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Last Chance to See

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Join author Douglas Adams and zoologist Mark Carwardine as they take off around the world in search of exotic, endangered creatures.

222 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Douglas Adams

162 books21.9k followers
Douglas Noël Adams was an English author, comic radio dramatist, and musician. He is best known as the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Hitchhiker's began on radio, and developed into a "trilogy" of five books (which sold more than fifteen million copies during his lifetime) as well as a television series, a comic book series, a computer game, and a feature film that was completed after Adams' death. The series has also been adapted for live theatre using various scripts; the earliest such productions used material newly written by Adams. He was known to some fans as Bop Ad (after his illegible signature), or by his initials "DNA".

In addition to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote or co-wrote three stories of the science fiction television series Doctor Who and served as Script Editor during the seventeenth season. His other written works include the Dirk Gently novels, and he co-wrote two Liff books and Last Chance to See, itself based on a radio series. Adams also originated the idea for the computer game Starship Titanic, which was produced by a company that Adams co-founded, and adapted into a novel by Terry Jones. A posthumous collection of essays and other material, including an incomplete novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.

His fans and friends also knew Adams as an environmental activist and a lover of fast cars, cameras, the Macintosh computer, and other "techno gizmos".

Toward the end of his life he was a sought-after lecturer on topics including technology and the environment.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,421 reviews
Profile Image for Brittany.
1,253 reviews132 followers
January 30, 2019
I love Douglas Adams's science fiction. Just look at my bookshelves. So it's as a firm fan that I say: Douglas Adams was wasted--wasted--on science fiction.

The man is obviously a science writer.

His science fiction was always good. Clearly. But none of it sings like Last Chance to See. This book is a passionate, loving, critical look at the human species and the influence we've had on our planet-mates. It chronicles the decline, and impending loss, of some wonderful, charismatic vertebrates. It takes us to task for the degradation of the planet, and makes us feel the tragic loss of our heritage, but it never depresses. It bounces up from the darkest moments with Adams's trademark dark humor. Of course, that humor has the effect of throwing all the rest into sharp relief, highlighting the tragedy and wounding your heart. That's what makes it such a powerful book, and one everyone should read.

The beauty is that it's also smooth and lucid enough that everyone can read it. He never preaches, and the book always keeps the tone of a story told around a campfire, among friends.

If this doesn't inspire anyone who reads it to care just a little bit more about the non-human, but still precious, species that inhabit Earth, then I will give up trying to save them tomorrow. But at the same time, Adams's courage, compassion, humility, and humor make a compelling case for humanity's continued existence as a species.
Profile Image for Dennis.
658 reviews276 followers
January 2, 2022
Original title: Last Chance to See
by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine
(first published in 1990)

In 1985 Douglas Adams met zoologist Mark Carwardine on a trip to Madagascar, where - for The Observer - they should look for the aye-aye, a lemur that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.


It turned out to be a rather challenging trip. But Adams and Carwardine hit it off immediately, and since both of them happened to have no plans for 1988 yet, they decided to meet again, and travel around the world in search of other endangered species. Being aware that it might be their last chance to see them.

And thus we follow the two of them to:

Indonesia, where on Komodo island they were observing the Komodo dragon,

to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), in search of the northern white rhinoceros,

to New Zealand, where they were looking for the kakapo,

to China, trying to find the baiji, also known as the Yangtze river dolphin,

and lastly to Mauritius, where they were planning to look for the Rodrigues flying fox.

On that last trip, though, they ended up mostly observing other endangered species, as Mauritius actually has a lot of them.

In general one learns quite a bit about the places that Adams and Carwardine visited. It is a travelogue after all. And a rather funny one, as many things went not the way they had been planned, and the two of them also met some quite interesting people, most of them very passionate about the conservation of animals, and a lot of those being very special characters as well. And then, of course, there is the challenge of traveling, in the 80’s, to some countries that make it especially difficult for visitors.

Douglas Adams tells about all of this with considerable amount of humor. He and Carwardine, but he especially found himself in so many absurd situations, which he sometimes faced with a sort of bewildered amusement, often with sarcasm, and also with some inevitable gallows humor here and there. I admire his ability to teach us a couple of things about those countries and raise awareness for the endangered animals, while he manages to make people laugh. It’s a great way to learn things. Although there were a couple of moments when it got almost too silly for my taste. Sometimes I felt like he was trying to force it. But more often than not he got it exactly right.

The book’s title, unfortunately, turned out to be rather accurate in some cases. While some of those species above are doing comparatively well - mostly thanks to the enormous efforts of some determined people, of which we meet a few in this book - I’m sad to report that the baiji is now considered as possibly extinct. The last confirmed sighting being in 2002. And the northern white rhino also is possibly extinct in the wild. Right now there are only two of this subspecies left, which both live in a wildlife conservancy in Kenia. They are both female.

Sorry to finish this review on such a sad note. It is a sad topic, and often times it is a lack of human awareness that leads to these developments. Which is exactly what makes those kind of books so important. Now, this is a rather old book by now, of course. But even though there’s no more chance to see some of these animals, the book as such is not outdated. It still matters and it still can make people more aware of what’s going on all over the world. And ultimately it is my additional research that made me sad. The book on the other hand managed to make me laugh a lot.

Lastly, great narration of the German audiobook by Stefan Kaminski. The guy completely nailed it. Certainly one of the best audiobooks I've listened to (probably in my top 2 at this point). But I hear that the English audio is narrated by Stephen Fry. So that one might not be too bad either.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,581 followers
March 19, 2017
This book is a travelogue, about a writer and a zoologist who went around the globe in search of exotic animals that are seriously endangered, almost extinct. Douglas Adams is the writer, and author of the hilarious science fiction comedy series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In this book, he again adds humorous touches, but not nearly as far-fetched.

Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine travel around the world in order to get a story for the BBC. Just as much about the animals, it is also about the journey itself. Douglas Adams tells his story with incisive remarks about the people they meet, the cultures, and the manner in which the cultures view their endangered species. The creatures they seek include the northern white rhino, the kakapo, the komodo dragon, the mountain gorilla, the Rodrigues fruitbat, and the Yangtze River dolphin.

