The Kingdom of Rarities
6 x 9
6 x 9
When you look out your window, why are you so much more likely to see a robin or a sparrow than a Kirtland's warbler or a California condor? Why are some animals naturally rare and others so abundant? The quest to find and study seldom-seen jaguars and flamboyant Andean cocks-of-the-rock is as alluring to naturalists as it is vitally important to science. From the Himalayan slopes of Bhutan to the most isolated mountain ranges of New Guinea, The Kingdom of Rarities takes us to some of the least-traveled places on the planet to catch a glimpse of these unique animals and many others. As he shares stories of these species, Eric Dinerstein gives readers a deep appreciation of their ecological importance and the urgency of protecting all types of life — the uncommon and abundant alike.
An eye-opening tour of the rare and exotic, The Kingdom of Rarities offers us a new understanding of the natural world, one that places rarity at the center of conservation biology. Looking at real-time threats to biodiversity, from climate change to habitat fragmentation, and drawing on his long and distinguished scientific career, Dinerstein offers readers fresh insights into fascinating questions about the science of rarity and unforgettable experiences from the field.
"Eric Dinerstein's engaging new book [is a] . . . zoological travelogue, observing rare species across the planet and contemplating, as he does so, why rarity is profoundly important for our understanding of nature and our efforts to conserve it."
"The well-traveled Mr. Dinerstein presents vivid case studies on the world's least common creatures, from a red hummingbird stranded on Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile to a cryptic forest-dwelling bovine in Vietnam . . . gripping."
The Wall Street Journal
"What makes his book a good read is his deft writing and ability to bring his audience to the places he and his scientific colleagues have visited."
The Washington Post
"[T]his personable travelogue was such an intellectual delight that I just had to tell you about it...Rereading this book was a joy—it was even better the second time through. The writing is compelling, the stories, captivating, and the scientific data, illuminating and well-chosen. ...engaging and thought-provoking chronicle... Passionate but never histrionic, Dinerstein deftly weaves together findings from many disparate fields of research, along with the urgent necessity to conserve these species."
The Guardian's GrrlScientist blog
"Extraordinary and engrossing account . . . with a friendly intimacy, he offers a personal narrative, a travelogue, and a celebration of the natural world, not a polemic. When Dinerstein asks questions about biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, and conservation biology, he is constructive, engaging, and exceptionally well informed. He is also balanced and realistic, daring to ask which species are the most important to protect and why."
"The book provides a superb balance between description, science and conservation. It's an easy, pleasant, and even exciting read, with the science gently fed to the reader as part of the book's adventure narrative."
"What makes an animal rare? Eric Dinerstein explains the nuanced answer in his book."
The Nature Conservancy Magazine
"Dinerstein captures this innate fascination in a worldwide tour of exotic places and spectacular species, from jaguars in the Amazon to birds of paradise in New Guinea. Along the way, he weaves in lessons in ecology as well as passionate calls for conservation action."
"Dinerstein's book offers a kaleidoscopic and highly entertaining picture of some of the world's most remote and diverse ecological hotspots."
Earth Island Journal
"In prose that is both lyrical and exact, he takes readers through various 'motherlodes of rarities' in search of answers, from Cuba's Zapata Swamp through the jaguar-dense Madre de Dios region of Peru to the still little-known Vietnamese jungle."
"Dinerstein (Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations), Lead Scientist with the World Wildlife Fund, provides nature lovers with an armchair tour of the world, focusing on rare species from New Guinea to Hawaii. In clear, concise prose he discusses the circumstances responsible for rarity like evolution, habitat loss, and war. . . . [H]ighly recommended for readers with interests in biology, natural history, and ecology."
"An evocatively described natural-history tour of the world's rare species. . . . Dinerstein enthuses and informs without being overwhelming."
BBC Wildlife Magazine
"Dinerstein's text is admirably accessible to the non-scientist. . . . Besides the passing nods to ethnography, the book is also enlivened by occasional poetic touches, and an unexpectedly numinous regard for the aesthetics of the flora and fauna encountered."
"As well as a scientific journey, The Kingdom of Rarities is also an adventure story—to meet the rare species that are central to this tale, the reader travels with the author to exotic locations including remote New Guinea, Hawaii, the heart of the Amazon, and the foothills of the Himalayas . . . this book's topic is fascinating."
The Guardian GrrlScientist blog
"Excellent example of storytelling, nature writing, and science."
Greg Laden's Blog
"Eric Dinerstein has given us a clear and expert account of a subject of increasing importance for the twenty-first century. The world is filling up with humans and species made rare—to whom we most urgently must devote more of our attention."
Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
"In colorful prose that conjures up the rich spell of each landscape, Dinerstein takes us along on exhilarating expeditions that crisscross the globe and travel deep into the heart of rare species, while sharing his own rare expertise and a luminous sense of wonder."
Diane Ackerman, Author of The Zookeeper's Wife
"The Kingdom of Rarities is a rarity itself, a book whose author is so in command of his material that you don't realize how much you're learning; you're too caught up in the adventure of it all."
Carl Safina, Author of Song for the Blue Ocean
"Why are jaguars rare, despite being South America's most powerful predator? Why, indeed, are most species rare? How can rare species exert a big effect on the landscape's structure and function? If you, too, are open to the fascination that rare animals hold for adventure travelers and passionate ecologists, you'll love the romance and exciting science that this book offers."
Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Professor of Geography, UCLA
"He has cumulated over 40 years of his studies and experiences to highlight how rare species have developed intricate and complex webs, and how their existence has profound impacts on the ecosystem(s) in which they live . . . expertly weaves in examples to provide a solid context for layperson."
"Dinerstein's accessible prose and informative, inviting style informs the reader without sounding like a textbook or a polemic."
Rhode Island Natural History Survey
"...The Kingdom of Rarities has many virtues. It succeeds in presenting biodiversity research as an adventure and biodiversity conservation as crucial, necessary work. It describes numerous fascinating animals, greatly facilitated in this effort by Trudy Nicholson's beautiful and accurate illustrations. Dinerstein wears his learning lightly but deploys it to good effect. An annotated bibliography identifies books, articles and scientific papers for those who want to learn more about different aspects of rarity and conservation. As is usually the case with books from Island Press, the overall production is of high quality. All in all this is an excellent book."
Chapter 1: The Uncommon Menagerie
Chapter 2: The Gift of Isolation
Chapter 3: A Jaguar on the Beach
Chapter 4: The Firebird Suite
Chapter 5: There, in the Elephant Grass
Chapter 6: Scent of an Anteater
Chapter 7: Invasion and Resistance
Chapter 8: Ghosts of Indochina
Chapter 9: Rarity Made Common
About the Author
The Kingdom of Rarities was runner-up in the animals category of the 2013 Green Book Festival Awards.