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Witness to Extinction: How we Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin [Hardcover]

Samuel Turvey
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 Oct 2008
The tragic recognition of the extinction of the Yangtze River Dolphin or baiji in 2007 became a major news story and sent shockwaves around the world. It made a romantic story, for the baiji was a unique and beautiful creature that features in many Chinese legends and folk tales. The Goddess of the Yangtze, as it was known, was also the lone representative of an entire and ancient branch of the Tree of Life. But perhaps the greater tragedy is that its status as one of the world's most threatened mammals had been widely recognized, yet despite wide publicity virtually no international funds became available. Samuel Turvey here tells the story of the plight of the Yangtze River Dolphin from his unique perspective as a conservation biologist deeply involved in the struggle to save the dolphin. This is both a celebration of a beautiful and remarkable animal that once graced one of China's greatest rivers, its natural history and its role as a cultural symbol; and also a personal, eyewitness account of the failures of policy and the struggle to get funds that led to its tragic demise. It is a true cautionary tale that we must learn from, for there are countless other threatened species that will suffer from the same human mistakes, and whose loss we shall not know until it is too late.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (23 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199549478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199549474
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,259,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


A grim tale - but essential reading. (Mick Herron, Geographical )

Informative, comprehensive - and angry - study. (Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review. )

This readable, often angry book has great authority...a depressing read perhaps, but this book is ideal for anyone interested in conservation. (BBC Wildlife. )

A harsh cautionary tale that's honest and realistic about what's needed to save species facing extinction. (Publishers Weekly )

At last someone is publicly mourning the tragic extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin. This is a highly authoritative, well written, thought-provoking and timely book. (Mark Carwardine, co-author of Last Chance to See )

Disturbing, harrowing and ultimately, hopefully educational account...The book is informative but never dry...One for us all to learn from. (Adventure Travel )

About the Author

Samuel Turvey is Research Fellow at the Institute of Zoology, a department of the Zoological Society of London. He is a conservation biologist with a principal interest in the history and prehistory of human-caused extinctions and in developing conservation strategies for today's threatened species. He was deeply involved with the conservation efforts surrounding the Yangtze River dolphin, and was the lead author of the 2007 paper which declared that it was probably extinct, generating tremendous international media attention.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It won't leave your side! 8 Aug 2009
Rarely do you find a book that lingers on in your memory for months and years to come; this book will stay with me forever. An incredible, honest account which I hope we all learn from. The author takes you on an incredible journey documenting the Chinese mythology surrounding the Baiji, to the history of the Yangtze, followed by his quest to try and get the global community involved in conserving this magnificent creature. This book oozes raw passion that can't fail to get you angry, laughing and crying. You may be inclined to think this is a book for the conservation scientist, but it will not fail to captivate the attention of anyone who needs a story to change a part of their life. This book served that very purpose. A powerful and beautifully delivered read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener make no mistake 3 Nov 2010
I can't stress enough in this review what an excellent read this is. For any young conservatonist, or anyone with any interest at all in saving the natural world then you simply must read this book. It shines a light not only at Chinese conservation (or lack of) but of the reluctance of conservation bodies worldwide to do anything until it's too late.

The writing style is reads smoothly and the book really leaves an effect on you once you finish it. I really can't recommend this book strongly enough and it's important that people know the truth about how such a unique and beautiful species was allowed to slide into extinction, so that it never happens again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational 23 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Currently at A2 student and studying Marine Biology at university next year, such an amazing book, has the correct synergism between literature and knowledge. Great for a bit of extension reading to enhance understanding or simply just to broad the mind on human activities causing environmental issues.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, touching and informative 28 Sep 2011
By Paul
This is an excellent read for any nature enthusiasts, especially those interested in conservation. This work sums up the frustration and tragedy of the loss of the Yangtze River Dolphin, a beautiful but rare creature from the Yangzte River region of Eastern China. Thanks to a combination of dangerous fishing techniques, pollution and negligence by various 'conservationists', the poor dolphin was gradually extirpated from its already restricted range, wiping out an entire branch of the mammalian family and several thousand years of evolution in the process. The loss could have been prevented with more efficient planning and a faster response. If only more people had felt the same as Samuel Turvey, this book might never have needed to exist. However, I am very glad that it does, and I hope many more people will read it and prevent the same fate befalling many more beautiful gems of the natural world. Well wroth a read, the story will stay with you long after you finish reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars dolphins 11 Aug 2011
This is a "icoudnaeputitdoon"volume that should be read by all persons interested in consevation or attempting to help endangered animals.
The baiji (yangtze river dolphin)was virtually talked to extinction this coupled with greed,stupidity,self-intrest,pomposity,US/China antipathy,conflict between scientists and conservationists,broken promises,bad faith and failure to take action made extinction inevitable.
This book is a salutory indication of what not to do when trying to hhelp endangered species.I hope all those people and organisations that recognise themselves in this book are throughly ashamed of their actions.
A 5 star plus book.
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