Bringing Back the American Alligator
Bringing Back the American Alligator
Before the mid-1900s, thousands of crocodilian gharials (illustrated) lived in rivers in South Asia, but their numbers fell dramatically due to overhunting. In the early 1970s, conservation efforts began in sanctuaries and breeding centers. Even so, the number of wild gharials fell to fewer than 200 by 2006. The Gharial Conservation Alliance (GCA) is based in India. It works to protect the gharial’s habitat. The loss of habitat remains a problem for crocodilians around the world. Today, the IUCN lists the gharial as Critically Endangered.
The “Animals Back from the Brink” series looks at life sciences from the perspective of endangered species and the work being done to preserve their habitats and aid in recovery. In each book, the information is presented well, divided up into two-page spreads with revealing photographs and details divided up into several sidebars with important facts and related topics. The species selected are a fine variety of animals that have some sort of appeal to readers of any age. The cover photographs emphasize this appeal, and the graph diagram at the bottom visually indicates that this will be a scientific presentation of information.
The topics are very similar between the books in the series although the titles vary somewhat. The first section presents basic facts about the species followed by the risks to both the species and the environment. Then there are sections about plans and actions for the recovery of both the animals and the habitat. This is followed by a look at the future and at related species especially those in other areas of the world. Finally, there are pages on what you can do to aid in the endeavor to save animal.
As with other nonfiction works, there are lists of books and online materials for leaning more, a glossary of terms used throughout the book and an index. The suggested books include both similar works aimed at young children and weightier works of one hundred pages or more. The websites are the same; some have activities and summaries while others are conservation sites for adults or are university sites with information about the species. These references are a good combination of materials to meet the needs of any reader and works to extend their knowledge and take them into more detailed expertise. Further resources are available online for both students and teachers (although some of these are not ready yet) using the books in this series.
The alligator is a frightening presence even today in Florida in large part because of the efforts to conserve the species. They grow to be huge and remain mostly under water much of the time. In the Everglades, you can see them out of the water sunning themselves. They are so impressive! This is obvious in O’Brien’s Bringing Back the American Alligator that starts with a head-on picture on the cover and continues throughout the book. The reasons for the decline of alligator numbers are covered well and then the actions taken to increase their numbers are detailed, including both conservation and farming the animals and improving the habitat. Although alligators mostly live in areas that are not of interest to people, there has been a dramatic increase in the draining of wetlands, an action that is forcing alligators into closer contact with humans throughout their current range and the areas into which they will need to spread if the species is to survive. Bringing Back the American Alligator provides a good representation of the many factors involved in saving the alligator.
Each of these books and the animals chosen is appealing in its own way. If there is one constant, it is that the animals are all large – giant pandas and alligators, huge whales and grizzly bears, large wolves and whooping cranes as tall as people. This approach seems planned to attract young people and also seems a successful strategy, a good way to attract readers of many ages. There are several areas where the focus is on American species and habitats, and it would have been nice if there were more Canadian and worldwide content.
The content of the “Animals Back From the Brink” series contains exactly the kind of approach we want children to embrace as they grow into their future roles in society. Even though the books will fit perfectly into school curricula, they are also simply good read-for-fun books. At least one would be a great addition to a personal library, and all would fit comfortably into a school library.
Willow Moonbeam is a librarian living in Toronto, Ontario, with almost enough yarn and books to keep her going.