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Last Chance to See - Mark Carwardine

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Genre: Science / Nature / Author: Mark Carwardine / Hardcover / 320 Pages / Book is published 2009-09-03 by Collins

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      02.08.2010 13:57
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      A fantastic book

      This books follows Mark Carwardine (well known zooligist) and well know and loved Stephen Fry, as they search for some of the rarest and most threatened animals on Earth. Twenty years ago, zoologist Mark Carwardine teamed up with the late Douglas Adams (author of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and together they embarked on a groundbreaking expedition, travelling the globe in search of some of the world's most endangered animals. Mark has now teamed up with one of Douglas's closest friends -- Stephen Fry -- to see how all those animals have been faring in the years since.

      I had watched the TV series on the BBC entitled 'Last Chance to See' and found it utterly fascinating. I also found the rappor between Stephen and Mark was brilliant and it was full of comic moment. This book accompanies the BBC television series

      In the book the pair take six separate journeys which take them from the steamy jungles of the Amazon to the ice-covered mountain tops of New Zealand and from the edge of a war zone in Central Africa to a sub-tropical paradise in the North Pacific. Along the way, they search for some of the weirdest, most remarkable and most troubled creatures on earth such as an aye aye, a flightless parrot (by far my favourite, if you get chance watch the TV series to see this parrot in action, it is hilarous) river dolphins, Komodo Dragons, Manatees, Blue Whale, Rhino and the list goes on. They also check out some local wildlife whilst on their travels.

      The book is written in such a witty style you could mistake the author for Stephen Fry, however the author is Mark Carwardine. He does a marvelous job of writing the tales of their travels, making it factual, hilarious and humbling. I laughed at loud at this book and the anticts the pair got up to and the moaning from Stephen with the lack of technology and hotels whilst in search of the animals. Its fantastic to see that despite his moans Stephen is so excited to see these animals and so humbled by their plight.

      This book really does teach you something, there were animals in this book I had previously never heard of. It also teaches you about the importance of conservation and preserving what we have left in the world. It is amazing the amount of destruction man kind is creating on the planet. Praise to all those featured in this book for their hard work and dedication for helping conserve and raise awareness for these endangered animals.

      I would recommened this book to anyone. A fantastic read with a good morale message.

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      14.11.2009 12:36
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      The book's title says it all.

      In 1989, writer Douglas Adams and zoologist Mark Cawardine embarked on a 90,000 mile journey to see some of the most endangered and charismatic animals on the planet. Their epic travels resulted in a ground breaking BBC radio series and accompanying book called "Last chance to see".

      Twenty years later, Cawardine and the BBC decided to revisit some of the original animals to see how they had fared in the two decades since the original series, as well as looking for more animals 'on the brink'. Due to his untimely death in 2001, a successor for Adams was needed. Comedian Stephen Fry, a long term friend of Adams, and a contributor to the original series was drafted in to help.

      As with the original journey, Fry and Cawardine's sojourn has been chronicled by the BBC, this time for television, as well as in a book; both also called "Last chance to see". I watched the excellent TV series, so was keen to pick up a copy of the book. I'm glad I did, as it is brilliantly written and illustrated and a fantastic accompaniment to the television programmes.

      The idea behind having both Fry and Cawardine is so that these spectacular animals can be investigated through the eyes of an expert zoologist who knows an enormous amount about the animal, and through someone to which the animal is new and (hopefully) exciting.

      The book is penned by Cawardine's, who writes in a very humorous style (trying to emulate Adams', I suspect), which makes the book enjoyable to read (even when the subject matter is quite depressing).

      The first sad fact that's recounted is that Fry and Cawardine did not even try to see the Yangtze River Dolphin. This amazing mammal was declared extinct in 2006; the first, but surely not the last, species of cetacean to be driven to extinction by man.

      The team were also too late to see the last Northern White Rhinos in the wild. Prevented from crossing the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo, Fry and Cawardine could only wonder how long the last four animals, for which a rescue attempt was to be initiated, could survive.

      Cawardine's despair at being prevented from entering the DRC is evident from his written words. Fry's sensible, supportive comments did little to alleviate his anguish at getting to within only a few miles of saving this wonderful animal.

      Sadly, a later search of the war zone, by a team of brave, dedicated rangers, failed to find any trace of them: another large mammal driven to extinction by human beings.

      The other chapters, describing the other animals, have a much more positive tone and the two presenters get on famously during their explorations. Fry's enthusiasm for the animals is often tempered by his dismay at losing his creature comforts and all important "wi fi" access, and results in some memorable quotes that are recorded in the book.

      Each chapter describes their efforts to see, in the wild, the following endangered creatures:

      Komodo dragon (the largest lizard on the planet)
      Aye-aye (a nocturnal lemur that looks disturbingly like a gremlin)
      Kakapo (a large flightless parrot that Fry falls in love with)
      Blue whale (the largest creature that ever existed)
      Amazonian manatee (described as looking like a mud bank and about as active!)

      Their success varies greatly; these are, after all, exceedingly rare animals so the highs and lows of each search make for fascinating reading. Along the way, the pair manage to see much more wildlife than just the target species, some of which will be new to most readers.

      As might be expected of the BBC, the photography in the book is simply superb. Taken by professionals, the images are perfectly lit, well composed, and leap off the page due to their vibrant colours. Some of the species photographed will never have been seen in a popular book before. The writing is excellent, but the photos bring the words alive.

      This wonderful book will evoke mixed emotions in the reader. From laughing at Fry and Cawardine's antics (often behaving like schoolboys rather than adult men), feeling uplifted when an animal is finally located, to finding oneself angry and depressed at the harm we are doing to the planet we share with other creatures; this is never a boring read.

      I can recommend this book to people interested in wildlife, and fans of Stephen Fry (readers will learn a lot about this shy individual). At £10.97 from Amazon, this is good value for money for an enjoyable read.

      Finally, a sobering thought. Two of the original animals from the first series are now extinct. How many would be left if a third series is commissioned in 2029?

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