While this is not a recent book, it still is a great read, and is still totally relevant to today. The book includes a selection of photographs, that illustrate each of the sought-after animals. I especially appreciate the reason that Adams gives for protecting these endangered animals. While he observes that animals and plants can provide us with life-saving drugs and food, pollinate crops and provide important ingredient, the most important reason for protecting them is that "the world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them."
Profile Image for Veeral.
366 reviews133 followers
August 1, 2015

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.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,098 followers
May 9, 2014

Brilliant book. So funny, yet so deeply saddening... this is among the most evocative and life-changing books that I have read. This title still haunts me and informs a lot of my concerns about the environment and human inaction.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
May 3, 2020
So, shortly after Dirk Gently's second novel, Douglas Adams takes off across the world with a zoologist and, together with a ton of misadventures and great photographs, they meet dragons, tough-skinned 17-month gestating aliens, birds that have forgotten how to forget how to hit the ground, and we learn that DNA has a major *issue* with aftershave.

Multiple aftershaves. *shudder*

Back in the day, I saw this book in the bookstores and I said to myself... "Hey! Buddy! Where's the next fiction novel? I mean, sure, raising awareness for animals that are on the way to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe IS a good cause, but I WANT MY FICTION."

And so I took thirty years to get around to reading this.

I feel slightly bad. This is a shame-read. The book has shamed me on many levels while making me laugh.

Well! At least there's that!
Profile Image for Trish.
2,014 reviews3,433 followers
May 4, 2020
I found the German version of the paperback many many years ago in a bargain box of a local bookstore and only picked it up because that edition had one of my favourite animals on the cover: the Komodo dragon.
Some books are simply destined to be in your life and determined to do whatever it takes to get there.

In the meantime, I not only know the author, Douglas Adams, but am a little fangirl. He was hilarious and very smart, tech-savvy, and died much too early. He was also a bit of a prophet. From the ideas made immortal in his most well known scifi-series, owning the first Macintosh in the UK and being convinced that this "electronic mail" would win the day, to writing this travelogue and rallying people to the cause in order to save animals from extinction (he even ran up and down a mountain in a rhino costume to collect money for conservation efforts).

He was passionate about things and he found ways to get involved because that was just how he rolled. So he talked his friend, Stephen Fry, into housesitting and taking calls in the middle of the night when some travel arrangement or other fell through, talked the BBC and others out of a considerable amount of money, bought one hell of a lot of (heavy) filming equipment with his own money, and teamed up with zoologist Mark Cawardine. The plan: to find 5 endangered animals that are the prime example of the impact we humans have on the natural world.

Here are the five stars of the show:
The Aye-Aye from Madagascar:

The Komodo dragon from (surprise!) Komodo island:

The Northern white rhino from Africa:

The kakapo from New Zealand:

The Yangtze river dolphin (of Baiji) from China:

I am very sad to report that chances of the Chinese dolphin having survived were slim in the 80s but it has been declared extinct in or around 2009.
Some poachers killed Max, the last male Northern white rhino with no less than 17 shots (it was definitely not just about getting his horns) leaving only two females of the species. For a full account of how the last 4 Northern white rhinos got from a Czech zoo to the plains of Africa, watch Fry's documentary - it's brilliant. Scientists haven’t given up yet but we’d need Hammond and his Jurassic Park in order to save the species.
The Komodo dragon, interestingly, is doing relatively fine for an endangered animal.
The Aye-Aye is a more silent victim of deforestation (interestingly, often for „eco-friendly" packaging - oh, the irony - and V-Day flower fields) and will only be able to survive if at least a small portion of its habitat is not cut down. Are you an optimist?
The kakapo is definitely the wonderful example of what we humans can achieve through tenacity and perseverance: they had been declared extinct until some were found back in 1970 and New Zealand has gone to quite some lengths to ensure their survival. The birds left (147 adults in total, of which only 50 are females that can lay eggs) are now living on 4 islands off the coast where no cats, rats or other predators can get to them. Humans wanting to visit have to jump through quite some hoops (as is only right). Last year, they were in the news because a fungus threatened to kill the entire species. While I’m writing this review, scientists are more optimistic, especially since climate change had a certain fruit tree (the Rimu tree) bear an unusual number of fruit and that is always directly linked to how many chicks are being born - 2019 thus had a record of 249 eggs, of which 89 chicks hatched, with an estimated 75 hopefully surviving. However, this video explains (amongst other things) why it’s so hard breeding kakapos:

It proves that there is always hope - if we get our asses moving.

DNA and Mark Cawardine went on a trip all around the world, meeting all kinds of people and thus being in situations one can hardly imagine and that make you laugh so hard you might need medical assistance. That is another highlight of this book: it’s not just informative, it makes you care, it makes you gasp - but through it all, it also makes you LAUGH. The writing is typical for this author and I wholeheartedly agree with DNA that this is his best and most important work (he always said he was proudest of this one).

For context: this book is so fantastic, I listened to the author reading it to me (a rare audio version I couldn't find here on GR, the one available on Audible right now is narrated by Stephen Fry and also rather enchanting), have the afore-mentioned German paperback, went to considerable lengths to procure the newest paperback edition as it has Stephen Fry's foreword, own Stephen Fry's follow-up book as well as the two corresponding DVDs.
Because Mark Cawardine didn't need to be persuaded to step in the footsteps of his and DNA's first expedition with Stephen Fry back in 2009 and another 10 years later, they once again checked to see what had changed.

Therefore, this paperback edition treats the reader to an enigmatic foreword by Stephen Fry and a more sombre (and yet still charming) afterword by Mark Carwardine all these years later.

If you like, check out my review for the audio edition here.
Profile Image for Clouds.
228 reviews633 followers
January 13, 2015
One of those special books that, when you finish, you immediately want to find someone who hasn't read it, and press it into there hands, murmuring insistently, "you have to read this!"

I'm a big Douglas Adams fan. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is one of my all-time favourite series, and the Dirk Gently mysteries aren't far behind. When I set-up my Pantheon list of literary gods, Douglas Adams came straight in at Number 2 (behind Terry Pratchett) - and Last Chance to See was the one, key book that I hadn't read of his.

