Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG
HOME > ON THE BOOKSHELF > Bookshelf Detail

The Last Tortoise


THE LAST TORTOISE: A Tale of Extinction in Our Lifetime. Craig B. Stanford. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, $23.95.

2010-07RossFA.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageTortoises are in trouble. After 65 million years of peaceful plodding, they’ve been overtaken by modern humans, who are destroying their habitat, abducting them as pets and consuming them as food and medicine. The result is an imminent mass extinction: Unless humans slow their depredations, the 45 tortoise species that remain will disappear permanently.

In The Last Tortoise, biologist Craig B. Stanford documents the dismaying scope of the crisis. Twenty-five tons of tortoises and turtles are exported from Sumatra every week, many bound for Chinese food markets, where the total trade in live turtles is estimated at $700 million a year. In East Africa, poachers invade nature reserves to pry exotic pancake tortoises (above) from their crevices for the pet trade. Those that survive the long trip to the pet store will succumb shortly afterward—92 percent of all imported turtles and tortoises are dead within three years of leaving the wild.

Stanford is best known for his fieldwork with chimpanzees, but his studies of the giant tortoises in the Mascarene and Galápagos islands have left him with an obvious affection for “perhaps the most astoundingly unlikely creatures in the history of life on planet Earth.” His reporting here is professional and remarkably thorough, but tinged with anger and sadness at the senselessness of the crisis.

“As always, both extinction and preservation from extinction are human issues, not animal issues,” he writes. “Without our impact on the Earth there would be no twenty-first century mass extinction looming. And now that it is upon us, we are the only salvation for those same victims.”


comments powered by Disqus
 

Connect With Us:

Facebook Icon Sm Twitter Icon Google+ Icon Pinterest Icon RSS Feed

Sigma Xi/Amazon Smile (SciNight)


Latest Multimedia

VIDEO: Citizen Scientists Aid Researchers in Studying Camel Crickets

MJEpps CricketsThey may bounce really high and look strange, but don't worry, they are harmless...they even scavenge for crumbs off of your floor! A continental-scale citizen science campaign was launched in order to study the spread and frequency of native and nonnative camel crickets in human homes across North America.

Mary Jane Epps, PhD, an author of the paper, went into more detail about the study and significance of citizen scientists in an interview with Katie-Leigh Corder, web managing editor.

To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia"!


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • Sigma Xi SmartBrief:

    A free daily summary of the latest news in scientific research. Each story is summarized concisely and linked directly to the original source for further reading.

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, Science Observers and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

Subscribe to American Scientist