Perhaps nothing about nature calls to us as deeply as wild animals. To see an enormous whale leaping out of the water, the eerily human eyes of a gorilla, or the comical waddle of a penguin; to hear the ethereal howl of a wolf or majestic roar of a lion – these experiences change us. Around the world, animal populations are threatened by loss of habitat, pollution, climate change, overhunting, and poaching – and yet wildlife-based tourism is growing rapidly and makes up as much as forty percent of the worldwide tourism industry today.
In Pandas to Penguins, nature journalist Melissa Gaskill profiles twenty-five species and one endangered ecosystem, highlighting local ecofriendly travel outfitters operating in the area for those seeking out their own enriching personal experience with wildlife. She provides basic information about each animal's behavior and biology, descriptions of the threats they face, and maps, photographs, and first-person accounts of wildlife watching.
Each species meets three basic criteria: 1) some level of risk to its survival, 2) a reasonably accessible habitat where travelers have a chance to view the animal in the wild in its natural setting, and 3) responsible tourism that directly benefits the animal or its habitat. More than a wildlife bucket list or an exhortation to "see them before they're gone", Pandas to Penguins is intended to identify wildlife experiences that can be life changing for people as well as animals. Extinction is tragic but not inevitable. We can all do something to make a difference, and Pandas to Penguins is an important resource for adventurers and armchair travelers alike.
Melissa Gaskill is a professional journalist with thirty years of experience writing about the outdoors, nature, and science. She is the author of Best Hikes with Dogs: Texas Hill Country and Gulf Coast and the coauthor of A Worldwide Travel Guide to Sea Turtles. She lives in Austin.