I found reading this a surprisingly emotional experience. I mean... Adams' voice is so strong in all his work, and within a couple of paragraphs I felt like I was back in his presence... a twelve year old boy sneaking the lamp back on after my parents had gone away, to read just one more chapter... and I felt that wave of grief wash over me again, just like the day I heard that he'd died. But... he's funny, and bright and grumpy and... just brilliant! I was sad to be reminded that he had passed away, but I was also hugely entertained and delighted that, despite being a non-fiction, this was every bit as good as his wildly imaginative speculative fiction.

This is 30% ecology novel about endangered species, and 70% travel book about the adventures of a cranky, middle-aged Brit travelling to far-flung lands to visit said endangered species.

The 30% is fascinating and the 70% kept me grinning.

Some of the phrases have embedded themselves in my head... I will always think of rhinos as "nimble young volkswagens", and kakopos as the birds that have "forgotten that they've forgotten how to fly".

One of those special books that, when you finish, you immediately want to find someone who hasn't read it, and press it into there hands, murmuring insistently, "you have to read this!"

Even writing this review makes me want to go and re-read Dirk Gently...

After this I read: Snow Crash
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews10.2k followers
December 14, 2012
Adams was an amazingly humorous fellow, but it can be easy to forget that the source of his humor is always surreal profundity. It's as if he sees a completely different world than the rest of us, but one which looks precisely the same. In this book (out-of-print when I found an editor's proof copy) Adams takes that hilariously disparate view and directs it like a spastic and noodly laser at the mis-management of our natural world. There is a reason that Richard Dawkins recalls Adams so fondly as a compatriot in the fight for reason. Adams is as honest, sublime, and disarming as ever.

I personally don't believe in a static view of nature. Extinction--even mass-extinction--has been a constant theme throughout prehistory. Humanity isn't even the first single species to cause the mass extinction of a huge variety of animals: algae did it millions of years before humans even existed.

Animals compete for the same resources, and whenever there are changes in the environment, be they geographical or climatic, there are going to be extinctions as different species come into contact in new ways. Despite what a lot of badly-researched sci fi might tell you, evolution is not a process of improvement: no species is any more evolved than any other species, each species has simply evolved in different ways to meet the requirements of a different ecological niche.

The coelecanth was a fish that first crawled out of the water hundreds of millions of years ago, and which we assumed had gone extinct until one was caught in 1975. That fish's descendents eventually produced the first lizards, which produced the first mammals, which produced the first primates, which eventually produced human beings. Yet, just because we evolved from the lowly coelecanth does not mean that we are 'more highly evolved'--stick a human being and a coelecanth in the middle of the ocean for a few days and it should be clear that we are just evolved to do different sorts of things.

Part of the reason we're experiencing high rates of extinction right now is that there are more species now than at any other point, and a huge number of those species are extremely specialized to a certain type of lifestyle, meaning even a small adjustment in their environment is likely to drive them to extinction. Mr. Tibbles was a naughty cat: he hunted an entire species to extinction by himself. This was the Stephens Island Wren, a flightless bird which had evolved to live on nothing but the algae that accumulated on the rocky island.

This is not evidence that Mr. Tibbles was more evolved than the wren, because Mr. Tibbles, left alone on the island, couldn't do what the wren did: survive off the island's resources. The reason cats, goats, rabbits, and pigs have been successful when introduced in new areas is because they are generalists, not specialists. They can survive in a wide variety of environments even when they are not the animal best-suited to that environment, because in times of change and upheaval, generalists outperform specialists.

A group of scientists were testing the behavior of flies and discovered that if the flies entered an area and there was no food there, almost none of the flies would ever return to that area. Then, the scientists began to wait until the flies had checked an area, and then put food there after they left. Within a few generations, the flies who returned had been much more successful, and so their offspring predominated. Now nearly all the flies would return to the same areas, again and again.

Yet, when the scientists reset the test to the original conditions, the specialized behavior died out, after only a few generations, because spending the time and energy and brain space on that behavior was just not worth it. It's the same reason that isolated bird populations tend to become flightless: flight is great for moving around and escaping enemies, but it takes a lot of energy to maintain, so if all you have to sustain you is algae, and there are no predators to flee, you might as well drop the showy flight thing and use those calories to keep your body warm and alive.

One of the great benefits of this process to humans is that all of those horrible, terrifying treatment-resistant diseases we have produced by overuse (and misuse) of antibiotics are highly specialized, and so, if we just drastically reduce antibiotic use, normal, generalist strains of e. coli will drastically outperform specialist, antibiotic resistant strains and drive them out of the ecosystem, which is exactly what has happened in Scandinavia where antibiotic treatment reduction is already in place.

No matter what humans do, we won't wipe out life, and we won't 'destroy the environment', we'll just change it. There are bacteria that live on radioactive rods in the middle of nuclear power plants, and on boiling, magma-fed vents at the lightless bottom of the sea, and there are even bacteria that can live in a sterile, sealed container eating nothing but solar radiation. Sure, we could change the environment so much that we would kill off all the large animals, including ourselves, and most plants, but something else will just survive and take over. The Chernobyl site is now one of the most lush and wild natural preserves in all of Russia.

There is no single, static way for the world to be--the environment and the animals that live in it are always changing, and to some degree, humans complaining about the extinction of certain specialized animals is like an old person complaining that the world isn't 'like it used to be'. Just because the environment was the way it was when humans evolved, that doesn't mean it is the only way for the environment to be, or that it won't change, or that change is bad, or that we should or could stop that change.

But we should ask whether we want to destroy ourselves, whether we want to set up an environmental system that favors superbacteria and destructively invasive species, because in the end, it's not about the world, it's about us and what we have to live with. The world will get along fine without us, after all.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,014 reviews3,433 followers
May 4, 2020
This is actually NOT the audio edition I listened to. The one I listened to can't be found for some reason. One of the reasons I was persuaded to listen despite having the paperback was that Douglas Adams himself was reading the book! Yep, he already knew audiobooks would be the way to go. Smart man.

