CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006
In the familiar design of this series (now numbering 12 titles), Rainforest Bird Rescue offers an inviting introduction, background to the problems and conservation efforts, more specific detail about rainforest ecology and reasons for its disappearance, focus on individual bird species at risk and on personalities working in the conservation field. A final chapter suggests solutions will depend on cooperation and addressing the issues of poverty in developing countries. Included are a page of Fast Facts, bibliography of conservation organizations and Index.
The map showing both tropical and temperate rainforests around the globe is startling for the few clusters of this type of ecosystem that appear ("only 6% of earth's land surface"). Most are tucked away in spots at a considerable distance from North America: the Amazon, central Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia. We see birds migrating north each year but may not consider the effects of shrinking habitat in their winter homes. This book provides more, equally shocking statistics: almost 700 rainforest bird species face extinction; one bird sold as a pet might earn six months wages for a farmer; only a small number of rainforest species have been discovered, but the loss of each one threatens many more. The author has chosen fascinating and unusual examples of rainforest birds to profile, birds such as the curassow "not seen in the wild since the mid-1600s... rediscovered in El Salvador" where only 20 may survive. Closer to home, the remaining 25 pairs of spotted owl are our own reminder that all is not well in the rainforest.
To balance the bad news, the book describes efforts of dedicated scientists as well as ordinary concerned citizens to find ways to conserve what habitat is left and encourage recovery of species where possible. It seems we're getting smarter about this as the book highlights local input as the best way to ensure projects will succeed. Ecotourism plays a big role, but people are also made aware that they can practice agricultural methods that also protect the land and vital bird habitat. It was especially gratifying to see so many of the accounts end with a positive note: "Fortunately, some big buyers of wood products...have pledged not to purchase....from the world's endangered forests;" "Many now demand shade-grown coffee, and are even willing to pay more for it."
This series of books is doing an amazing job of making information about critically endangered species available in an attractive and appealing format. Top quality photography provides excellent support for the well-researched text and is generously used. Open this book to the introductory chapter and try to tear your eyes away from the elegantly posed purple-throated mountain gem hummingbird, pictured full-page. If that doesn't entice you to read about this and other rainforest birds' futures, you must live on another planet.
Living in BC, Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian.
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