Watching, from the Edge of Extinction


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

Beverly Peterson Stearns and Stephen C. Stearns

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $52.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

Out of Print

To those struggling on the frontlines to save endangered plants and animals, the crucial challenge is to confront the biological causes of those species’ decline. But just as threatening to their survival are obstacles erected by human politics, greed, corruption, folly, and hypocrisy. In this mesmerizing book, Beverly and Stephen Stearns tell the stories of people who have worked directly with disappearing species in Europe, Africa, North America, and Oceania. They are stories of passion and commitment, of competence and selflessness. They are also stories that alarm, for even as unheralded heroes are working to reverse what often seems to be a species’ inevitable march toward extinction, incompetent or self-interested parties are often working against them.

The authors interviewed people who work with endangered species as diverse as Mediterranean monk seals, large blue butterflies, African wild dogs, native Hawaiian crows, Texas salamanders, and rare plants on Mauritius. These dedicated individuals, in discussing how they view their work, the problems they encounter, and their thoughts on the broader significance of extinction, reveal that the causes of extinction are unique to each species—sometimes subtle and complex, at other times obvious and simple. Yet an extinction always represents an irretrievable loss of evolutionary potential and a diminishing of the beauty, diversity, and value in our own lives. The dramatic lessons of this book shed new light on the problems of endangered species and offer hope that we may yet change the fate of those species that totter on the edge of extinction.

Beverly Peterson Stearns is a freelance writer and journalist. Stephen C. Stearns is professor of zoology at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

A selection of the Natural Science Book Club

"A fascinating, compelling, sometimes discouraging, sometimes inspiring, portrayal of the state of wildlife conservation."—Hilary Simons Morland




“Engaging. . . . Can serve as an introduction to the individuals who work with endangered species.”—Brian Westra, Library Journal

"A perfect course companion. Shows the people and places where conservation biology is being put into action."—Richard B. Primack, Biology Department, Boston University


"This book is the perfect companion for a conservation biology course. Students can see the commitment, excitement and frustration of trying to save species."—Richard B. Primack, Biology Department, Boston University

"Beautifully written and lovingly illustrated, this powerful report on endangered species—and on the efforts of conservationists, scientists and activists to save them—personalizes the ongoing saga of mass extinctions of animals and plants around the globe. . . . This important, often shocking report shows that loss of the planet's biodiversity—exemplified by the collapse of entire ecosystems—ultimately affects everyone."—Publishers Weekly

"Intelligently affecting stories reduced to rarity, what leads to their predicament, and the people and ideas working to ward off extinction. . . . This survey of representative extinction dramas makes one thing clear; the fate of endangered species is not sealed."—Kirkus Reviews



"Very justifiably, there are an increasing number of books which tell us of the many threats—habitat loss, overexploitation, alien introductions, and others—which are moving us toward a sixth great wave of extinction in the history of life of earth. The Stearns' book is unusual in its ambitious, but successful, aim of weaving together the underlying ecological science with an engaging richness of anecdotal detail. This is an excellent and important book, and one of the very best in a crowded field.”—Robert M. May, Professor of Zoology, Oxford University, and Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government 

"The Stearns offer about a dozen case stories of endangered species, tales of the social forces that have driven them to the edge of extinction, and the scientists and environmentalists who fight to keep them alive and reproducing. It’s a fascinating collection and a physically attractive one, too."—James William Gibson, Washington Post Book World

“Combining a highly readable narrative form with a gripping subject, Watching, From the Edge of Extinction by Beverly Peterson Stearns and Stephen C. Stearns in an absorbing book in the honorable tradition of Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See. Do you care that Hawaii has only nine native crows left in the wild? You will after reading their story here. Traveling around the world, the authors look at such cliffhangers as the African wild dog, the Barton Springs salamander and the Mediterranean monk seal.”—E, The Environmental Magazine


“A story of passion, conflict, greed and ignorance. . . . This book is essential reading for ecologists, conservation biologist, and wildlife biologists, who may be shocked to learn that some of their respected colleagues have either unwittingly, or selfishly, placed the species they study at risk. . . . , Watching, From the Edge of Extinction is . . . an excellent book. I highly recommended it to all ecologists, and to those interested in endangered species. It would make a fine supplementary text for introductory biology courses and for upper-level conservation biology courses, where it can be used in conjunction with the primary sources listed in the extensive bibliography.”—John H. Graham, Ecology

“Beverly and Stephen Stearns are passionate, opinionated spectators of current dramas with grittier, personal tales of heroes, heroines, and villains. No ecologist should enter the grubby worlds of courtroom and politician’s office without their book. . . . Watching from the Edge of Extinction is a compelling account of taking ecology out of its ivory tower that no ecologist should miss.”—Stuart Pimm, BioScience

Winner of a 2000 Clarion Award given by the Association for Women in Communications
ISBN: 9780300076066
Publication Date: March 11, 1999
288 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
16 b/w illus.