In the 80s, environmentalism wasn't the it-word it is nowadays. In fact, many things were different. Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry were the first two people in the UK to buy/own a Macintosh for example. You couldn't take hi-res photographs and videos with your smartphone. In fact, there were no smartphones. I know, it's alright, don't hyperventilate, we're in 2020 now and we all have those creature comforts and can hardly imagine living without them.
Some countries are STILL not all that "developed" and barely have electricity. No public transport with regular schedules either. So imagine how much worse those places were back then!
Why is that important? Because organizing a trip to remote places was a nightmare. Even more so than today. And you didn't have the lifeline of a portable phone to call for help anywhere at any moment. A weird and ridiculous nightmare that made you want to scream and tear your hair out. If you don't believe me, read this book.
Moreover, with the world having been less connected than it is now, less accessible than it is now, people also were even less aware of things than today - it was too easy to overlook them. Douglas Adams refused to accept that and was one of the first to do what is so popular nowadays: he got funding for an expedition to visit some of the most endangered animals on the planet to broadcast his endeavors for BBC radio and sell a book with his travelogue (also not too well known a genre back then) afterwards, slapping knowledge around people's heads.
Because as much as he loved technology, he also loved the natural world.

He thus teamed up with zoologist Mark Cawardine and set out to see the Aye-Aye on Madagascar, Komodo dragon on - you guessed it - Komodo, the Yangtze river dolphin (or Baiji) in China, the Northern white rhino and gorillas in Africa, the kakapo in New Zealand and many other animals along the way.

What the reader gets is not just the account of which mountain they walked up to and which boats they took. We get a hilarious look at a writer and his desperate attempt to not freak out over mosquitos in his sleeping quarters, buying condoms in China (and don’t get me started on the aftershave affair), the audaciously obvious corruption in African airports, the despair of anyone caring about more than just homo sapiens, the incredible experience of meeting gorillas, the weirdness of mother nature's creations and much MUCH more.

The book is informative, yes, but Douglas Adams didn't just have a way with words. Anyone, who knows even only one of his other books, knows how he managed to tell you any story with such a unique sense of humour that reading / listening to his story was actually dangerous (oxygen deprivation from laughing too hard is a serious concern of DNA readers).

This book was his favourite and I agree. It's entirely underrated because he was decades ahead of his time - again. It is scary and it will make you cry (not just from laughter), but it is also wonderfully heartwarming and reaffirming and simply fantastic!

If you are interested in more info about the actual expedition, read my review of the paperback.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,205 reviews104 followers
September 19, 2019
Yes, I do have to admit that because two of the critically endangered animals species featured in Douglas Adams' 1990 Last Chance to See are now definitely or at least very likely extinct in the wild (the Yangtze River Dolphin and the Northern White Rhinoceros), I knew right from the onset that reading Last Chance to See would more than likely be majorly depressing and infuriating (but that I was of course more than willing to put up with this and that yes indeed, for certain species, such as for example the Kakapo, things are actually and happily now looking up a bit conservation and protection wise).

However, as much as I have indeed found Last Chance to See an important and educational read (and I definitely do very much appreciate and loudly applaud how vehemently Douglas Adams and absolutely with total justification rants against not just poachers but also against the vile and brainless individuals who buy, who use things furnished from rhinoceros horn etc., as it is of course they as demanding consumers who truly enable poaching and keep it flourishing and prosperous), I also have to admit that I was actually expecting a bit more science and a bit less of an admittedly often quite satirical and humorous travelogue with Last Chance to See. In other words I would definitely have preferred more hard-core academic information about the featured animal species, about science and ecosystems and less detail (and in fact much less detail) on how Douglas Adams and David Carwardine were travelling, what their accommodations looked like, how locals and tourists behaved and so on and so on. For honestly, during Last Chance to See I often did feel as though I was constantly needing to weed through Douglas Adams' chatty and witty travel impressions in order to get to the nitty gritty textual meat so to speak, in oder to obtain the animal species, the ecosystem, the scientific information I wanted, I needed (and yes, that I somewhat in error, it seems, had thought would be the main focus of Last Chance to See). And therefore, while I have certainly in no way regretted perusing Last Chance to See, I do have to admit that personally, I have found Douglas Adams' writing style and that he focusses so much on making funny and snarky asides a bit frustratingly taxing and definitely would have enjoyed Last Chance to See considerably more had there been more of a distinct focus on science and zoology.
Profile Image for kwesi 章英狮.
292 reviews726 followers
February 16, 2011
I'm not a zoology student but I have a 3 unit subject and we were required to visit either Manila Zoo or the National Museum of the Philippines animal research section, it was a part of our annual field trip without the teacher in charge. Because I'm new here in Manila last year my classmates decided to go both the zoo and the museum. In spite of the fact that the weather was hot, we were forced to go outside and take pictures for our journal because it was the last day of submission.

Our first stop was the Museum, we were lucky that the researchers in charge the museum were present that time and they have the time to show their specialties. Every group was required to enter a certain room with a researcher in charge and they tackled about animals (of course) and plants. If I can still remember, only few have been discussed because of the limited materials present that time and the Museum is under construction by somewhat fail to finish.

After that we went to Manila Zoo, the worst place in Manila. It was one of the dirtiest places here and not recommended to be visited every Sunday, although almost Filipino families wanted or already went here and have their Sunday picnic. You can also see animals that are suffering because of the lack of space and the grills that are not meant for them. They should be in the wild but they are needed to be preserve and be seen by the people. If you're an animal lover or somehow trying to be one soon, this is a great place to take your blowing mind and grab some board with quotes that are funny and in fact nobody cared to see you but only the lenses of cameras are interested in taking pictures of you and your ugly sign board.

I'm not supporting Manila Zoo, but I think we must remember that there are always positive and negative outcome in every actions that we made or advantage and disadvantage why we made places like zoos or animal lab. In fact a specie is required to be hunt and be hunted so that other species must survive, we need balance in our ecosystem and we are just part of that small community who wanted and tried to survive for almost 5,000 years of existence.

Douglas Adams and his coauthor, Mark Carwardine travels through greatness of God's creation. Looking for animals that are endangered in Last Chance to See. You don't need to become a knowledgeable zoologist, a 5 year naturalist or a tracker to enjoy the book that he dedicated to the people who wanted to see animals that are soon to be lost in books and in the memories of mankind.

