It’s not much of an overstatement to say that all wild animals are currently endangered. The obvious exceptions, of course, are those that have made a successful adaptation to living with humans, in urban and suburban environments. So: cockroaches, squirrels, deer, raccoons, possums, rats, mice, pigeons, starlings, sparrows – all seem to be doing fine in North America.
Songbirds, large carnivores (bears, lions, tigers), migratory animals (monarch butterflies, gray whales, sea turtles, caribou), coral reef inhabitants, salmon, all fish that are commercially harvested, bumblebees, frogs – the list goes on and on. Human populations are increasing so rapidly that the living space for animals is being diminished. Animal habitats are being degraded through pollution, deforestation, pesticides, and desertification. Climate patterns are changing more rapidly than animals can adapt to them.
We are living in a moment where species extinctions are occurring with frightening rapidity. It is certain that many species are vanishing (or have already vanished) before being studied, or even discovered and named. According to the WWF, “science has described around 2 million species but it is estimated that there could be between 5 to 100 million different species on Earth.” The current species extinction rate is estimated at between 100 and 1000 times the normal background extinction rate – all from human activities.
The heartening news is that many environmental organizations are responding to the challenge with energy, initiative and innovative ideas. The books recommended here give sobering insight into the plight of endangered animals as well as describe the effective work being done to address the problem.
Recommended Books and DVDs on Endangered Animals
Fewer than 17,000 wild horses remain in the U.S., down from 2 million in 1900; Ryden's narrative tells what has happened to them and why. "Remarkably well researched, this is the best history of the wild horse ever written." Minneapolis Star Tribune This wonderful book speaks to the heart of every horse lover. 2005, the Lyons Press
Griffin, a comparative zoologist at Harvard, examines recent studies that show that many species are able to discern and classify colors, shapes, materials, and "sameness," and that many other species are able to adapt their communications systems to account for novel situations. Warning that our understanding of animal minds is still ill-formed and that much work remains to be done in the field before we can confidently answer that ancient question one way or the other, he argues that "animals are best viewed as actors who choose what to do, rather than as objects totally dependent on outside influences." 2001, University of Chicago Press
Stunning photographs and informative text elevate this book beyond a coffee-table existence. It includes nformation on the classification of animals, their habitats and behavior with charts, maps, photographs and illustrations. Subsequent chapters focus on specific species, divided into broad groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and invertebrates. Endangered species information is at the end of each chapter. Since biodiversity is now at the forefront of biologists' concerns, the volume reports on the issues critical to ecology, from habitat loss to the species that are most endangered within each class.
Amazon.com Editor's Choice - Best of 2001
2005, DK Adult
Each of the 40 brief, compelling narratives in The Animal Dialogues focuses on the author's personal encounter with a particular species and is replete with astonishing facts about the species' behavior, habitat, breeding, and lifespan. But the glory of each essay lies in Childs' ability to portray the sometimes brutal beauty of the wilderness, to capture the individual essence of wild creatures, to transport the reader beyond the human realm and deep inside the animal kingdom. 2009, Back Bay Books
Travel with Sir David Attenborough on some of his favorite journeys: witness the magnificent birds of paradise in New Guinea; see the Bowerbirds - the only animals who in nature create works of art - in the Australian rain forests; learn about the history and purpose of musical communication in the natural world, with humpback whales and songbirds. Throughout, Attenborough brings his lively intelligence and entertaining manner to investigating fascinating mysteries of Nature. 2007, BBC Warner
This comprehensive survey of life on Earth brings together four landmark BBC series: Wild Africa; Congo;The First Eden; and Europe: a Natural History. Enjoy over 12 hours of programming reaching back over three billion years. Examine the birth of these vast continents from the dawn of time; see the diverse natural beauty and wildlife of these continents; and learn how the rise of human civilization has forever changed the landscape. 2007, BBC Warner
This four part history of North America shows its transition from home to Native American peoples to the present day, combining the bracing facts of animal extinctions, deforestation and habitat loss with the BBC's remarkable cinematography of wolves, grizzlies, snakes, beavers, birds and other animals in the wild. 2006, BBC Warner
Learn of the natural history of Central America in the 4-part Spirits of the Jaguar; see the eye-opening ecological history of North America in Land of the Eagle (4 parts); enjoy the dazzling nature photography in the 4-part series Wild South America; and tour Antartica is the 6-part series Life in the Freezer. 18 hours viewing time. 2006, BBC Warner
Witness firsthand the staggering natural beauty of this vast continent that was once joined to Australia, and is home to a wide variety of fascinating flora and fauna. South America is home to the world's largest mountain chain (the Andes) and the world's largest river (the Amazon). This DVD is a comprehensive survey of its natural wonders, wildlife and native peoples. 2006, BBC Warner
