Earth Day Book recommendation – Wild Lives

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Title: Wild Lives, Leading Conservationists on the Animals and the Planet They Love

Authors: Lori Robinson & Jane Chodosh

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing, April 2017

Ages: 11+

Themes: animal conservation, conservationists, endangered species




Quotes I love:

Who would think a wild leopard could teach so much about love, compassion, and empathy?” — Beverly Joubert (p.9)

Ecotourism is an enormous industry in East and South Africa, about 80 billion US dollars a year,” explains Dereck (Joubert). “Much of the money comes from wildlife safaris to see the ‘Big Five’–lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo. If these disappear, it will likely set off a chain reaction in which tourism revenue declines, poverty rise, and poaching increases.” (P.17)

Above all, the most important thing we do as adults can teach our children to be aware of how our actions and our choices impact the world around us. From tiny insect or plant, to a magnificent elephant or whale, there are a myriad of living organisms that depend on one another, and ultimately, that depend on us, humans, just as we depend on them. It is our responsibility, as adults, to teach our kids the importance of healthy ecosystems, of maintaining biodiversity.” — Laurie Marker (P.45)

Her focus has grown from campaigning for a single species to campaigning about “ethical consumption.” The increase in consuming power in China creates pressure on wildlife all over the world. Uses for wildlife now include medicines, clothing, food, private collections, trophy hunting, souvenirs, gifts, and even investments. “There is no stopping consumerism,” she says, “We have to tie consumers’ behavior to policy and law.” — Grace Ge Gabriel (P.117)


Today we are faced with the alarming possibility that as many as 50 percent of species alive will become extinct within this century. This statistic is so staggering that scientists have begun to refer to the twenty-first century as the “sixth extinction.” But while this is alarming, all hope is not lost; conservation experts across the globe are working tirelessly to preserve our planet for future generations.

In Wild Lives, twenty of these pioneers share their stories via exclusive interviews. Coming from different countries, diverse cultures, and a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and specializing in different species, all of these conservationists have an important characteristic in common: they have committed their lives to saving our planet and the majestic species that call it home. These esteemed contributors include:

•Beverly and Dereck Joubert, National Geographic filmmakers and big cat experts
•Ric O’Barry, dolphin advocate and trainer of Flipper
•George Schaller, famed field biologist and author
•Yossi Leshem, Israeli ornithologist
•Dominique Bikaba, gorilla activist
•Paul Hilton, award-winning wildlife photographer

Passionate and inspiring, Wild Lives is an important and timely reminder of the beauty and fragility of our world and the obligation that every person has towards preserving it.

Why I like this book:

This is a highly inspirational collection of mini biographies of a handful of the world’s leading conservationists. Conservation has been a passion of mine for many years and yet I confess there were many people here with whose work I was not acquainted. One of the great strengths of this collection was the diversity not just among the animals involved but the diversity of the contributors. From the Indonesian archipelago, to inland China, Botswana, to Fargo North Dakota. A rich tapestry of individuals who have followed childhood dreams to save thousands of animals around the world. Many have gone on to pursue Masters and PhD’s not for academia’s sake but to be able to finance and pursue their efforts.

Many of them have faced physical hardship including war zones and imprisonment. Meg Loman, for example, had to decide during a research trip to Australia whether to take her young children up the two hundred foot high tree with her or leave them below at the mercy of Australian snakes. All the stories are heartwarming despite the reality of humanity’s destruction so many habitats and animals (over a 50 year period we have lost 90%-95% of the world’;s largest predators). I loved the story of Flipper the Dolphin’s trainer O’Barry who transformed himself form dolphin trainer to dolphin defender.

“One of the biggest lies of the likes of SeaWorld and others is that dolphins in captivity can never be released back into the wild,” he says.

Since 1973 he has released over two dozen dolphins back into the wild from Haiti to South Korea.

The book doesn’t shy away from the horrors created by humans but you will meet some of amazing heroines and heroes involved in damage control. I would have liked color photos instead of the black and white of each individual at the beginning of the chapters, though on the other hand, I appreciate them keeping the costs down. 

Any of you who have read my blog for a while will know I have strong feelings about zoos, feeling their focus should be conservation oriented above all. I was happy to read that when Mike Chase was about to give up on his dreams San Diego Zoo made him their next Henderson Endowed post-doctoral Research fellow with a salary and funding for five years.

I highly recommend this book for middle grade students upwards with a passion for making a difference in worldwide conservation efforts.


At the end of every chapter the conservationist’s website is given for further reading.


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1 Response to Earth Day Book recommendation – Wild Lives

  1. This is an excellent resource book for older students interested in conservation! I want to read this book as I’m interested in what 20 leading conservationists have to say. The health of our planet for future generations is the most pressing issue of our times. Excellent review. (I left a comment here several days ago and it disappeared.)

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