It was started when Douglas was assigned to write an article 3 years before the event to Observer and met Mark, a zoologist and both were assigned to look for an Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), a rare specie of nocturnal Lemur which can be found only in Madagascar. After the unexpected meeting they decided to find more endangered animals and write a book for them to support the facilities and minor projects of the government in preserving those animals.

They went through a very serious but hilarious journey and met nice researcher and people to guide us readers to explore the secret behind the thick forest of India, New Zealand, China and the famous Dodo's Island, Mauritius. Of course, before Douglas and his friend went to Mauritius, dodos (Raphus cucullatus) were already extinct in mid-17th century. But it is not too late for us to go outside and and discover new species.

True Colors, can't help but to laugh than to support them. If you see me naked and wearing blue paint you may laugh and take pictures of me and be posted it online. I don't know where they get their courage to model nude in public. *Sings True Colors

Rating - Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, 5 Sweets and the people who cared and want to see animals that are in near extinction. (It took me 3 pages of my book journal and unconquerable nights of thinking of those animals and asking myself, do I still have chance to see them before I die? My top 1 on my best book this year. Borrowed from Ranee of Goodreads - Filipinos .)

Book #25 for 2011

Profile Image for Dimitris Hall.
374 reviews55 followers
August 7, 2016
Douglas Adams proved with this book that he wasn't just a brilliant science fiction writer with a virtually unrivalled wit and sense of humour; it went to show that he had an admirable, enviable even, sense of social and ecological responsibility, taking him, as far as I am concerned, from the "brilliant writer" tier, to the "paradigm of humanity" club, reserved only for those people (and there's not a lot of them around) that can work as true inspiration for me. Last Chance To See is a manifesto on almost everything that's wrong or imbalanced in the world today -- and it was written more than 20 years ago. The Douglas Adams impish vibe that is so cherished by many serves as little more than a tasty side dish for this book. It is that good.

My edition has a foreword by Richard Dawkins who has a similar opinion of the late man as I do. While I do not really agree with his flagship Atheist views (even if I would much sooner classify myself as an Atheist than a "Creationist"), he does do a magnificent job of summing up the point of this book in just a few words:

Of the endangered animals that Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine set out to see, one seems to have gone for good during the intervening two decades. We have noew lost our last chance to see the Yangtze river dolhpin. Or hear it, which is more to the point, for the river dolphin lived ina world where seeing was pretty much out of the question anyway: a murky, muddy river in which sonar came splendidly into its own -- until the arrival of massive noise pollution by boat engines.
The loss of the river dolphin is a tragedy, and some of the other wonderful characters in this book cannot be far behind. In his Last Word, Mark Carwardine reflects on why we should care when species, or shole major groups of animals and plants go extinct. He deals with the usual arguments:

Every animal and plant is an integral part of its environment: even Komodo dragons have a major role to play in maintaining the ecological stability of their delicate island homes. If they disappear, so could many other species. And consercation is very much in time with our own survival. Animals and plants provide us with life-saving drugs and food, they pollinate crops and provide important ingredients for many industrial processes.

Yes, yes, he would say that kind of thing, it's expected of him. But the pity that we need to justify conservation on such human-centered, utilitarian grounds. To borrow an analogy I once used in a different context, it's a bit like justifying music on the grounds that it's good exercise for the violinist's right arm. Surely the real justification for saving these magnificent creatures is the one with which Mark rounds off the book, and which he obviously prefers:

There is one last reason for caring, and I believe that no other is necessary. It is certainly the reason why so many people have devoted their lives to protecting the likes of rhinos, parakeets, kakapos and dolphins. And it is simply this: the world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them.


He [Douglas Adams] saw with his own eyes how quickly such painstaking edifices of evolutionary artifice can be torn down and tossed to oblivion. He tried to do something about it. So should we, if only to honour the memory of this unrepeatable specimen of Homo Sapiens. For once, the specific name is well deserved.

My respect also goes to Mark Carwardine, who has continued to bring the word out all these years, as well as to all the people all over the world, described in the book or not, that have devoted their lives to noble and moving ideals.

Profile Image for Alexandra .
886 reviews282 followers
March 4, 2011
Genial einzigartiges Werk! Der Science Fiction Autor Douglas Adams besucht zusammen mit Zoologen und anderen Fachleuten einige Exemplare von Tier- und Pflanzenarten, die vom Aussterben bedroht sind. Dieses Buch ist ein Mittelding zwischen Reisebericht, populärwissenschaftliches Sachbuch zu Biologie, Zoologie und Genetik und - man glaubt es kaum - eine gehörige Portion Satire bzw. Galgenhumor ist auch noch drinnen.

Naiv wie seine Figuren im Anhalter entdeckt Douglas Adams diesmal auf unserem Planeten völlig fremde Welten bzw. auch bekannte Phänomene und beschreibt sie wie ein ausserirdischer Ethnologe sprachgewaltig und mit spitzer Feder. Beispielsweise werden die Komodo-Warane, weisse Nashörner, Yangtse Delfine, Berggorillas und viele andere bedrohte Tiere besucht, die Dramatik der Situation ausführlich mit viel Hintergrundwissen und sehr plakativ beschrieben und ganz nebenbei und lapidar auch noch die afrikanische Bürokratie, der Indonesische Tourismus oder der chinesische Umgang mit der Umwelt herrlich auf die Schippe genommen.

Fazit: Viel gelernt und gut amüsiert. Sprachlich ein Hammer - alles was ein Favorite auf meinen Bücherregalen braucht.

Ach ja mein Lieblingswort im Buch "bewusstseinszerknüllend"

Profile Image for Girish.
898 reviews218 followers
December 27, 2017
"It is certainly the reason why so many people have devoted their lives to protecting the likes of rhinos, parakeets, kakapos and dolphins. It is simply this: The world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them"

And so ends this brilliant travelogue/documentary of sorts that is uplifting, moving and hilarious as only Douglas Adams can. Why wasn't Douglas Adams writing for National Geography?! Developed as a radio show on BBC, the writing provides an account of the travels of the author with zoologist Mark Carwedine in search of endangered fauna to the corners of the earth (Japan, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zaire to name a few).

