Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams, by Mark Carwardine & Stephen Fry

Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams by Mark Carwardine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You might wipe your eyes and wonder “Haven’t I seen this title before?”; and, yes, you might have because this is a follow-up on the original book “Last Chance to See” by the late-and-yet-immortalised Douglas (Noël) Adams (DNA) and Mark Carwardine.

I love the first book as it is testament to DNA’s manyfold interests and his engagement in several fields. Not to mention his trademark humour.
This time around, Mark Carwardine, British zoologist and conservationist, is joined on a series of trips by Stephen Fry who is a worthy successor for Adams albeit not quite as funny.

As in the original, the authors have done a marvellous job of blending witty humour with profound insights into the world of endangered species. Carwardine’s expertise as a zoologist and conservationist, in conjunction with Fry’s linguistic prowess, creates an enchanting and deeply engaging narrative throughout the book. The duo retraces the steps of the original journey undertaken by Adams and Carwardine about 20 years earlier (around 1990), lending the book an air of nostalgia that is both heart-warming and tantalising.

What struck me most about this book was how the authors managed to maintain the essence of Adams’ classic while infusing it with their own unique perspectives. The book is replete with vivid descriptions of the many endangered species they encounter, as well as the oftentimes precarious situations the authors find themselves in. I found myself chuckling at many (but not all) their humorous anecdotes and, at the same time, feeling a sense of responsibility towards the fragile ecosystems they describe.

In addition and to its great benefit, the book is peppered with captivating photographs that brilliantly capture the essence of the species and habitats discussed – and sometimes of the authors themselves. Especially a series of portrait shots of “The many moods of Amazon adventurer and explorer Stephen Fry” was highly amusing.

A very memorable part for me was about the Yangtze River dolphin: The last known specimen of its kind died in 2002. In less than two decades, during the prime of responsibility of my own generation, while we, the world, were well aware of their looming extinction, we eradicated an entire species of highly intelligent animals. And many other species, including the first book’s Northern white rhino, are gone as well.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Carwardine and Fry also share stories of hope and resilience, showcasing the tireless work of conservationists around the world. Through their storytelling, they inspire readers to take an active role in preservation efforts, urging us all to become stewards of the environment.

All in all, this book is a fitting tribute to the original work and a splendidly engaging read in its own right. Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry have woven a tapestry of wit, wisdom, and wonder that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It doesn’t quite reach its predecessor’s genius but is still a great read.

Four out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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