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Gold Rush in the Jungle: The Race to Discover and Defend the Rarest Animals of Vietnam's "Lost World"

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An engrossing, adventure-filled account of the rush to discover and save Vietnam's most extraordinary animals.

Deep in the jungle where the borders of Vietnam meet those of Laos and Cambodia is a region known as "the lost world." Large mammals never seen before by Western science have popped up frequently in these mountains in the last decade, including a half-goat/half-ox, a deer that barks, and a close relative of the nearly extinct Javan rhino. In an age when scientists are excited by discovering a new kind of tube worm, the thought of finding and naming a new large terrestrial mammal is astonishing, and wildlife biologists from all over the world are flocking to this dangerous region. The result is a race between preservation and destruction.

Containing research gathered from famous biologists, conservationists, indigenous peoples, former POWs, ex-Viet Cong, and the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam since the war's end, Gold Rush in the Jungle goes deep into the valleys, hills, and hollows of Vietnam to explore the research, the international trade in endangered species, the lingering effects of Agent Orange, and the effort of a handful of biologists to save the world's rarest animals.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Dan Drollette

1 book6 followers
Dan's an award-winning foreign correspondent specializing in "adventure science." Much like George Plimpton spending a season with the Detroit Lions to write about football, Dan's gone into the jungle with biologists in search of rare wildlife -- and into the tunnel of the world's largest machine with physicists looking for the Higgs Boson. His articles have appeared in Scientific American, International Wildlife, Audubon, Science, Natural History, Cosmos, and on the BBC. He's a TEDx speaker, and held a Fulbright to Australia. He worked for CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, as editor of an on-line weekly magazine, where his office was 100 yards away from the LHC's "injection point." If the machine made a black hole, he'd have been first to know.

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Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Chris.
3 reviews
February 22, 2014
This is a book on a subject I am particularly attached to as an aspiring wildlife biologist, and for that reason I greatly enjoyed the book. The imagery and descriptions really take you to Vietnam and give you a good picture of the setting. The author is clearly very passionate about his writing and about nature, which lends an authenticity and personal touch to the book.

This bring said, I don't think the book was particularly well-written. It seems to bounce around a lot; sometimes you are multiple pages into a section before the setting is named. Other times the same piece of information or quote is given multiple times. As a student of biology, I would have liked to see a more thorough explanation of the scientific principles involved, but maybe that just wasn't in the scope of this particular book. Overall, a very entertaining and eye-opening read, but not as educational as it had the potential for.
Profile Image for Sarah.
19 reviews
May 16, 2014
This is the first book I received from Goodreads First Reads -- what a treat! I work in conservation and research at an aquarium and I am familiar with the plight of many endangered animals, the convoluted laws that are supposed to protect them, and the controversy around rehabbing and/or keeping animals in captivity. I loved reading this firsthand account of the author discovering many of these issues. I found this book thorough and well-written, and engrossing enough to hold the layperson's interest. I thought it was funny that each time the author asked a conservationist "why" they do what they do, the reaction was usually the same. (If you have to ask, you'll never get it.) I thought this book was excellent, especially for a first book! I hope I see more similar titles in the future, hopefully with some marine species! :D
1 review
December 6, 2013
Gold Rush in the Jungle showed me the beauty of Vietnam that was far removed from the war that engulfed my life as a kid. The book reads like a novel, but the story it tells of the ecosystems that are being lost and the species that depend on those ecosystems is far from a novel. Dan brings life to a place that is being lost as quickly as it is recognized by the Western scientists.(I refuse to use 'discovered' as if nothing exists until seen by the Western Nations) I place 'Gold Rush in the Jungle' on my top five reading list. Well written and engaging.
Profile Image for Lucy.
109 reviews
Want to read
May 10, 2013
Ooh! I read about this book in NewScientist!
655 reviews14 followers
April 18, 2020
Drollete discusses the natural history of Vietnam where a large number of new species of large animal have been found in recent years.

At the core of the book is Tilo Nadler who established the Endangered Primates Rescue Centre (EPRC) to preserve the dwindling langur populations. The centre now houses thirteen rare species. The author notes that any animals that are kept in zoos or other forms of captivity are kept out of the gene pool of the wild populations and therefore do not contribute to the variation of that species. As such, establishments such as the EPRC are attempting to re-establish some species back into the wild. Langurs have adapted to eating the leaves, seeds and unripe fruit of trees that grow in limestone-rich environments, which are digested in the animal's bacteria-rich stomachs.