The author marvels at the ways of nature and the role of humans in protecting the species. And in this manages to bring to light the almost thoughtless plundering we have done to the habitats of so many species! Adams also inserts incisive commentary on the different cultures, which are almost standup comedy material, and their approach to handling extinction!

The description of the encounters with the beautiful species are so warm and fuzzy that you want to join the crusade. In one of the encounters with the Silverback Gorrilla, an animal which is almost our direct ancestor, the author worries that we anthropomorphize what the animal will be going through, but then does it anyway! The tale of the kakapo mating practices or the crazy Parakeet that thinks it is a human are presented in the best possible way by a non-zoologist!

Vintage Douglas Adams:
“I've never understood all this fuss people make about the dawn. I've seen a few and they're never as good as the photographs, which have the additional advantage of being things you can look at when you're in the right frame of mind, which is usually around lunchtime.”

“One conservation worker we met said he sometimes wondered if the mating call of the male didn’t actively repel the female, which is the sort of biological absurdity you otherwise find only in discotheques.”

"Generally, in my experience, when you visit a country in which you have any relatives living there's a tendency to want to lie low and hope they don't find out you're in town. At least with the gorillas you know that there's no danger of having to go out to dinner with them and catch up on several million years of family history.”

“We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying."

I am not an activist. I don't even make (pointless) contributions to World wild fund and have a mild moral deficiency in believing humans have a duty to protect the flora and fauna. However, I have huge respect for those who can think beyond themselves and show something close to love for a species without expecting something. This book might have been sponsored by BBC and probably used a vehicle by Mr.Adams for continuing his crazy writing. But the heart of the book is in that perfect left(ist) place and the prose is the right balance of evocative and funny.

Loved every part of it! Best non-fiction read in 2017.
128 reviews153 followers
January 24, 2015
We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors, but have borrowed it from our children.
~ Anonymous

Evolution is an ongoing process, and each species simply evolves in different ways to meet the requirements of its ecological niche, extremely specialized to that ecology and lifestyle. There is generally enough time, in the case of a natural change to its ecology, for the species to try to adapt and evolve further. To try to survive. Extinction is nothing new to Earth and 99.99% of all species that have ever lived are now nonextant. One species playing a role in completely wiping out another species is again something that's been happening since the days of algae. Homo sapiens, though, are unique in two aspects: 1) in being the only species to have the cognitive ability to identify and understand the micro- and macro-level impact and repercussions of their decisions and actions; and 2) in being the single largest factor in history to have the power to change an environment quite dramatically and suddenly, intentionally or otherwise, and positively or otherwise. And yet, the rate of extinction has increased exponentially in the last few decades and we're reviewing a book titled Last Chance to See.

This book is as evocative, poignant and funny as some of Charlie Chaplin's best work. And that's not a comparison I'd ever make lightly. Light but with a heavy heart, the book drives home the affecting point that, with our anthropocentric view of Earth, we are slowly but surely driving a lot of species towards extinction, while also not exactly helping in the evolving of new species, thanks to our truly global footprint. Just imagine, an entire type of animal, gone forever with a zero percent probability of ever wishing them back. As the book sums up, There is one last reason for caring, and I believe that no other is necessary. It is certainly the reason why so many people have devoted their lives to protecting the likes of rhinos, parakeets, kakapos and dolphins. And it is simply this: the world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them.

The book also has some wonderful anecdotes and observations from the travels of Adams and Mark Carwardine, and can quite easily take a place just as a remarkable and entertaining travelogue. All with some wonderful, wry British humour laced with a tinge of witty profoundness. Bryson-esque, and with the context and content, maybe even better. An absolute delight.

Travelogue + Evolution + Douglas Adams. 5 stars.
Profile Image for Lena.
Author 1 book348 followers
September 28, 2008
Mark Carwardine was a zoologist working for the World Wildlife Fund when he was hired by a magazine to take Douglas Adams to see the world’s rarest nocturnal lemur, the Madagascar aye-aye. The trip was enough of a success that they decided having Adams write funny things about his attempt to visit endangered species was a good way to raise awareness about animal conservation, so they reunited a few years later to track down some other animals whose numbers have fallen into the double digits. The resulting collection of ecology/travel essays is hands down one of my all time favorite books.

During the course of their travels, Carwardine and Adams go to Indonesia to visit the Komodo dragon, Zaire to see the Northern White rhinoceros, New Zealand to see the Kakapo parrot, China to see the Yangtzee River dolphin and Mauritius to see the Rodrigues fruit bat. Adams’ style of absurdist humor is particularly well-suited to detailing the problems involved in merely getting to the places where these animals are supposed to be, since they are frequently located rather inconveniently in remote areas of third world countries. His front line reports set the stage by being laugh out loud funny, keeping us so entertained and open that by the time we finally do get to meet these precarious creatures, we have no choice but to care about them and their fates as much as our intrepid reporters do.
Profile Image for Nicholas Armstrong.
264 reviews49 followers
November 13, 2010
If a book is well-written, and I don't simply mean it is an enjoyable romp, I mean really well written -- it is consistent, there is no break in the flow, voice, or tone -- and it accomplishes the elusive task of making you think, then what might we call that book? I would call it remarkable.

Douglas Adams is one of the most amusing writers of all time, perhaps even the most amusing writer of all time; couple this with an incredible intellect and the ability to write quite well and you get a pretty impressive figure. Now take that figure and have him discuss and explore complicated, real issues and see what comes up.

The beauty of this book isn't, as you might believe, what it says about rare species. Well, maybe somewhat, but it is the fact that it so clearly elucidates so much about these species, especially their environments. For example, there was not as much to say about the white rhino as many of the other species, but there was quite a lot to say about Zaire. This is what made the book so amazing; it wasn't just about the animals, it was about the ways in which people are fighting to protect them, the crap they have to wade through to do it and the ridiculous governments that have hold of some of these animals. It is, essentially, a book about the world and what we are doing to it and to each other.

I want to point out something else as well. I love animals, and that was a prime motivator for reading this book, but I don't think one has to love them to appreciate this book, especially considering the fact that I am now questioning the wisdom of protecting some of these animals, which was the reverse of the intention. My point is simply that this is about far more than animals; it is about us. It is about life, and even, at some points, about religion.

