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The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the Po'ouli

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Real-life scientific adventureA thought-provoking exploration of how the Endangered Species Act works--and how it failsThirty years ago, researchers discovered a previously unknown species of bird in the rain-soaked and remote mountains of Hawaii. As they studied the creature--which sported a black mask and was called the po'ouli--they soon learned that its population was Real-life scientific adventureA thought-provoking exploration of how the Endangered Species Act works--and how it failsThirty years ago, researchers discovered a previously unknown species of bird in the rain-soaked and remote mountains of Hawaii. As they studied the creature--which sported a black mask and was called the po'ouli--they soon learned that its population was shrinking quickly, and they worked frantically to find out what was killing the species and how they might prevent its extinction. This fast-paced account of their work, done in one of the world's most inhospitable environments, describes a stirring fight for survival. It also illustrates the challenge of protecting endangered species in a rapidly changing world.


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Real-life scientific adventureA thought-provoking exploration of how the Endangered Species Act works--and how it failsThirty years ago, researchers discovered a previously unknown species of bird in the rain-soaked and remote mountains of Hawaii. As they studied the creature--which sported a black mask and was called the po'ouli--they soon learned that its population was Real-life scientific adventureA thought-provoking exploration of how the Endangered Species Act works--and how it failsThirty years ago, researchers discovered a previously unknown species of bird in the rain-soaked and remote mountains of Hawaii. As they studied the creature--which sported a black mask and was called the po'ouli--they soon learned that its population was shrinking quickly, and they worked frantically to find out what was killing the species and how they might prevent its extinction. This fast-paced account of their work, done in one of the world's most inhospitable environments, describes a stirring fight for survival. It also illustrates the challenge of protecting endangered species in a rapidly changing world.

42 review for The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the Po'ouli

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nox

    A very intriguing and immersive read that enhanced my knowledge of the Hawaiian honeycreepers as I was present on the islands themselves. Well written; Powell is very capable of referencing those who are experienced in the field. However, he is not completely capable of explaining much of the science and ecology present in these drastic environmental issues. Overall, a good read that maintained my interest and fueled my fire for conservation. 4/5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Grrlscientist

