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


By: Samuel Turvey

233 pages, B/w illus

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Aug 2009 | #179823 | ISBN-13: 9780199549481
Availability: In stock
NHBS Special Offer Price: £5.99 £8.99 (Save £3.00) $7/€7 approx (ends 31/03/2017)
Hardback | Oct 2008 | #174256 | ISBN-13: 9780199549474
Out of Print Details

About this book

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.

Turvey weaves natural history, ecology, and politics into a tapestry that illusrates the pattern of human impact across the globe. A must-read perspective for those who think of conservation as a vigorous fight to save biodiversity rather than an academic discipline. Written from the point of view of a scientist actively involved in the fight to save the dolphin, the book seethes with personal anger while at the same time being highly scholarly. Quarterly Review of Biology


Chapter 1 The Goddess of the Yangtze
Chapter 2 The Amazon of the East
Chapter 3 Qi Qi
Chapter 4 A New Hope?
Chapter 5 The Rarest Animal in the World
Chapter 6 Everything Is Going to be OK
Chapter 7 The Politics of Extinction
Chapter 8 End Game
Chapter 9 The Hunting of the Snark
Chapter 10 The Golden Channel
Chapter 11 So Long, and Thanks For All the Fishing
Chapter 12 What Have We Learnt?

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Samuel Turvey was born in Lohja, Finland, and was educated at Bristol Grammar School and St John's Collge, Oxford. He received a D.Phil. in Chinese palaeontology in 2002, and currently works at the Zoological Society of London. He is one of the team of scientists who have developed the EDGE of Existence conservation programme, which aims to identify and protect Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species.

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