Resourceful, belligerent, and unbelievably sure-footed, the mountain goat is a white-coated survivor from the Ice Age. Oreamnos americanus shares its dizzying alpine world with elk, eagles, bighorn sheep, and grizzlies. A Beast the Color of Winter offers a superbly written portrait of its life, habits, and environment. Douglas H. Chadwick tracked mountain goat herds for seven years, and his observations are richly textured and replete with fascinating and dramatic details. We learn of the mountain goats' lives from birth to adulthood, their feeding habits, unique social behavior and courtship rituals, and their long history. 2002, Bison Books
Becoming Animal is a startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature. The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram’s investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself—a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate. 2011, Vintage
Environmental Defense Fund ecologist Wilcove's important report takes the reader on a chilling tour of the killing fields of America: the abused ecosystems where one-third of all U.S plant and animal species are in immediate danger of extinction or are severly threatened. This eloquent study is written from an ecological perspective showing how the disruption of one element in an ecosystem affects all components of the larger system. 2000, Anchor
Dr. Isenberg employs interdisciplinary methodology to explain the ecosocial factors that led to the destruction of 30 million bison during a 50-year period. Tracing the movement of Native American tribes from sedentary cultures to hunting societies that depended upon the horse to hunt bison on the Great Plains, the author discusses the impact of Euroamerican economics on the Native peoples. Fur trading of the 18th century altered Plains culture, as did the 19th-century demand for bison hides. These encounters between Native Americans and Euroamericans were the central cause of the near extinction of the bison. Isenberg also considers other factors such as drought, disease, and the introduction of domestic livestock. 2001, Cambridge University Press
Meloy sat on sandstone ledges and watched desert bighorn sheep through a telescope for a year. In this record of her study she is a keen observer of the landscape and the habitat it provides. The band of bighorns, just back from the brink of extinction, clings to the edges of the cliffs suspended in what Meloy calls "an island" of "deep landscape." She is concerned with the impact of the loss of the wild on humans' ability to exist, once wondering if losing species will "leave us brain damaged."
John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing 2007
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist 2005
Professor Bekoff pores through decades of animal research -- behavioral, neurochemical, psychological and environmental -- persuading readers to accept both the existence and significance of animal emotions. Seated in the most primitive structures of the brain, emotions have a long evolutionary history. As vertebrates became more complex, they developed ever more complex emotional and social lives, developing social rules that permit group living, a far better survival strategy than going solo. 2008, New World Library
Earth has seen at least five great extinction periods, involving volcanic eruptions, meteor strikes, and rapid climate change. The sixthth great extinction is underway, the result of humankind's fearsome impact on the environment. Featuring more than 400 photographs, this book details the plant and animal species that are either endangered or so severely threatened that they soon will be. The authors offer a thoughtful celebration of nature's diversity and a plea to rein in current behaviors that negatively affect the planet. 2006, Firefly Books
This visually stunning book celebrates the full range of animal experience with dramatic portraits of animal pleasure ranging from the charismatic and familiar to the obscure and bizarre. These photographs, windows onto the inner lives of pleasure seekers, show two polar bears engaged in a bout of wrestling, hoary marmots taking time for a friendly chase, Japanese macaques enjoying a soak in a hot spring, a young bull elk sticking out his tongue to catch snowflakes, and many other rewarding moments. Author Jonathan Balcombe interprets the images within the scientific context of what is known about animal behavior. 2011, University of California Press
Award-winning photographer Lanting states that he seeks to "show the strength and dignity of animals in nature." It is impossible to look at these extraordinary photographs without responding emotionally. The book pictures animals individually, in twos, and in groups; in his photographers' notes Lanting describes each photograph, the animal, the situation, and the animal's reaction to the photographer. The subjects did not always appreciate posing for him; while making his images, Lanting was challenged by African elephants, sniffed at by lions, and shunned by macaws. 2009, Taschen
In these volcanic islands off the west coast of Ecuador we see a living laboratory of life, both geological and biological. The westernmost islands are still rising above the sea, while the eastern islands are sinking, ultimately to disappear below the surface. Between the two are the middle islands - fertile, lush lands that contain an incredible diversity of life and inspired Darwin to first formulate his theory of evolution. This beautifully filmed journey highlights the exotic wildlife in the midst of gorgeous scenery. 2007, BBC Warner
