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Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record – book review

Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record reaches into your imagination and draws you closer to the final days of a variety of extinct animals on Earth. Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record is filled with poignant and powerful first-hand accounts, photographic records, and illustrations. Written by Errol Fuller, a global expert on extinctions, whose previous works include Extinct Birds, Dodo: From Extinction to Icon, and The Great Auk, the book shares with us often tragic, yet humorous stories about some of these animals.

The series of photos by James Tanner with some of the last images of ivory-billed woodpeckers ever taken are especially iconic. The images show a young Mr. J. J. Kuhn with an ivory-billed woodpecker clinging to his arm and sitting on his head. In a sense, the ivory-billed woodpecker is reaching out to us to dare to imagine an Earth where they no longer exist.

They are now considered extinct with no confirmations in over six decades.

Having viewed animals that have gone extinct with my own eyes, it is a haunting experience that challenges our sense of purpose, our sense of order, and our imagination. There is no going back.

On this theme, an interesting article the New York Times’ article The Mammoth Cometh described how scientists in a variety of disciplines are working to restore extinct species through cloning and other genetic techniques.

Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record expands on the themes in the New York Times’ article by personalizing the last days of these extinct species. With a photographic record of extinctions from 1870 to 2004 (the most recent being the extinction of the Hawaiian po’ouli), Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record describes the heroic efforts of many non-expert individuals to protect these last of the species from going to extinct. Some of the remarkable efforts include the personal stories of Anne LaBastille to protect the Atitlán giant grebe (Podilymbus grebe) to the highly personal story the Parr Family and the New Zealand laughing owl (Sceloglaux albifacies).

We now live in a time of mass extinctions with professionals suggesting our extinction rates are 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal background rate. This means we may be losing species each day to extinction.

Where does that leave us today? How do we understand our sense of purpose and order with our home —our Earth—losing its biological splendor to human-induced extinction?

How to order:

Paperback: Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Authors: Errol Fuller

ISBN: 9780691161372

Gabriel Thoumi is a Certified Ecologist and a frequent contributor to He is an Affiliated Researcher at the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech.

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