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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Sy Montgomery, author of Spell of the Tiger and other natural history books, writes both lyrically and with blunt humor about her four expeditions to the Amazon in search of the pink river dolphin. This book combines adventure travel writing with an unvarnished look at the state of the Amazon today and the reality of how conservation efforts play out in a third world country.
The pink river dolphin is of an ancient lineage, far older than its cousin, the more familiar seafaring dolphin. The pink dolphin itself isn't listed as endangered (yet), but many other species and whole ecosystems are. I actually got a brief glimpse of one when I went to the Amazon on a trip sponsored by the Rainforest Alliance. My brief trip wasn't nearly as adventurous as the months Montgomery spent on the Amazon, but this book certainly brought back memories. I especially enjoyed her escapades with her traveling companion Dianne, the proverbial chain-smoking beauty. In between dodging spined trees, biting ants, and assorted other venomous creatures, they get glimpses of the dolphin -- a fluke here, part of a head there -- as they travel up the river. During these travels they meet many local people with tales of the dolphin's magical power to transform themselves into beautiful men or women and lure villagers to the Encante, the dolphins' city under the water. One shaman offers Sy and Dianne the chance to talk to the dolphin spirit by imbibing a brew made from a powerful hallucinogenic plant. Dianne has visions of suitors vying for her love, while Montgomery sees the starship Enterprise (the shaman later explains to her that the dolphin usually carries the local people to the Encante on a canoe but must have provided her a spaceship because she comes from a more technological society). The locals' belief in the powers of the pink dolphin have gone a long way to keeping the animals safe when other species are being overhunted.
The pair also visit scientists researching other species, from caimans to manatees, and get an up-close look at a reserve that is practicing "sustainable development." The idea is that if the local people can use their local resources, they will keep out commercial development. There is a very sad scene about a researcher studying an endangered species of giant turtles who gets locals to bring in specimens for him to examine before they take the turtles home to eat. He so much wants to save one female that he considers buying the turtle from the fisherman who caught her, but he knows that setting a precedent of rich foreigners paying money for turtles would only cause more turtles to be caught.
In the course of her travels Montgomery develops a longing to swim with the pink dolphin. In the end, she and Diane find a clear-water beach where Montgomery swims day after day with a half dozen dolphins. On their last night some locals come down to the beach to perform their dance of the pink dolphin, recounting the time when a stranger came to a ball and enchanted the most beautiful girl of the village. The dolphins swim to the beach and seem to watch the performance.
--Laura Wood, Science & Nature Editor