The Barnes & Noble Review
In recounting this eco-odyssey through Southeast Asia, Sy Montgomery combines a poet's keen eye for observation with the intrepid spirit of a Victorian-era explorer. She travels through Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand with an affable biology professor and an array of local officials, guides, and interpreters, joining a search for "what could be the first new bear species to be reported in over a century." Sightings and rumors from isolated border regions had spoken of a blond bear, which might represent an addition to the planet's eight known species -- or an exotic variation on a more familiar theme. Braving rickety airplanes, army ants, and mystery illnesses, Montgomery journeys through a region of tremendous beauty that is under severe strain from human activities.
Disquisitions on the mythical manifestations of bears; the disturbing surge in international wildlife trafficking; and the customs of Thai hill tribes add flavor and context to the story. And while Montgomery is disturbed by certain practices -- like the amputation of bear paws for the cookpot -- she tries to place them within the context of differing cultural beliefs. Her wise, witty, and humane account is equally concerned with people, and their responses to the landscapes and creatures around them. And while there are plenty of books about searching for vanishing or unknown species in the world's last wild places, the quality of Montgomery's writing sets this one apart. Jonathan Cook
There is something heartbreaking and life-changing about the stories Montgomery tells, something so passionate and questing that it is impossible not to take notice. In her newest volume, Montgomery sets out for the steaming cities and rain forests of Southeast Asia in search of answers about the elusive golden moon bear. It's an animal about which science knows littlean animal whose DNA could shed light on the planet's mysterious past and whose lovely visage could become the rallying cry for conservationists racing against time to safeguard so many withering species. With an evolutionary biologist at her side, Montgomery travels through marketplaces and jungles, and fearlessly faces down the bands of renegade poachers and other opportunists who carelessly trade on rapidly disappearing wildlife. This is a beautiful and important bookexhaustively researched, persuasively presented, poetic and vital.
Though this eye-opening book starts out as a chronicle of a scientist's search for the elusive golden moon bears of Southeast Asia, it quickly turns into a spiritual, cultural and ecological study of two Third World nations ravaged by war and greed. Laos has the distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the world, and Cambodia the most heavily mined (one in 236 Cambodians is an amputee, the author notes), but that doesn't keep Boston Globe journalist Montgomery (Journey of the Pink Dolphins) from accompanying Gary J. Galbreath, professor of evolutionary biology at Northwestern University, as they embark on an expedition to determine whether the golden moon bear is a new species or just a rare "color phase." While traveling from site to site searching for bears and plucking out their hairs (to use in DNA analysis), the two encounter a number of perils including monstrous leeches, inch-long ants and machine-gun-armed bandits as well as a handful of extraordinary people who are trying to preserve what is left of Asia's wildlife and forests. Sadly, all of the bears Montgomery and Galbreath find are either in sanctuaries, caged in zoos, or held in restaurants, destined for the chopping block. Montgomery vividly recounts her sometimes humorous, sometimes horrifying experiences with a reporter's keen eye, a conservationist's outrage and a poet's lyricism ("...the precise triangulated leaves of bamboo, the graceful tracery of vines, the embrace of living wood and breathing leaves soothed our souls"). Readers who aren't conservationists to begin with will be by the end of this heady and haunting narrative. (Oct. 3) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Montgomery first enchanted readers with her search for the pink dolphin in the Amazon (Journey of the Pink Dolphin). She does the same in this tale of her journeys in Southeast Asia in pursuit of the Golden Moon Bear. Is this creature a color phase of the darker moon bear or the thrilling discovery of a new species? Making science exciting is Montgomery's talent, and she is in top form here, taking readers with her as she travels with bear expert Gary J. Galbreath and explores various cultures, histories, customs, and people. Despite her discoveries, Montgomery experiences soul-shaking sorrow. In Asia, bears are farmed for bile and horrifically tortured before select parts are consumed in restaurants. Yet hope exists in the form of honest young officials taking over from previous corrupt administrations and in local and international efforts to provide animal sanctuaries and hospitals. For the science, for the understanding, for the feeling that you were there, too, this book is highly recommended.-Nancy Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Nature writer Montgomery (Encantado: Pink Dolphin of the Amazon, 2002, etc.) leads us on an evocative journey to difficult places, following the trail of a mystery creature.
Long unseen, little-known, scientifically unrecorded species have a habit of turning up in village markets throughout the ancient rainforests of Southeast Asia, often on the way to becoming meat or elixir. So it was with a moon bear that Montgomery, in the company of zoologist Gary Galbreath, found in one small Cambodian town, providing evidence that at least one member of what Rudyard Kipling called "the most bizarre of the ursine species" had survived bombing, landmines, and clear-cutting. But, Galbreath revealed, a more bizarre species lurked somewhere out in the Annamite highlands of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, which the eminent zoologist George Schaller once characterized as "a living lost world" and a lode for unknown species: a golden moon bear, visibly different from the moon- and sun-bears of Southeast Asia, an unknown link in the ursine evolutionary chain. Their quest to document this creature on the ground forms the narrative frame of this account, which takes in great patches of unknown territory and affords a sobering, sidelong view of lands still ravaged by war. That tale is well paced and full of surprises, though some of Montgomery’s prose is overly lush, bordering on eco-porn ("Perhaps this is the pace the bear lives by—an ancient pace, graceful and considered, like the way her long tongue emerges from her mouth. . . . Like a separate, private creature, the pink ribbon slides from between her black lips, taking five full seconds to extrude its full length, stretching seven inches longer than hermuzzle"). Despite occasional excesses, however, her story does the job—and, in the bargain, offers well-considered remarks on the difficulties of establishing animal- and habitat-conservation programs in impoverished countries where aboriginal people are disappearing as quickly as any other species.
A treat for fans of the crocodile-hunting, snow leopard–searching, wolves-and-men genre, and a solid addition to it.
"Read this fascinating, important book about one of the world's least-studied and most mysterious bears. Sy Montgomery is the master of sharing the thrill of scientific discovery and humor along the way. You'll be right there with her. Search for the Golden Moon Bearis a pleasurelike finding a patch of ripe blueberries."Dr. Lynn Rogers, Director, North American Bear Center
Montgomery first enchanted readers with her search for the pink dolphin in the Amazon (Journey of the Pink Dolphin). She does the same in this tale of her journeys in Southeast Asia in pursuit of the Golden Moon Bear. Is this creature a color phase of the darker moon bear or the thrilling discovery of a new species? Making science exciting is Montgomery's talent, and she is in top form here, taking readers with her as she travels with bear expert Gary J. Galbreath and explores various cultures, histories, customs, and people. Despite her discoveries, Montgomery experiences soul-shaking sorrow. In Asia, bears are farmed for bile and horrifically tortured before select parts are consumed in restaurants. Yet hope exists in the form of honest young officials taking over from previous corrupt administrations and in local and international efforts to provide animal sanctuaries and hospitals. For the science, for the understanding, for the feeling that you were there, too, this book is highly recommended.