Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
L/rain
49°
L/rain
Hi 53° | Lo 43°

Book Bag

GOLD RUSH IN THE JUNGLE: THE RACE TO DISCOVER AND DEFEND THE RAREST ANIMALS OF VIETNAM’S “LOST WORLD”

By Dan Drollette Jr.

Crown Publishers

www.dandrollette.com

Think “Vietnam” and the first image likely to come to mind is the Vietnam War, with all the horror that name conjures. But science writer Dan Drollette Jr. says Vietnam today has become a nerve center of sorts for wildlife biologists who are entranced by the discovery in the past decade of numerous mammals never cataloged by western scientists.

“Gold Rush in the Jungle,” the first book by Drollette, a native of Whately, also examines the darker side of this surge to Vietnam, as poachers, trophy hunters and other unsavory characters set their sights on the country’s exotic animals such as the civet, an odd-looking wildcat with an anal gland that secretes a chemical highly valuable to the perfume industry.

Drollette, who now lives in Northampton, made several trips to Vietnam beginning in 1998, and his book makes for entertaining first-person accounts from his travels and interesting interviews with a range of people — conservationists, biologists, former POWs and Viet Cong and others — who have a stake in modern-day Vietnam. Scientists are trying desperately to catalog rare animals and to preserve them, even as poachers are trying to finish them off.

All this takes place against a backdrop of the war’s legacy, in wild countryside still strewn with unexploded mines and bombs and the residue of chemical defoliants like Agent Orange. And in thick jungles beset with monsoons, swarming insects and diseases like malaria, the hunt for animals can be a real danger.

Yet it’s a hunt many Westerners are willing to make, Drollette writes, given that in an era when it’s “big news to discover a new kind of ‘tube worm,’ the thought of finding and naming a new, large terrestrial mammal is just short of mind-blowing.” And from large soft-shell turtles, to the Giant muntjac (a deer-like mammal that barks), to the tree-climbing Raccoon dog, Vietnam has exotic species to spare.

It’s hard to predict how the race to preserve these species will go, Drollette writes. But it’s a compelling story either way, says Nature magazine: “Drollette ... reveals the courage and ingenuity of researchers intent on preserving what wildlife they can ... his snapshots of these wildlife warriors — such as langur specialist Tilo Nader — reveal approaches that could show the way for conservationists in other tight spots.”

Drollette will read from “Gold Rush in the Jungle” Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley. The event requires purchase of the book or a $5 ticket. He will also do a reading Wednesday and show slides at 7 p.m. in Forbes Library in Northampton, at which Vietnamese appetizers will be served.

IMAGES OF AMERICA: FLORENCE

By Jason A, Clark and Craig P. Della Penna

Arcadia Publishing

www.arcadiapublishing.com

The Florence Civic and Business Association is celebrating 10 years of stepped-up activity and renewed community traditions with the release of this photographic history of the town. The black-and-white images, culled from sources such as Forbes Library, Historic Northampton and private collections, offer a rich and broad portrait of Florence dating back to the 1870s.

The photos — and some reproduced historic postcards — are grouped around landmarks in town, from Main Street to the Mill River to iconic buildings, and they also include aerial views of the town. There are also memorable shots of popular community events, from long-passed parades to ice-skating sessions to a toboggan run once put together at the intersection of Beacon and South Main streets.

“Images of America: Florence,” produced by civic association members Jason A. Clark and Craig P. Della Penna, will be presented Thursday from 5-8 p.m. at a book signing and open house at the Florence Civic Center.

ANOTHER LANGUAGE: PORTRAITS OF ASSISTANCE DOGS AND THEIR PEOPLE

By Jeanne Braham

Photos by Robert Floyd

Bauhan Publishing

Sunderland author Jeanne Braham, who has written about poets and a small-town’s response to the AIDS epidemic, offers a different kind of portrait in “Another Language.” The subject here is the often-remarkable bonds that develop between service dogs and the people the dogs are trained to assist, as well as the trainers of the animals.

In lengthy profiles done in a basic Q & A format, Braham interviews a range of people — injured combat veterans, dog trainers and breeders, men and women in wheelchairs — who work with or benefit from service dogs, which are trained to help people with a numerous tasks, from picking up shoes and other items to alerting them that a phone is ringing.

There’s Heidi Martin-Coleman of Easthampton, for example, who struggles with mitochondrial disease, which impairs sight and hearing and can produce muscle weakness and shortness of breath, among other symptoms. With her service dog, Mercury, a black Labrador, she’s become much more confident and optimistic in recent years: “Each day our bond grew stronger. His trust in me encouraged me to trust myself.”

Braham, who has taught at Smith and Hampshire colleges, comes to the book with some personal interest. Her father had hoped to raise seeing-eye dogs after his retirement — a heart attack cut that dream short — and Braham also cared for her older sister for several years after she developed ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She also helped care for her aged mother, who lived to 101.

“The challenges of the disabled became a real part of my daily life,” she writes, “and yet I realized that I, like many others, had little awareness and even less information about the support and services assistance dogs can provide.”

“Another Language” doesn’t just tell these stories with words — it’s richly illustrated with color images of dogs and their owners and trainers taken by Southampton photographer Robert Floyd. For dog lovers, many of those images, like the one of Susan Goodwin and the labradoodles she raises, might be worth the book’s purchase alone.with a range of people — conservationists, biologists, former POWs and Viet Cong and others — who have a stake in modern-day Vietnam. Scientists are trying desperately to catalog rare animals and to preserve them, even as poachers are trying to finish them off.

All this takes place against a backdrop of the war’s legacy, in wild countryside still strewn with unexploded mines and bombs and the residue of chemical defoliants like Agent Orange. And in thick jungles beset with monsoons, swarming insects and diseases like malaria, the hunt for animals can be a real danger.

Yet it’s a hunt many Westerners are willing to make, Drollette writes, given that in an era when it’s “big news to discover a new kind of ‘tube worm,’ the thought of finding and naming a new, large terrestrial mammal is just short of mind-blowing.” And from large soft-shell turtles, to the Giant muntjac (a deer-like mammal that barks), to the tree-climbing Raccoon dog, Vietnam has exotic species to spare.

It’s hard to predict how the race to preserve these species will go, Drollette writes. But it’s a compelling story either way, says Nature magazine: “Drollette ... reveals the courage and ingenuity of researchers intent on preserving what wildlife they can ... his snapshots of these wildlife warriors — such as langur specialist Tilo Nader — reveal approaches that could show the way for conservationists in other tight spots.”

Drollette will read from “Gold Rush in the Jungle” Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley. The event requires purchase of the book or a $5 ticket. He will also do a reading Wednesday and show slides at 8 p.m. in Forbes Library in Northampton, at which Vietnamese appetizers will be served.

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.