Act III in Patagonia: People and Wildlife


Patagonia. The name connotes the exotic and a distance that seems nearly mythical. Tucked toward the toe of South America, this largely unsettled landscape is among the most varied and breathtaking in the world-aching in its beauty as it sweeps from the Andes through broad, arid steppes to pristine beaches and down to a famously violent sea. It is also home to a vast array of rare wildlife as diverse and fascinating as the region itself.

Act III in Patagonia is the first book to...

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Act III in Patagonia: People and Wildlife

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Patagonia. The name connotes the exotic and a distance that seems nearly mythical. Tucked toward the toe of South America, this largely unsettled landscape is among the most varied and breathtaking in the world-aching in its beauty as it sweeps from the Andes through broad, arid steppes to pristine beaches and down to a famously violent sea. It is also home to a vast array of rare wildlife as diverse and fascinating as the region itself.

Act III in Patagonia is the first book to take an in-depth look at wildlife and human interaction in this spectacular area of the world. Written by William Conway, former president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the book is unique in its concentration on the long Patagonian shoreline—populated by colorful cormorants, penguins, elephant seals, dolphins, sea lions, and numerous species of whale—and an increasing number of human beings.

Threatened by overfishing, invasive species, artificially abundant predators, and overgrazing, the Southern Cone of Patagonia is now the scene of a little-known conservation drama distinguished by the efforts of a dedicated group of local and foreign scientists determined to save one of the Earth's least-inhabited places. From tracking elephant seals in the Atlantic to following flamingos in the Andes, Act III in Patagonia takes readers to the sites where real-life field science is taking place. It further illuminates the ecology of the region through a history that reaches from the time of the Tehuelche Indians known by Magellan, Drake, and Darwin to the present.

Conway has helped to establish more than a dozen wildlife reserves in South America and is thus able not only to tell Patagonia's history, but to address its future. He brings a wealth of knowledge about Patagonia and its wildlife and responds to the difficult questions of how the interests of humans and wildlife are best balanced. He tells of the exciting collaborations among the Wildlife Conservation Society and its national and provincial partners to develop region-wide programs to save wildlife in steppes, coast, and sea, demonstrating that, with public support, there is hope for this stunning corner of the world. Though singular in their details, the conservation efforts Conway spotlights are a microcosm of what is happening in dozens of sites around the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Director, Missouri Botanical Garden - Peter H. Raven
"In this inspiring book, Bill Conway, who inspired so much cutting-edge work in conservation as president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, introduces us to a lonely region at the very end of the world. The familiarity Conway gained through dozens of expeditions enables him to present a fascinating account of the scattered human inhabitants and teeming wildlife of Patagonia. One cannot read this book without wanting to visit Patagonia and help to preserve its animals and way of life for all to enjoy, creating an Act III that is worthy of our highest aspirations."
nature photographer, author of Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky - Art Wolfe
"Through his descriptive discussion of history past and present, William Conway introduces us to the uniqueness of Patagonia's threatened environs. More importantly, he details an optimistic and achievable approach as to how we may all contribute to efforts to preserve the region's flora and fauna. This book deserves to be read far beyond the confines of the conservation community."
actress and former head of the National Endowment for the Arts - Jane Alexander
"William Conway takes us on a wondrous journey visiting the remarkable creatures which inhabit the varied terrain of land, sea, and sky: the guanaco, the elephant seal, the Magellanic penguin, and the albatross, among many others. Act III in Patagonia is a richly rewarding book with images of staggering beauty and remarkable scenes of encounters with animals. Most of all, it makes the reader long to go there and work to preserve this extraordinary area of our planet Earth."
author of One River and Shadows in the Sun - Wade Davis
"A remarkable book about a remarkable place. William Conway brings to life the ongoing drama of wildlife and humanity in Patagonia. His elegant insights and wealth of knowledge give us an indispensable guide to the region."
President and CEO, Wildlife Conservation Society - Steven Sanderson
"If the library of natural history catalogues the intersection between human insight and the natural world, this volume fits proudly. In a literate, sweeping style, Bill Conway chronicles the struggles of Argentine Patagonia since human arrival. His avatars are the region's spectacular wildlife; the voice is masterful, the tone hopeful. Conway reminds us that we cannot afford a world without wildlife. He also demonstrates the power of a life devoted to conservation."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559635189
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2005
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William Conway is Senior Conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, its former President and General Director, and the former director of the Bronx Zoo. He is the father of the American Zoo Association's Species Survival Plan, and has published widely on the preservation of vanishing species.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: To Patagonia and the Southern Cone
-Counting Elephant Seals on Peninsula Valdés
-Subplots and Stage Directions in Argentina
-A Patagonian Conservationist in the Campo
ACT I - 12,000 years in Patagonia
ACT II - Hunting's High Tide
ACT III - The Road to Conservation
PART I. Steppe and Altiplano
Chapter 1. The Camel and the Sheep
Chapter 2. Mr. Darwin's Ostrich and the Green-Egged Martineta
Chapter 3. A Giant Monogamous Mouse
Chapter 4. The Parrot Metropolis of Rio Negro
Chapter 5. The Tortoise and the Bus Driver
Chapter 6. The Condor, the Puma, the Fox, and the Aliens
Chapter 7. The Altiplano and the Flamingos
Chapter 8. A Once and Future Patagonian Steppe
PART II. Coastal Chronicles
Chapter 1. The Doctor and the Sea Lions
Chapter 2. Incredibly Deep-Diving Super Seal
Chapter 3. Adventures of a Billion Dollar Bird
Chapter 4. Penguin Lives and Principles
Chapter 5. The Critical Colony
Chapter 6. Plans for Coast and Sea
PART III. Sea and Sky
Chapter 1. The Toothfish, the Hake, and the Squid
Chapter 2. Orcas, Right Whales, and Economics
Chapter 3. Report from a Sea and Sky Outpost 283
The Scene Ahead
Suggested Reading

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