No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species - I'm going to start off my first real review for this site with a short story.

My mom and I were at the Toronto Zoo the other day, and in their "Caves and Burrows of Africa" house, there's a sign above a fish tank proclaiming "EXTINCTION IS FOREVER". Upon seeing this, a woman said "They don't have to be so dramatic about it."


Extinction is forever. End of. We might be getting close to resurrecting long gone species like, the mammoth, or closer deaths, like the Tasmanian Tiger, but, what are we going to do with them? We can't put them back in the wild, so they'd pretty much be novelties. Richard Ellis's book documents a variety of extinction events, and non-events. He begins with a description of what extinction is. Sort of. As you'll learn, it's kind of a loose term, and no one quite agrees on it. From there, we go on a tour of the major extinctions, the dinosaurs, the Pleistocene extinctions (That's the one with the mammoths and sabre-tooths and all the other "ice age" animals), etc. Then we get into the big point and cause of all of the rest, and probably the Pleistocene one too, and that is our good friend, enemy and lover, Homo sapiens sapiens. If there was a thesis for the latter half of this book, it would be just 4 words: "It's all our fault." This book can be rather depressing in that aspect, pointing the finger squarely at ourselves as read about species, gone from the Earth, never to be seen again from our own greed, reckless abandon, and stupidity. It's not all glum though, as he recounts the stories of animals we've saved. I truly believe humans are generally good, because even though we have the greatest ability to screw up ever developed, we also have the ability to fix things.

Richard Ellis's style is quite easy to read, and informal. He doesn't throw around big words for the sake of "I'm so smart and better at everything>", and this book is quite accessible to those who have no background in biology or extinctions or animals. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject, as Ellis provides an excellent jumping off point, with plenty of resources and books mentioned throughout.

I'll end with another story, this one kind of depressing. One of the species mentioned in this book, published in 2004, is the baiji, or Chinese River Dolphin. The baiji has not been seen in sometime, and is widely considered extinct, or that the few animals left could never re-breed enough to save them. We were too late to save the Chinese River Dolphin. We don't have to let any more slip through to the other side, and we can do something. I don't know what, but something.