The author looks at the many issues that compromise the preservation of wild animals in Vietnam. In addition to the expansion of the country's growing population into natural areas, there are the problems of the wild animal trade (exacerbated by corruption of the bureaucrats that should control it) plus the fondness that many Asians have for eating wild animals and using them for medicine. The Vietnam war had surprisingly little impact, perhaps even positive, as the fighting was concentrated in certain strategic locations. The exception was the use of Agent Orange for defoliation which many believe has had a residual effect with the carcinogenic dioxins.

A few of Vietnam's more rare animals are mentioned. The kouprey was discovered in 1937 when a calf was shipped to Paris as part of a wildlife consignment. Subsequent efforts to find the animal have resulted in a rainy film and a few bones. The Annamite striped rabbit and the saola, a bovine, from the Annamite mountains are mentioned. A Yangtze giant softshell turtle was found in a lake near Hanoi.

While the book gives some insights, it is quite repetitive and includes minimal information about the animal life of Vietnam.

Profile Image for Claire.
237 reviews18 followers
April 29, 2022
A fascinating and diverse read on Vietnam’s wildlife. Is it a niche topic? Yes. Did I find it more interesting than I thought it would? Yes! Drollette does a good job at connecting the book’s topic to larger themes of conservation, recovery of ecological landscapes after wars, and what deserves saving.
Profile Image for Amy.
422 reviews
September 17, 2017
270 pages

An inside look at the culture, the biodiversity and
history of Vietnam and it's wildlife.
123 reviews
April 13, 2018
Interesting subject matter, but really needs more focus and less repetition.
Profile Image for Alex Telander.
Author 16 books157 followers
June 19, 2013
There is a secret in this world, a very important one that may disappear before we even know it was there. Vietnam is a nation filled with history and culture, but it is also a unique haven to some of the rarest animals on the planet; it is also one of the few places in this world where new species of fauna continue to be discovered. Gold Rush in the Jungle is the story of this most unique place.

Dan Drolette Jr. has been a quasi-naturalist; a nature and animal lover since he was a child, discovering a fascination and continuing with it throughout his life. He has written for publications such as Scientific American, Cosmos, Science, Boston Globe, and Natural History. His travels have taken him exploring and writing about flora and fauna as far and wide as Hawaii, Sweden, South Korea and Australia. Drolette Jr. first went to Vietnam in the late nineties and knew he had to return to study and write about his special place, which he did. Gold Rush in the Jungle is the culmination of all this work.

Vietnam’s jungles have remained relatively untouched, going through a turbulent history and a devastating war; ironically this has led to a somewhat protected habitat for its many species and plans. It has held back development and the advancement of civilization into the jungles, allowing the many animals to live in peace and multiply. But since the nineties, things have gone quickly downhill. With the rapid growth in animal trophies, and the use of animal parts as widely disproven medicines in china, poaching has become a very big business.

Fortunately, there are those who are fighting against this, starting up conservation groups and protected places in Vietnam, as well as national parks, one created as long ago as the 1960s with Ho Chi Minh. It is a very moving story, to see how animals like certain bears are barely kept alive to have their bile surgically removed, or the rhinoceros that used to inhabit these jungles and can no longer be found. Drolette Jr. goes into the history of this country, talking about certain rare animals that have since gone extinct, but there is still hope that one day they may resurface from these dense ecosystems.

Fans of Jared Diamond’s Collapse and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth will love Gold Rush in the Jungle, with Drolette Jr.’s easy to read style that sucks you in, opens your eyes, and educates you with ideas and thoughts you have likely never had. It is a powerful story of a very real place that is like no other, and will stay with you long after you have read the last page.

Originally written on February 26, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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13 reviews
February 19, 2017
Learnt as much about Vietnam's wildlife as I did about it's people. Very informative journalism on the the Lazarus Effect; the bringing back of species on the brink of extinction. Opens your eyes to the need of wild spaces in our societies and how complicated it can be to establish a successful and well-managed conservation operation.
Profile Image for Dan Drollette.
Author 1 book6 followers
December 5, 2013
Obviously, I'm biased about this book!