This is a remarkably funny and witty book and I feel that anyone who wants to really look at their own world needs to read it.
Profile Image for Milinta.
32 reviews10 followers
April 6, 2015
Have you ever read a book laughing so hard that tears are streaming down your face and then in the next five minutes, crying copiously and having very different tears stream down the same old face? Well, I just did. I always knew that the dodo was extinct but today I sat in a corner and wept for a full fifteen minutes because there are no dodos left in the world anymore. That is what the Last Chance to See does to you. It makes you see things about the world and what we've done with it, things you always knew (but possibly were never interested in being aware of) in such a stark new light that it's like a whack to the back of your head. And to put across something as sensitive as this, in an entirely non-confrontational, non-preachy, poignant way laced with such uproarious humor, is something other writers can only dream of. Traversing across people, bureaucracy, rainforests, wildlife, flora and cultures with so much nonchalance, this one is an eye-opener and as cheesy as it sounds, could be your 'last chance' to see this world and your co-inhabitants with some new found love and respect. MUST READ.
Profile Image for Tinea.
563 reviews266 followers
October 19, 2014
Fun travel romp through far-off places to look at cool animals. A little shallow, though-- not enough science to make it educational and interesting, too little culture or political commentary to make it opinionated and interesting. Give me more of all of it, more descriptions of ecosystems and the roles of these animals within them, more discussion of the impact and interactions of different human economies and cultures on these ecosystems, and more hilarious travel dialogue of Adams realizing that just because some place is far away and exotic for him doesn't mean it's undiscovered and empty of other people.
Profile Image for Christiana Hadji.
285 reviews103 followers
April 4, 2013
Μην σας ξεγελά το πρόχειρο εξώφυλλο και το "φτηνιάρικο" τύπωμα της συγκεκριμένης ελληνικής έκδοσης - πρόκειται για ένα άκρως διασκεδαστικό αλλά και διδακτικό οδοιπορικό, χρωματισμένο με οικολογικές και χιουμοριστικές πινελιές, γραμμένο από έναν από τους σπουδαιότερους σύγχρονους κωμικούς συγγραφείς. Διαβάστε το εάν σας ενδιαφέρει να μάθετε για διάφορα είδη ζώων από όλο τον κόσμο που κινδυνεύουν με εξαφάνιση, αν σας αρέσουν τα ντοκυμαντέρ για την φύση ή αν προτιμάτε το γράψιμο με μία γερή δόση καυστικής σάτυρας.
Profile Image for Laura F-W.
190 reviews144 followers
August 18, 2016
An unexpected problem I've encountered with living in a massive city like New York is that I periodically experience really intense cravings for nature (see: the biophilia hypothesis). When this happens, a manicured park or crowded long island beach just won't cut it for me. So whenever I get the big city blues and can't escape I try and find a book that'll make me feel like I'm camping under the stars/hiking in the Amazon/climbing Kilimanjaro. I can confidently say that this is the BEST nature replacement book I've ever come across.

Adams writes in a hilarious, engaging and entirely non judgemental way about his 1988 tour to find the most endangered species on the planet. In the thirty intervening years since it was published the book has lost none of its wit or relevancy. Along with Mark Cawardine, he went to try and find some of the rarest species on the planet in the wild.

The aye-aye in Madagascar:

(Basically what I imagined Dobby to look like before the HP films came out)

The Komodo Dragon in Indonesia

(There might be a bit of forced perspective going on in this picture)

The kakapo in New Zealand

(When Mark Cawardine returned thirty years later with Stephen Fry, one of these little fellas er... took a shine to him)

The Northern white rhino in Zaire

(There are now only three of these left in the world, all live in Kenya and are protected 24/7 by armed guards...)

Mountain gorillas in Zaire

The Yangtze river dolphin in China

(Sadly now extinct)

And the rarest bat in the world in Mauritius

I’d strongly recommend this to basically anyone and I'll definitely be reading it again, maybe to coincide with Towel Day one May 25th...
Profile Image for Rift Vegan.
329 reviews61 followers
January 31, 2016
It’s a funny book because it’s Douglas Adams, but very sad thinking about all these animals on their way to going extinct… The book was written in 1990, and I was curious to see if any of the species are doing better. I know that the Northern White Rhinos are essentially extinct… there are just 3 left. And the Baiji or Yangtze River dolphin is most likely extinct as well. I am fascinated by the Kakapos, a parrot who is flightless and nocturnal with a lek breeding system, living in New Zealand. I was happy to see that they are still alive: there are now over 100 of these weird birds. (altho it's weird that the last updates on many sites were in 2014, I hope everything is still okay with that program.)
Profile Image for elif.
437 reviews56 followers
February 2, 2020
I like the theme, I like the prose - but far more visible than the extinct animals described is the extinct outlook of white man unbothered by his ignorance to other people. It's like, this book set in 1989, we get the very last glimpse of this point of view, especially for/of an Anglophone white man.

I know. Not the point of the novel, probably not any point at all. But also, it saps a lot of my enjoyment and I'm not going to pretend otherwise.
Profile Image for Dielle.
4 reviews6 followers
March 24, 2019
Adams and Mark set out over 30 years ago in search of endangered species across the world, and documented their wild encounters, travel mishaps and mosquito bites in comical detail. Adams' fast-paced and engaging writing keeps you entertained as you accompany the team to meet rare birds, lemurs, Komodo dragons, gorillas, rhinos and their passionate conservationists. By the end you are uncomfortably reminded that the human species is the proverbial "bull in a chinashop", having spent centuries oblivious to the accelerating damage we wreck on delicate ecological balances. We can choose to ignore this today, or make an active effort (not just as online warriors) to give future generations One More Chance...
Profile Image for Margaret Crampton.
239 reviews39 followers
February 13, 2022
This is a fascinating book dealing with the authors’ task to track and visit little known animals facing imminent extinction. We learn of the measures and people involved. Many are island species and the book becomes a travelogue as the authors set about visiting remote and interesting places describing their adventures in varied environments and the travel challenges in such places as Zaire, for rhino , Komodo to see the giant lizards, New Zealand to track down flightless parrots, Mauritius for fruit bats and the Yangtze River for pink dolphins. It is very interestingly written by the author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and offers an entertaining take on a serious subject.
Profile Image for Malaika.
34 reviews27 followers
June 1, 2017
Some time ago, I finished reading the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the stellar and utterly hilarious sci-fi series by Douglas Adams. When I finished reading it, I was upset because the series had ended, and I vowed to read all his other books till I got over being upset. So I picked up Last Chance To See, not knowing at all what it was about.

