100 HEARTBEATS: The Race to Save Earth’s Most Endangered Species

by Jeff Corwin   ( 2009,  Rodale)

Reviewed by Richard W. Weiskopf

Translated by Rob English

This book is a must for those who want to learn more about the problems of survival that animals face all over the world. The title refers to critically endangered species and subspecies that have one hundred or fewer individuals in the world today. Jeff Corwin tells in a very personal way of his travels in many parts of the world and of his efforts in behalf of many endangered and disappearing species. He spells out the effects of shrinking and disappearing habitat, global warming, pollution, chemical toxins, human overpopulation, land development, illegal hunting, exploitation as well as oil exploration and development.   

Corwin makes an interesting point that I hadn’t thought about: If the species at the top of the food chain are disappearing (such as polar bear, Bengal tiger) this affects all of the many species of the entire food chain’s precarious balance is put out of order, i.e. some species may overpopulate or some may severely decrease.

Again, 100 HEARTBEATS is all the more readable because of the way the author personalizes his experiences. For example, how elated he feels upon returning two cub cheetahs to the wild after a long period of training to help them survive. Species with less than one hundred individuals today include the Javan rhino, Vancouver Is. marmot, Hawaiian crow, Saychelles sheath-tailed bat, and the most endangered feline in the world, the Iberian lynx.

Among others, he describes the struggles of the Bengal tiger, Florida panther, Iberian lynx, giant panda, orangutan. He tells of the prolonged training of an orangutan and the joy of setting him free in the wild. In Indonesia the orangutan is up against loss of habitat to the growing demand for palm oil as well as illegal logging.

Here are some facts that we may not want to know about the magnitude of the problem:

In 2008 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed as critically endangered 3,246 of the 44,838 species assessed. Seventeen of the mammalian species have been reduced to populations of between 350 and 1,000. There are many, many, many thousands of species in our world. Scientists who categorize and track them report the extinction of many thousands each year. Some species exist only in a very small perhaps unique area.

One optimistic note: He mentions that American Bald Eagles have had an amazing recovery over the past thirty years largely due to the banning of DDT.

Corwin places the responsibility on all of us to do what we can to slow the relentless disappearance of our earth’s animals. It is inspiring to witness his devotion and dedication to saving the animals and by doing so helping to save our planet.


Richard Weiskopf is a member of  People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. LDESTEFANO3@twcny.rr.com, peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.

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