This entertaining look at animal migration studies the migration patterns of a large number of species, showing how and why these great journeys take place. Hunting, survival habits, and mating behavior are shown in beautiful cinematography. 1999, Sling Shot
Great Migrations is the companion volume to the DVD series of the same name. It follows the sequence of the film, with each section highlighting a factor that makes these epic journeys essential. "The Need for Speed" documents migration as a race against time, in which freezing temperatures or scorching heat usher in a crisis. In "The Need to Feed," the annual search for greener pastures means life must go on the march as hungry predators lie in wait. "The Need to Lead" explains that migrations need generals, admirals and pioneers. How well the leaders keep their charges in line and on track will determine a species' fate. And in "The Need to Breed," the drive to renew the species forces every generation to risk it all. In every instance, both the migrating herds and the predators they sustain are faced with a new threat: global climate shift. Safe havens are vanishing, and migrating animals must stay one step ahead of a changing planet. Their struggle to survive despite mounting odds, set against the incomparable beauty of the natural world, fills this magnificently photographed book with drama, fascination, and beauty. 2010, National Geographic
National Geographic Channel’s Great Migrations is a new seven-part global programming event that takes viewers around the world to see the arduous journeys that millions of animals undertake to ensure the survival of their species. Shot from land and air, in trees and cliff blinds, on ice floes and underwater, it tells the formidable, powerful stories of many of the planet’s species and their movements, while revealing new scientific discoveries with breathtaking high-definition clarity. 2010, National Geographic
Large Carnivores and the Conservation of Biodiversity is the first detailed, broad-scale examination of the empirical evidence regarding the role of large carnivores in biodiversity conservation in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. It contributes to a much more precise and global understanding of when, where, and whether protecting and restoring top predators will directly contribute to the conservation of biodiversity. Everyone concerned with ecology, biodiversity, or large carnivores will find this volume a unique and thought-provoking analysis and synthesis. 2005, Island Press
This enthralling BBC series examines "the lengths living beings go to to stay alive," in the words of Sir David Attenborough. Aided by breathtaking high-definition cinematography, the makers of Planet Earth explore the more colorful strategies the world's creatures employ to procreate, evade predators, and obtain nourishment. Cameras travel though the air, under the water, and right into the faces of insects, like the alien visage of the stalk-eyed fly. Among the more memorable images: three cheetahs move with the relentless rhythm of mobsters, a school of flying fish glides through the air with the grace of ballerinas, and a Jesus Christ lizard skips across the water, like, well . . . 2010, BBC Warner
More than a general history of endangered species protection, Listed is a tale of threatened species in the wild—from the whooping crane and North Atlantic right whale to the purple bankclimber, a freshwater mussel tangled up in a water war with Atlanta—and the people working to save them. Employing methods from the new field of ecological economics, Roman challenges the widely held belief that protecting biodiversity is too costly. And with engaging directness, he explains how preserving biodiversity can help economies and communities thrive. Above all, he shows why the extinction of species matters to us personally—to our health and safety, our prosperity, and our joy in nature. 2011, Harvard University Press
This first-class BBC documentary spans the globe with portraits of the major geographical regions that offer a home to wildlife. Even in the most hostile of environments, from volcanic furnaces to the frozen world of high mountains and tundra, life maintains a foothold. Breathtaking cinematography shows us our fellow inhabitants of Earth - from penguins to polar bears, lions to scorpions, oaks to eagles, and all the life below the ocean's surface. The series ends with an impassioned environmental appeal that rings truer today than ever before. 2003, WEA
Recognizing that we cannot save animals without saving the places they live, photographer Art Wolfe has illustrated this concept by using wide-angle lenses to portray animals in their habitats. The pictures thus become both portraits and landscapes, drawing in the viewer with the immediacy of an individual creature and the grandeur of its habitat. The result is a rich pictorial tour of a magnificent array of animals complemented by essays written by renowned conservationists. 2000, Wildlands Press
For 65 million years, Madagascar was isolated, undiscovered and untouched by humans. As a result, it became a hotbed of evolution, resulting in the greatest concentration of unique creatures anywhere on the planet. More than 80% of Madagascar's animals and plants are found nowhere else on Earth. Recognized as one of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots, this is an island of eccentric animals, outlandish plants and extraordinary landscapes. In this three-part landmark series from the BBC, viewers will discover what makes Madagascar different from the rest of the world, and how evolution created an island rivaling the Galapagos for mystique, beauty and scientific wonder. 2011, BBC Warner