    For scientists, naturalists and birders, islands are the most amazing places on earth because their evolutionary legacy has provided them with their own fascinating flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the world. But because humans also like to live on islands, along with their pets and crop plants, islands are a conservation nightmare, and certainly, the Hawaiian islands are no exception. In Alvin Powell’s book, The Race to Save the World’s Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the For scientists, naturalists and birders, islands are the most amazing places on earth because their evolutionary legacy has provided them with their own fascinating flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the world. But because humans also like to live on islands, along with their pets and crop plants, islands are a conservation nightmare, and certainly, the Hawaiian islands are no exception. In Alvin Powell’s book, The Race to Save the World’s Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the Po’ouli (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books; 2008), we learn about one endangered Hawaiian bird, the mysterious Po’ouli [poh oh OOO lee], Melamprosops phaeosoma, and the true story of why this enigmatic little bird disappeared forever. The book starts late in the afternoon of 26 July 1973, when botanist Betsy Harrison was climbing a steep trail at sixty-four hundred feet above sea level. She was alone. Suddenly, the dense forest came alive with the short chik calls and flitting movements of small group of Hawaiian Honeycreepers. Accompanying the lively and vocal honeycreepers were three small, brownish birds with black masks, all of which were nearly completely silent. Silence is quite odd for the birds of the dense forests, since they must rely their voices instead of their vision to maintain contact with each other. Suddenly, Harrison realised she was seeing something very unusual, possibly something new. And thus begins the poignant tale of the enigmatic po’ouli, Melamprosops phaeosoma, a peculiar little snail-eating bird whose population was being savaged by a suite of invasive and deadly enemies that humans introduced onto the islands: domestic pigs and housecats, tree-climbing rats and mongooses, predatory snails competing for its food, malaria and of course, humans themselves. The tragic story of the Po’ouli exemplifies the multitudes of challenges associated with protecting and preserving endangered species in America. Interestingly, it was quickly realised that the Poʻouli was special, unlike any of the other Hawaiian Honeycreepers. DNA-based analysis revealed this unique bird represented an ancient lineage of honeycreepers, and — unlike all other honeycreepers — it was without any close relatives. This captivating true-life drama describes the struggle to save an endangered species. It captures the passion and frustrations that conservation scientists experience as they fight to save endangered species, and the personal devastation they experience when they lose the battle. But this chronicle is more than a sad story about a bird and a few biologists, it is a warning about the conflicts that ensue when there is a clear lack of public and government will to support wildlife conservation, and how this undermines the efforts of highly-qualified professionals working in the field. As the author notes: The road hasn’t always been, and still is not, a smooth one. Conservationists, scientists, members of the public — particularly Hawaii’s hunting community — and government officials don’t see eye to eye on the conservation of these endangered birds. To some people, Hawaiian honeycreepers are jewels of evolution, exemplars of what is possible given the right genetic raw materials, isolation and time; to others, they’re just birds. [p. 69] Even though this is Powell’s first book, it quickly becomes obvious to the reader that he is a gifted writer. Powell skilfully weaves together the story of the Po’ouli and the desperate attempts to save it from extinction into the complex tapestry of the history of the Hawaiian islands, the damage wrought by introduced animals, various conservation methods, the human factors involved in saving endangered species as well as the federal Endangered Species Act and the vagueries of enforcement and government funding for preservation of those species this law was designed to protect. This gripping story is 280 pages long. It contains one map depicting the location of the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve on the island of Maui where the Po’ouli were found, and ends with 17 pages of endnotes filled with references for each chapter as well as a 5 page index. I highly recommend this well-researched book to all who wish to learn more about the practical challenges of conservation biology, to those who love birds and nature, fans of real-life science stories and to everyone who is fascinated by the Hawaiian islands. NOTE: Originally published at scienceblogs.com on 26 October 2008.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I liked portions of this book but thought that there was a lot of filler. Learning about the bird itself, the exclosures, and the other techniques of counting, monitoring, and preserving the bird was fascinating, but I felt bogged down in a lot of the political discussions and power struggles. I was amazed by the lengths the bird people went to to capture the bird and protect it when they brought it to captivity. I was saddened by all the redtape that prevented the bird from getting protection m I liked portions of this book but thought that there was a lot of filler. Learning about the bird itself, the exclosures, and the other techniques of counting, monitoring, and preserving the bird was fascinating, but I felt bogged down in a lot of the political discussions and power struggles. I was amazed by the lengths the bird people went to to capture the bird and protect it when they brought it to captivity. I was saddened by all the redtape that prevented the bird from getting protection much sooner. I read this for my Bird Club Book Club.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Doug Stone

    Written by a friend of mine. I've now looked the book over and have a sense of what it's like. The book places the loss of this rare bird which went extinct a decade or so after being discovered. Alvin puts the loss into the greater context of world extinctions and habitat loss. More to come... Written by a friend of mine. I've now looked the book over and have a sense of what it's like. The book places the loss of this rare bird which went extinct a decade or so after being discovered. Alvin puts the loss into the greater context of world extinctions and habitat loss. More to come...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Pyne

  7. 5 out of 5

    george

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  9. 5 out of 5

    ryn ★

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Monrad

  11. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm Murray

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lizabeth

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Esposito

  15. 5 out of 5

    Becky

  16. 4 out of 5

    Krista

  17. 4 out of 5

    Neal Evenhuis

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cara

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jade Doolittle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Fletcher

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Suthers

  22. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Bohn

  23. 5 out of 5

    Don Drake

  24. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Clock

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kahealani Ta'a

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alvin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan Pettus

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dyan deNapoli

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joscelin

  31. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Auckerman

  32. 4 out of 5

    Dan Muller

  33. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Marks

  34. 5 out of 5

    Talia

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    Rebecca

  36. 4 out of 5

    Olivia An

  37. 5 out of 5

    Maya

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    Birn

  39. 4 out of 5

    Susan T

  40. 4 out of 5

    Janice

  41. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  42. 4 out of 5

    Mary-Marcia

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