Seeking the Sacred Raven: Politics and Extinction on a Hawaiian Island

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Overview

Will the 'Alala ever return to the wild? A bird sacred to Hawaiians and a member of the raven family, the 'Alala today survives only in captivity. How the species once flourished, how it has been driven to near-extinction, and how people struggled to save it, is the gripping story of Seeking the Sacred Raven.

For years, author Mark Jerome Walters has tracked the sacred bird's role in Hawaiian culture and the indomitable 'Alala's sad decline. Trekking through Hawaii's rain forests high on Mauna Loa, talking with biologists, landowners, and government officials, he has woven an epic tale of missed opportunities and the best intentions gone awry. A species that once numbered in the thousands is now limited to about 50 captive birds.

Seeking the Sacred Raven is as much about people and culture as it is about failed policies. From the ancient Polynesians who first settled the island, to Captain Cook in the 18th century, to would-be saviors of the 'Alala in the 1990s, individuals with conflicting passions and priorities have shaped Hawaii and the fate of this dwindling cloud-forest species.

Walters captures brilliantly the internecine politics among private landowners, scientists, environmental groups, individuals and government agencies battling over the bird's habitat and protection. It's only one species, only one bird, but Seeking the Sacred Raven illustrates vividly the many dimensions of species loss, for the human as well as non-human world.

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Editorial Reviews

UTNE Reader - Keith Goetzman

"Author Mark Jerome Walters traces the last-ditch efforts to save the wild alala, revealing the turf wars, bungled science, and, crucially, habitat loss that hastened its decline...It's a lesson that may be learned too late for the alala, but perhaps not for other species on the brink of extinction."
Utne Reader
"Author Mark Jerome Walters traces the last-ditch efforts to save the wild alala, revealing the turf wars, bungled science, and, crucially, habitat loss that hastened its decline...It's a lesson that may be learned too late for the alala, but perhaps not for other species on the brink of extinction."
Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. Messenger of Peace - Jane Goodall
"Beautiful prose brings to life a bygone culture and evokes the old magic of the high forests: the story of change is almost unbearably poignant."
author of The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker - Tim Gallagher
"With passion and eloquence, Mark Jerome Walters chronicles the tragic history of a bird the ancient Polynesians revered as a spirit guide, leading souls safely into the afterlife. Sadly, he may be taking on that role for the 'alal ã in this remarkable book."
UTNE Reader

"Author Mark Jerome Walters traces the last-ditch efforts to save the wild alala, revealing the turf wars, bungled science, and, crucially, habitat loss that hastened its decline...It's a lesson that may be learned too late for the alala, but perhaps not for other species on the brink of extinction."

— Keith Goetzman

Publishers Weekly
The `alala, a member of the raven family, is for native Hawaiians a sacred bird, revered as a guardian spirit for the soul on its way to the afterlife. These birds, indigenous to the island of Hawaii, were once plentiful, but disease, predation and loss of habitat have brought them to the brink of extinction. Walters (A Shadow and a Song) offers a devastating chronicle of what happens to attempts to save an endangered species when the interests of landowners, biologists, government agencies and conservation organizations clash: for the `alala, everything ended in heartbreak in 2002, the last time one of these birds was observed in the wild. Now, Walters says, only 50 `alala remain, in captivity, and they may not survive if they are released, for in spite of all the hard work and sacrifice expended on saving them, little has been accomplished, especially regarding the conservation or renewal of their natural habitat. Walters's poignant book is a trenchant reminder of what can happen when politics and self-interest get in the way of preservation. Illus. not seen by PW. (June 29) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559630900
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 6/10/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Trained in veterinary medicine and journalism, Mark Jerome Walters is author of the widely acclaimed books A Shadow and a Song and Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them. A contributing editor of Orion magazine, his work has appeared in Audubon, Reader's Digest, and numerous other publications. Walters is currently a professor of journalism and media studies at the University of South Florida. He lives on Florida's Gulf Coast.

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Table of Contents

1 Mountain of emerald light 13
2 In the beginning 21
3 Captain Cook 27
4 For love of the gods 33
5 Paniolo, Hoku, and Mahoa 41
6 Searching for the 'Alala 44
7 The raven-warrior 53
8 Abundance and loss 60
9 'Umi's children 70
10 Escape to captivity 81
11 Mountain of sorrow 90
12 Barbara Churchill Lee 105
13 The bird catcher 122
14 Scientists to the rescue 127
15 Kapu 140
16 Yahoo! 148
17 Helicopter dreams 158
18 Ali'i neo 164
19 Guardian spirits 173
20 Hope - at last 179
21 A cruel kindness 185
22 Dead ravens flying 193
23 The 'Alala from hell 196
24 Regrets 203
25 Heart of Koa 207
26 Kahuna 'Alala 214
27 Broken home 224
28 Quagmire 238
29 Last light 243
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Fishclaw

    *laughs* well I cant exactly argue. Lets go bak to camp

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    Aurabreeze

    :( I cant see headlines and I know some people with nook colors can and it sucks

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