab-Brown
The rate of global extinction is now at 1000 times the historical average. If the population of endangered animals continues to decline at this pace, we could be facing a global pandemic causing irreversible damage to our biosphere and potential threats to public health.
The Extinction Market explores the causes and consequences of wildlife trafficking and the international poaching crisis and our ability to end it for good.
Vanda Felbab-Brown investigates the effectiveness of the international bans on legal trade, hunting and farming restrictions, demand reduction strategies, and the exploration of alternative livelihoods.
This book has been deemed “the place to start” if you want to learn how to help stave off the mass extinction of endangered species. Teaching the importance of humility, hard work, and determination, Felbab-Brown tells us preservation is possible, but only if we work together.
5. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall
If you haven’t read this book yet, it’s a must for all nature and animal lovers. It is one of the most astonishing studies of animal behavior ever recorded.
This is the account of Dr. Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist, conservationist, and humanitarian. It details her expedition to live among the chimpanzees of Tanzania; studying them for months from a distance, she slowly begins to earn their trust and becomes one with the chimpanzees.
She manages to document previously unknown behavior such as the making of tools, which was groundbreaking at the time and completely unheard of. She studies the chimps until she knows them as individuals, living in social hierarchies not so different from our own.
She set out to change our perception of nature and found a deep and unexpected connection which has always existed between humans and chimpanzees.
6. Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
In this bubbly and often humorous admiration of bees, Thor Hanson relates to us all the reasons the world seriously needs bees. Bees connect humans with nature in so many more ways than we realize. And if bees disappear, that’s it.
This scientific study takes us back 125 million years to the very first wasp and follows the story of bees up to the present day and their current endangerment. Buzz was 2018’s Science Book of the Year. Mostly because the writing is so accessible and the story so empowering.
This is another creature, that often gets overlooked, but desperately needs to be saved.
Beyond Words is one of my FAVORITE books! I hardly every find anyone who knows about it – I’m so happy you read it! I’ll have to check these other titles out!
I worship Beyond Words, I just had to put it first on the list. If you like that book then you’ll really enjoy Zoo Story. It’s a similar concept, documenting the private lives of animals, discussing all the good and the bad in a very touching and emotional way.
I’m adding Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French to my list. I’m always having second thoughts when visiting a zoo, I hope this book will help me choose one side over the other once I learn more about all the arguments.
I myself am still skeptical about zoos but Zoo Story really helped me understand both the history and necessity of zoos. I just hope that one day in the future there will be a better way to preserve animals. People are asking for this and that’s why there are more nature reserves popping up that people can tour instead of zoos.
Thank you for sharing this list. As gut-wrenching and difficult as some of these stories may be to read, it’s so important to learn the facts and understand what is happening to these species.
Thank you and I couldn’t agree more. The good thing about these books is the fact that they encourage us to stand together and let us know it’s not too late.
These are all such great recommendations. I think reading about animals from a scientific perspective really helps people realize that these animals are conscious, sentient beings deserving of love and respect. Thank you for these suggestions, I’m adding so many of them to my Goodreads to-be-read shelf
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