Science-writer Peterson proposes a fresh way of viewing animal minds, which allows for the existence of true minds as humans think of minds, but minds that are alien to our minds. The human ability for language means that our moral rules can be written down, but, as the author points out, the invisible structure of animal morality is revealed in their behavior. As he breaks down moral issues of behavior into larger issues such as authority, possession, cooperation, flexibility, and peace, Peterson gives examples from scientific studies of animal behavior that demonstrate the moral rule in question. Species range from fireflies to bonobos, but all illustrate moral behavior and all show us that we are not alone in possessing a moral code. 2011, Bloomsbury Press
Originally published in 1981, Mountain in the Clouds combines vivid personal encounters with wild salmon and a sometimes white-hot analysis of the human factors responsible for their heart-wrenching decline. Brown engages the reader in the unique environment of the temperate rainforest of the Olympic Pennisula, where salmon still return from the ocean to spawn deep within the Olympic Mountains. This book first popularized the once-inconceivable idea of tearing out dams for fisheries restoration, and highlighted the two destructive and illegal dams built on the Elwha River. They are scheduled to be demolished in 2011. 1995, University of Washington Press
This set of favorites includes the best of National Geographic's wildlife programs. Included are: In Search of the Jaguar; Whales in Crisis; Last Stand of the Great Bear; and Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas. Recommended. 2006, National Geographic
Enjoy ten hours of wildlife viewing with this boxed set of Nature's greatest: Sharks; Sharks and Crocs; Leopards and Lions; Big Cats; Reptiles; and Raptor Force. 2007, Questar
Two and a half million years ago, in what is today Northern Tanzania, the top blew off a gigantic volcanic mountain leaving behind one of the biggest craters in the world. Over the millennia the crater became a national park for wildlife, Africa’s Eden. Reinhard Kunkel's beautiful, often astonishing, sometimes startling images, alongside landscapes of a primeval grandeur, make this book a triumph of wildlife photography. Kunkel has been photographing Ngorongoro since 1973, living with the land and the animals -- the lions, elephants, eagles, buffalo and hippopotamuses -- for the last thirty years. Unrivalled in the richness and diversity of its animal and plant life, Ngorongoro has been called the eighth wonder of the world. 2006, Welcome Books
Today's migratory travelers face unprecedented dangers. Skyscrapers and cell towers lure birds and bats to untimely deaths; fences and farms block herds of antelop;, salmon are caught en route between ocean and rive;, breeding and wintering grounds are paved over or plowed under; and global warming disrupts the synchronized schedules of predators and prey. Wilcove writes, "Protecting the abundance of migration is key to protecting the glory of migration." This book offers powerful inspiration to preserve those glorious journeys. 2007, Island Press
One Day on Beetle Rock is an elegant and lively depiction of nine animals spending a spring day on Beetle Rock, a large expanse of granite in Sequoia National Park. Drawing on seven years of close observation and inspired by the work of natural scientists, Sally Carrighar wrote with exquisite detail, bringing readers to an exhilarating consciousness of the search for food and a safe place to sleep, the relationship between prey and predator, the marvelous skills and adaptations of nature. 2002, Heyday Books
One Day at Teton Marsh descibes the activities of a series of creatures living in a marsh at Jackson's Hole, Wyoming. Sally Carrighar weaves together the tales of these individual animals with scientific accuracy and a style that draws the reader in and makes them care about each animal. She shows how each life is connected to other lives in the marsh, the individual lives forming an interdependent web of life. 1966, Panther
In Passenger Pigeon, first published in 1955, Schorger painstakingly reconstructed its life history - behavioral characteristics, feeding methods, traveling and roosting habits, nesting – and the various stages of the species encounter with man, from utilization by the Native American to extinction at the hands of white settlers. The passenger pigeon, once probably the most numerous bird on the planet, traveled in flocks a mile wide and up to 300 miles long - so dense that they darkened the sky for hours and days as the flock passed overhead. Total populations may have reached 5 billion birds and comprised up to 40% of the total number of birds in North America. No appreciable decline in their numbers was noted until the late 1870s but, thereafter, their destruction took only twenty-five years. The immense roosting and nesting colonies invited over-hunting. The last bird died in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. 2004, The Blackburn Press
BBC natural history producer Alastair Fothergill spent the last ten years producing two of the most stunningly beautiful series ever created. Seas of Life is the definitive exploration of the marine world, chronicling the mysteries of the deep, coastline populations, sea mammals, tidal and climatic influences, and the complete biological system that revolves around the world's oceans. Planet Earth uses high definition photography and revolutionary ultra-high speed cameras to produce the ultimate portrait of our planet - capturing rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. Sixteen hours of viewing time, including many extra features. 2007, BBC Warner
