Veeral's Reviews > Last Chance to See

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams
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Aug 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, funny, adventure, travelogue, favorites-of-2012, read-in-2012, exploration
Read from August 01 to 05, 2012


Douglas Adams went around the globe along with zoologist Mark Carwardine in search of various species of animals and birds which were on the verge of extinction in 1985 (when this book was written). My interest was piqued on the thought that if these species were considered endangered in 1985, what would be their current status as of 2012? Well I did some research (I mean I Googled it. But not in an amateurish way, I tried hard enough until I got bored, i.e. after 15 minutes!)

And one thing that I cannot understand is why even some educated people consider the extinction of various species a natural phenomenon! Just say these words in front of a well educated crowd and you almost know what answer you are going to get. Global warming? Pah. Government conspiracy. Extinction of various species? It is not a new thing. It’s just a cycle. But what if someone told you that the rate of extinction has increased exponentially in the last 50 years or so? And just because Al Gore supports the campaign against global warming doesn’t make it a conspiracy.

Anyway, let’s just look at the comparison of the species population which Adams saw in 1985 compared to the current year 2012.

Aye Aye(Madagascar) - unknown pop. (1985) – Fortunately they are more widespread than previously thought (2012)

Northern White Rhino (Zaire- Africa) – 22 nos. (1985) – Extinct (2012) (Only 7 remain in captivity)

Mountain Gorrillas (Zaire- Africa) – 280 nos. (1985) – 790 nos. (2012) (But endangered due to activities like deforestation and poaching)

Kakapo (New Zealand)– 40 nos. (1985) – 126 nos. (2012)

Yangtze River Dolphin aka Baiji (China) – 200 nos. (1985) – Extinct (2012)

The Komodo dragon (Indonesia)– 5000 nos. (350 females) (1985) – 4000-5000 nos. (2012)

Finless porpoise (Yangtze River, China)– 400 nos. (1985) – less than 400 nos. (2012)

The Rodrigues fruitbat (Mauritius) – 100 nos. (1985) – 3000 nos. and rising (2012)

Mauritius kestrel (Mauritius) - 100 nos. (1985) – 3000 nos. and rising (2012)

Echo Parakeet (Mauritius) – 15 nos. (1985) – 130 nos. (2012)

Pink pigeons (Mauritius) – 200 nos. (1985) – 350 nos. (2012)


Well, not everyone made it. And those who are faring better comparatively are still considered endangered if not critically endangered. And these are among the lucky few who were saved because of the much required publicity received from various sources including, I think, this book.

Apart from these species, Adams also saw some of the rarest species of flora. In his own words:

I knew that the palm tree was called Beverly because Wendy told me that was what she had christened it. It was a bottle palm, so called because it is shaped like a Chianti bottle, and it was one of the eight that remain on Round Island, the only eight wild ones in the world.

Or that the Hyophorbe amarfcaulis (a palm tree so rare that it doesn't have any name other than its scientific one) standing in the Curepipe Botanic Gardens in Mauritius is the only one of its kind in existence? (The tree was only discovered by chance while the ground on which it stands was being cleared in order to construct the Botanic Gardens. It was about to be cut down.)


But a skeptic would still ask that why is it only and only our (human beings') fault that earth’s ecology is crumbling? Well, Adams countered it perfectly:

The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.
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08/04/2012 page 137
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Veeral Thanks! I will try to track it down.


Clouds It's been on my list ever since I heard it existed, about ten years now - and I've still not read it. I suck.


Leigh The follow-up, as mentioned above, had Stephen Fry taking the place so sadly vacated by Douglas Adams. It was made into a BBC TV series, so if you can track that down, you'll be well away.


Veeral Leigh wrote: "The follow-up, as mentioned above, had Stephen Fry taking the place so sadly vacated by Douglas Adams. It was made into a BBC TV series, so if you can track that down, you'll be well away."

Thanks. I'll definitely try to track it down.


Leigh It's worth it for the Kakapo episode alone. They really love Mark.


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