I am amazed, how is it possible that Douglas Adams, an author of fiction, wrote an entire non-fiction book about endangered species (a topic which to me seemed terribly dry till before then), and somehow managed to make it terribly interesting and also side-splittingly funny? Was Douglas Adams actually a comic masquerading as an author? In any case he'd be equally proficient in either role. Brilliant, comedic, story-telling genius seems about right when describing this legend.

This is a real adventure story circa 1985 about how Douglas Adams-science fiction comedy writer and by his own admission 'an extremely ignorant non-zoologist to whom everything that happened would come as a surprise', and Mark Cawardine- Zoologist, travel the world to look for endangered species in a quest which takes them across continents through Madagascar, Komodo Island, Zaire, New Zealand, China and Mauritius...
In his inimitable style, Douglas Adams gives a brilliant and hilarious account of the places they visit, and the people, cultures and animals that they encounter. On their expedition, they see (or are seen by)- the aye-aye (a lemur which seems to have been assembled from bits of other animals), the Komodo dragon (who you can't help but feel is entirely the wrong size for a lizard to be), the northern white rhinoceros (whose huge muscles moved easily under its heavy skin like Volkswagens parking), the mountain gorilla (or perhaps a gorilla mountain), the kakapo (which has a look of serenely innocent incomprehension that makes you want to hug it and tell it that everything will be all right), the baiji (the hapless half-blind dolphin of the seething Yangtze river), the Mauritian kestrels (one of whom is quite convinced he's a human) and a several other animals in between. From the frustrations of trying to get on a plane in Bali despite having a ticket, to officials in Zaire who will make life unpleasant for you until you pay them in US Dollars to stop it, to lurching sickeningly through New Zealand's fiords in a helicopter, to attempting to buy condoms for a makeshift underwater microphone in China; descriptions of everything they see and do and experience from the amusing POV of Douglas Adams are presented in vivid and relatable detail.

The book left me with a sense of responsibility for our planet, an empathy for endangered species, and a strong disgust for the human species, especially for those who poach/hunt animals and clear swathes of natural habitat for profit. It is only within the last 300 years i.e. since humans first set foot on pristine lands, that extinction rates have been the highest than they have ever been in the history of life itself. That says a lot about us as a species and why we owe it to the earth to restore ravaged habitats and salvage species that have been affected by our damaging activities.

'Conservation is not for the squeamish'. The herculean efforts of the conservationists get due mention in this book. Reading about their determined and dedicated work, against all bureaucratic odds, especially in bringing the population of Mauritius kestrel back from the brink, was downright inspiring.

I am inclined to think that had I read this book in school, I might have been inspired to pursue conservation- oh, well. Also, did I say before that this book is hilarious?
Profile Image for Stephanie Griffin.
885 reviews116 followers
August 6, 2018
LAST CHANCE TO SEE, written by Douglas Adams (yes, THAT Douglas Adams!) and Mark Carwardine, is about the adventures they went on around the world to locate and actually see some of the rarest animals and plants. They took these trips in the mid- to late 1980s and the book was published in 1990.
With Adams at the helm the book had to be humorous and it certainly is. Wanting to know about the current state of some of the animals and plants, I did some research and was mostly disheartened. Here is what I came up with:

There are approximately 3,000 Komodo dragons left in the world. The number is declining and they’re listed as “Vulnerable”.

Adams and Carwardine were lucky to see one of the 22 Northern White Rhinoceros alive in the 1980s. The last male died earlier this year (2018). There are only two females left. Scientists are trying to create an embryo to keep the species going. This animal is considered “Functionally Extinct”. Humans poached them for their horns.

The Kakapo, a flightless parrot who once ranged free of predators in New Zealand, had 149 known individuals in April 2018. That’s up from 40 in the late 1980s. Humans were the cause of their decline. They are “Critically Endangered” and kept on predator-free islands in an effort to save them.

Unfortunately, the Baiji Dolphin, who last lived in the filthy Yangtze River, is classified as “Functionally Extinct”. The last known dolphin, “Qi-Qi”, died in captivity in 2002. Again, humans were the cause of their disappearance by clogging the river with boat engines that chewed them up, noise that disoriented them, and poisonous chemicals.

Ramosmania Rodriguesi is a wild coffee tree thought to be extinct until 1979, when one was found on the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean. The Kew Gardens successfully got a plant cutting to bear viable seeds in 2003. It is still listed as “Critically Endangered”.

I’m thankful that Adams was able to have these adventures and pass the information on. Some experiences weren’t pleasant but that’s to be expected when one does that much traveling!
I enjoyed the book and recommend it, just take into consideration that the statistics have changed.
Profile Image for Elyse.
434 reviews48 followers
April 1, 2019
I was surprised to discover that one of the authors of this book was also the author of the comedic science fiction novel, A Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Turns out Douglas Adams was also a staunch advocate of endangered animals.

Published in 1990 and written about his travels in the 1980s, I thought this book might be too dated to be enjoyable. But it very much still is. One of the outmoded things he wrote about was the dial telephones in New Zealand and how they dialed in the opposite direction. Were we still using dial phones in the 1980s? I can't remember.

Adams wanted us to learn from his travels that there are many endangered creatures out there that we can still help. Unfortunately, when I googled some of the animals he described, they didn't make it to this decade. This made me very sad. The perseverance of the people watching out for them at the time sounded so hopeful. On a happier note, my favorite animal characters in this book, the Kakapos birds, are still hanging on to this present day. I listened to the Kakapo male's mating call on the internet. It sounds like a tuba at the rate a human heart beats.

Adam's writing was never preachy and didn't try to make the reader feel guilty. I found his dry British humor so hilarious that I laughed out loud at some of his stories. I haven't done that with a book in quite a while. I've never been inclined to read the Hitch Hiker series. Now I think I will.
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