Everyone has heard about animals that are now extinct. Author Greive wants everyone to learn about animals that can be saved and then to do something about it. In inspiring narrative and striking photographs of everything from humpback whales to pigmy possums to African spoonbills, Greive and photographer Iwago illustrate the Earth's diverse animal inventory. The authors present a call to action: "To preserve our home and the priceless creatures that dwell within it, you need only see the world as it is and have a vision of how it could be." 2003, Andrews McMeel Publishing
Diane Ackerman, a tireless explorer of the natural world, looks for answers about animal behavior among some animals that are fast disappearing as their native habitats are destroyed - creatures such as the monarch butterfly, the short-tailed albatross, and the wonderfully named golden lion tamarin. She writes of these animals with grace and compassion and with a considerable command of the science of animal behavior. 1997, Vintage
Between the mid-19th century, when wolves, coyotes and other predator animals were indiscriminately slaughtered, and today, when efforts to reintroduce these animals into the wild are well under way, lie years of radical change in American attitudes toward wildlife and the environment. Professor Dunlap traces this change, describing developments in ecology and the humane movement that have affected government policies. The book puts into perspective our changing ideas about nature and demonstrates how difficult and complicated are the processes of making and enforcing laws to protect the environment. 1991, Princeton University Press
Ethologist and author Balcombe discusses the broad range of animal experience in this new examination of how animals view the world. He convincingly demonstrates, through a broad-ranging review of both the scientific and philosophic literature, that animals think and feel, that they are sentient and show morality, and that we can no longer treat animals cruelly and carelessly. In the second section, Balcombe focuses on animal interactions and sociality, demonstrating the sophistication of communication in animals and their resulting emotions and morality. 2011, Palgrave Macmillan
The massive scientific effort reported by Sustaining Life has a surprising finding: species diversity acts as a kind of insurance policy for humans, by buffering stresses to the environment. The "mosaic of ecosystems" provide "services" (food, timber, air and water purification, waste decomposition, climate regulation) necessary for life that, due to their complexity and scale, are almost impossible to substitute. Natural systems are robust but vulnerable: the vultures of southern Asia, for instance, are threatened with extinction because their natural diet-carrion-has been poisoned with medicine routinely prescribed for livestock and humans. Criticizing modern, industrial-scale marine fishing and agricultural practices, this volume holds forth organic farming as a viable alternative.
2008, Oxford University Press
Vanishing World is an unprecedented visual record of life in the Arctic. This book is both a celebration of the wildlife that inhabits this harsh and unforgiving climate and the cautionary tale of global warming. Set against a dramatic landscape of ice floes and ragged mountains, readers will see the polar bears, foxes, seals, walruses and reindeers who now struggle to live in this vulnerable climate. A moving book. 2007, Harry N. Abrams
Adventure writer Heller joined Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat during their 2005 campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica, and the result is this intimate and hair-raising eco-adventure. After weeks of heavy seas, fog, iceberg dodging, and cat-and-mouse with the whalers, the Farley finally encounters the Japanese fleet on Christmas day in a Force 8 gale. The reader rides the rush of adreneline and feels the dedication and passion of the Sea Shepherds as they fight to save the whales. 2007, Free Press
Where the Wild Things Were examines predation's crucial role in the preservation of ecological diversity, painting nightmarish pictures of what happens when top carnivores are exterminated from ecosystems. Without sea otters to keep ravenous sea urchins in check, some ocean floors in the North Pacific have been stripped of kelp. In Yellowstone National Park, the eradication of wolves has resulted in a glut of elk that have trampled river banks and chewed down young trees. White-tailed deer have denuded the undergrowth in the forests of the eastern United States, because wolves and cougar have disappeared. Without large meat eaters, mid-size predators—raccoons, blue jays, crows, squirrels, opossums—have proliferated, to the detriment of songbird populations. In compellilng descriptions, Stolzenburg demonstrates how and why the delicate balance between predator and prey is so essential. 2009, Bloomsbury USA
Stunning images from the world's most acclaimed wildlife photographers have been brought together for the first time in this elegant book, packed with beautiful pictures of animals. Accompanying the photographs the photographers tell the stories behind the images. With anecdotes, tips and technical details, this book gives a fascinating insight into the creative processes of the world's top wildlife photographers. 2004, Rotovision
Explore some of the most remote, fascinating, and unspoiled environments on Earth in this classic nature series. Be captivated by exotic wildlife and see magnificent vistas few humans have ever witnessed. The film explores the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, Africa's Okavanga Delta, the Sonoran Desert, Baja California, the Arctic and more. 2007, National Geographic