The title: Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record
The authors: Errol Fuller
Publication: Bloomsbury, 2013
Got it from: The library
Lost Animals charts the story of a handful of recently extinct species through photos and eyewitness histories. Most of the species went extinct at the beginning of the 20th century, so photographs are inevitably black and white (with a few exceptions). Like a detective, the author had to go to great lengths to track down some of these rare pictures. The stories of the efforts made to obtain photos of these vanishing creatures are almost as fascinating as the animals themselves.
Some of the animals in this book may be familiar, such as the passenger pigeon and the quagga, but others are more obscure. Species range from New Zealand's laughing owl to the Yangtze River dolphin (whose last member was the adorably name Qi Qi). Their stories all end the same way: humans. More specifically, hunting and habitat destruction. It's enough to make you think that Voluntary Human Extinction group may have the right idea.
This isn't exactly cheerful Christmas fare, but this is one of those rare books that feels like essential reading for anyone who cares about animals. Which is not to say it was a chore to read - far from it. This book made me feel a variety of emotions: fascination, anger at the thoughtlessness and cruelty of humans, despair, and a new appreciation for the precious animals still remaining on this planet. Thankfully it's not all doom and gloom. For every group of destructive humans, there seems to be an euqally passionate group of conservationist who speak up for the animals. Still, with global overcrowding becoming inevitable, one wonders how we will be able to maintain future diversity.