But I thought I'd at least put in a few lines here about what led me to the topic. I was inspired to pursue this idea one day while at a university in Australia -- I was based down-under as a foreign correspondent, and "Oz" is a great jumping-off point for southeast Asia. A famous biologist pulled me aside in his campus office, pointed to a map, and said “this is where there is the unsung hero of Indochina wildlife rescue.”

Well, that's like catnip to a writer, and it led to my going to Vietnam and doing a series of magazine articles.

Much later, when I was showing the clippings to an instructor at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, he said: "This has the makings of a book. You need to write a proposal, get an agent, and land a contract from a publisher."

I thought "how hard can all that be?" Little did I know . . .

There's more about the craft of science writing at an interview I did recently for a writers group called WriteAngles http://writeanglesconference.com/2013...
Profile Image for Ryan.
Author 1 book36 followers
October 5, 2013
Disappointing. While the title carried much promise in uncovering the supposedly unexplored mysteries of Vietnam's wilderness, the book itself is a mishmash of conservation topics not necessarily based in this country but with entire chapters dedicated to tangential subjects like Linnaeus's binomial classification of life and the work of a field station in Hawaii. Much of the book is based around the success story of a primate rescue center in North Vietnam (EPRC) and the author's interaction with its founder. Unfortunately the failures and tragedies outnumber such successes, the disappearance of the kouprey and rhino being two examples mentioned. The author did not seem to have ventured much beyond interviewing biologists and visiting a couple of national parks. One would have expected an expedition style field trip of sorts into the purported titular 'lost world' but there was none, only secondary sources the author had read about in his research as a journalist.
48 reviews
May 29, 2013
I received this book from the First Reads program. This book was right up my alley. I have a degree in Animal Science and love to travel. I would have given this book 4 1/2 stars if it was possible. The story of rare and yet to be found animals in Vietnam was fascinating. I was surprised at how little I had heard or read of it before. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in science. My only small quibble with the author was a tendency to go off on tangents somewhat related to the topic. Overall, an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Sierra.
18 reviews3 followers
August 19, 2013
Fascinating topic, lots of good information, so repetitious that it felt like watching an Animal Planet special on Vietnamese wildlife. This book has so much potential, and would have benefited greatly from better editing. For example, I really disliked being introduced to Alan Rabinowitz and George Schaller five different ways five times over the course of the narrative; it undermines the credibility of the reportage, and is simply annoying to boot. Gold Rush was a great idea from an adventurous writer marred by very clunky execution.
Profile Image for Vanessa Olvera.
1 review17 followers
January 11, 2013
This book has a great amount of information on the animals and the country itself and is not a difficult read. I had little knowledge of the situation in Vietnam, yet this book helped me understand the hardships the people who want to protect these animals have to go through and that it is not as easy as it seems to help these animals as we think it is. It is definitely a good read if you are looking for something new to read or want to learn more about Dan's experience in Vietnam.
Profile Image for Konstantin Kirilov.
6 reviews17 followers
October 2, 2014
A very informative, yet not hard to grasp overview of the history of wildlife exploration and conservation in Vietnam (and parts of neighboring countries). I really enjoyed the way the chapters were organized in a way that will help even people with little knowledge on the subject understand the material. If anyone knows of similar books on conservation in other countries, please do share!
Profile Image for Barbara Rathbun.
9 reviews5 followers
March 26, 2014
Well written, well researched review of a fascinating part of the world. The advance copy I received didn't have illustrations, which encourages me to go find a copy of the published book to see what I've missed.
145 reviews1 follower
May 7, 2013
If you want to learn about endangered animals and the country of Vietnam this is the book for you. It is perfect for people who don't know ANYTHING about Vietnam at all. Simple yet delightfully engrossing!

*Won from Goodreads Giveaway* Thanks!
57 reviews
July 23, 2013
I really wanted to love this book. However I didn't find the chapters fulfilling, I found no clear thread running through the book, and worst of all, the narrative doesn't deliver on the tale of the "lost world." It's like watching someone go through a video game scenario backwards.
Profile Image for Linda.
183 reviews
May 13, 2013
Interesting read - relevant to my upcoming journey to Vietnam
Profile Image for Giovanna.
39 reviews3 followers
November 21, 2015
I really liked this book it was interest in things. and it talked about Vietnam an other things. I would recommend reading it.
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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