Science and Adventure in Pursuit of a New Species
by Sy Montgomery
This interesting book is about a writer and a scientist's quest to unravel the puzzle of a golden bear in Southeast Asia. Was this unfamiliar bear a new species, or merely a color variation of the Asian black bear, otherwise known as the moon bear? The author and her companion Dr. Gary Galbreath traveled through Cambodia, Laos and Thailand in search of bears and local people who could share information about them. There they found that the bears were seriously endangered by habitat loss and poaching, and heard stories of yet another possibly unknown bear species in remote mountains. From things simple as asking a Hmong refugee living next next door what he knew of bears, to the technicalities of extracting DNA from bear hair, the story encompasses every aspect of their search for answers. It ranges from feeling like a travelouge, to describing bear behavior, to explaining the scientific methods of their study. It's about bear genetics, evolutionary history, and distribution; about the presence of the bear in local folklore and, sadly, diet and medicine. The bears are not the only animal to get mention here. There is the mysterious Khting vor, known only by its twisted horns. There are dogs rescued off the streets where they would face abuse, or end up in someone's stew pot. There are elephants suffering from injuries sustained by stepping on land mines. There is a plethora of wildlife whose names are strange to me, and I had to look them up: kouprey, binturong, hog badger, markhor, etc. Search for the Golden Moon Bear is a book with many facets. While the bear is a dominant thread, there is also so much about the history and culture of various Southeast Asian countries that sometimes I felt lost. And so much of it made me feel upset, not only for the plight of moon bears, but also for the ravages of war and commerce on those countries.
Rating: 3/5 ......... 324 pages, 2002
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