Book Review: Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams

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Book Facts

Title: Last Chance to See
Author: Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine
Pages: 222
Published: 1990
Available Formats: Paperback/Kindle
Genre: Nature
Overall Rating: 5/5


From the back cover:

New York Times bestselling author Douglas Adams and zoologist Mark Carwardine take off around the world in search of exotic, endangered creatures. Join them as they encounter the animal kingdom in its stunning beauty, astonishing variety, and imminent peril: the giant Komodo dragon of Indonesia, the helpless but lovable kakapo of New Zealand, the blind river dolphins of China, the white rhinos of Zaire, the rare birds of the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Hilarious and poignant, Last Chance to See is an entertaining and arresting odyssey through Earth’s magnificent wildlife galaxy.

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Last Chance to See is Douglas Adams’ account of tracking down some of the rarest animals on Earth for a documentary created by BBC radio. Mark Carwardine was the main organizer and zoologist for the series of trips. I don’t know how involved Carwardine was in the actual writing of the book. If he was, Douglas Adams’ unique voice blasts over Carwardine’s. Last Chance to See is exactly the book you would expect from Douglas Adams for a BBC commissioned book about the quest to find exotic and endangered species.

Adams’ unique blend of humor and keen observation is endlessly entertaining, while also being incredibly informative. It’s by no means a textbook on evolution, but it shows some very basic evolutionary theories in a practical and applied manner. I think this book would be an excellent addition to any science class that is teaching the basics of Darwinism and evolution.

Though the book is set in 1988 and 1989 the lessons contained within it are still relevant today. Many of the species they encountered were endemic, meaning they only existed in one place on Earth. Generally, the ones explored in this book are island animals, evolved to be specifically adapted to their small and contained environment. They are most often threatened by invasive species introduced by man. There are also some continental animals, like the white rhino, who are most threatened by man himself.

In the chapter “Rare or Medium Rare” the crew goes to find the Rodrigues fruit bat. The bat is endangered globally speaking, but when the crew gets to the island where it is endemic, the scientists there insist the bat is doing just fine and that there are far more threatened animals on the islands. This raises an interesting question, what does endangered really mean for these endemic island animals?

The most captivating chapter I found was “Heartbeats in the Night”. In this chapter the crew goes in search of the critically endangered kakapo bird. The descriptions in this chapter bring a type of mystical romance to the bird and had me wanting to learn more. I just had to google around for a clip of the infamous mating call, also known as “booming”. I can see how this would sound incredible to hear in the wild.

Overall, this book gets a 5/5 for me. I think anyone who enjoys animals, humorous writing, or travel would love this book. It’s a quick read and had me wanting to listen to the documentary they were out researching for.

Last Chance to See Documentary

As of this review the documentary is available on Netflix. You may also be able to find some episodes by searching on YouTube or you can purchase it on Amazon.


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