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The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth's Rarest Creatures (2015)

af William DeBuys

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764282,848 (4.44)2
"In 1992, in a remote mountain range, a team of scientists discovered the remains of an unusual animal with beautiful long horns. It turned out to be a living species new to western science -- a saola, the first large land mammal discovered in 50 years. Rare then and rarer now, no westerner had glimpsed a live saola before Pulitzer Prize finalist and nature writer William deBuys and conservation biologist William Robichaud set off to search for it in the wilds of central Laos. The team endured a punishing trek, up and down whitewater rivers and through mountainous terrain ribboned with the snare lines of armed poachers. In the tradition of Bruce Chatwin, Colin Thubron, and Peter Matthiessen, THE LAST UNICORN is deBuys's look deep into one of the world's most remote places. As in the pursuit of the unicorn, the journey ultimately becomes a quest for the essence of wildness in nature, and an encounter with beauty"--… (mere)
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I started running into deBuys name only lately. That is strange since his work is close to the kind we are looking for at Torrey House.

In THE LAST UNICORN I was most impressed by the author. I was impressed by how tough, smart, patient, open minded, and did I mention tough, that deBuys is. He was trekking trail-less terrain in the jungles of Laos with men who were a fraction of his age. Like me he is a sweaty guy and would find himself soaked through while those around him were not breaking a sweat. The jungle he writes about so closely is a harsh, difficult place. It is clear he kept up and that he never complained. And that he had his notebook at the ready all the time (there is a terrific addendum where he speaks about how he gathers material, right down to the brand of pen, notebook and camera he uses).

In spite of his affection for the people and place, he did not make me want to go there. The side tale at the end of a red ant attaching itself to his companion's retina is enough alone to make me stay committed to armchair travel. It is painful to read of the lost cause of conservation in one of the last places on earth sporting rich ecological diversity. deBuys is sensitive and attentive to his surroundings, but like he says an open heart is a vulnerable one. "The diminishment of the planet, on the other hand, is a new thing, and it is our thing. Whether by snare, bullet, chain saw, or pollution, whether because of carbon-induced alteration of the climate, ocean trawling, upset of the nitrogen cycle, or any of a thousand other unnatural shocks, we relentlessly diminish the vigor of the evolutionary epoch that broght our speciies, Homo sapiens, into being."

Reading UNICORN does not make me want to go to Laos, but it does make me want to meet deBuys and hear more of his view of the world. ( )
  Mark-Bailey | Jul 1, 2017 |
I started running into deBuys name only lately. That is strange since his work is close to the kind we are looking for at Torrey House.

In THE LAST UNICORN I was most impressed by the author. I was impressed by how tough, smart, patient, open minded, and did I mention tough, that deBuys is. He was trekking trail-less terrain in the jungles of Laos with men who were a fraction of his age. Like me he is a sweaty guy and would find himself soaked through while those around him were not breaking a sweat. The jungle he writes about so closely is a harsh, difficult place. It is clear he kept up and that he never complained. And that he had his notebook at the ready all the time (there is a terrific addendum where he speaks about how he gathers material, right down to the brand of pen, notebook and camera he uses).

In spite of his affection for the people and place, he did not make me want to go there. The side tale at the end of a red ant attaching itself to his companion's retina is enough alone to make me stay committed to armchair travel. It is painful to read of the lost cause of conservation in one of the last places on earth sporting rich ecological diversity. deBuys is sensitive and attentive to his surroundings, but like he says an open heart is a vulnerable one. "The diminishment of the planet, on the other hand, is a new thing, and it is our thing. Whether by snare, bullet, chain saw, or pollution, whether because of carbon-induced alteration of the climate, ocean trawling, upset of the nitrogen cycle, or any of a thousand other unnatural shocks, we relentlessly diminish the vigor of the evolutionary epoch that broght our speciies, Homo sapiens, into being."

Reading UNICORN does not make me want to go to Laos, but it does make me want to meet deBuys and hear more of his view of the world. ( )
  torreyhouse | Jul 1, 2017 |
The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures
By William DeBuys
Little, Brown & Co, U.S.; 2015

In our current age on planet earth, we are more likely to declare an animal extinct than to discover a new creature. Yet, in 1992, photos of wall trophies in the wilds of Laos, hinted at a new species - the Saola. With long, slightly curved horns, the saola is a rare large, currently living mammal.
William Robichaud, a conservation biologist, and William DeBuys, a nature writer join forces to search the wilderness of Laos for this rare, mysterious creature. Because only by finding a living saola and proving its’ existence can mankind even begin to save this newly discovered species from extinction.
What a delightful book to read! With fabulous descriptions of the land, its’ people, culture, and its’ animals, “The Last Unicorn” takes us - where very few of us will ever go.

I received this book for free to review. I am a member of GoodReads, LibraryThing, NetGalley and maintain a book blog at http://dbettenson.wordpress.com . ( )
  DBettenson | Jul 6, 2015 |
When I first saw this title I didn't give it much attention as it sounded like a gimmick, "The Last Unicorn" is cliche, like a kids fantasy book. However I looked into it further and found many good reviews so gave it a shot. Turns out to be a solid work of travel literature and conservation. The central character is one of the world's rarest big mammals which lives along the Vietnam/Laos border. It was only recently discovered, I remember the news from the early 90s because it seemed odd that a large mammal was discovered in Vietnam where so much fighting had occurred - this is the "rest of the story".

DeBuys is an American in his 60s, late career with numerous books and awards behind him, and writes with a literary flair that is characteristic of nature writing classics, with metaphors and big picture thinking, personal lives intermingled. He travels with another American scientist and a group of Laotian porters into one of the remotest areas of Indochina in search of the elusive "saola". We learn of the geography of the region, its flora and fauna, history and people, modernization's good and evils. This is a book about Laos and the saola but also the destruction of the world as it once existed, now poorer for the sake of a short term drunken binge. It is human nature to consume but when combined with the power of technology and 7 billion people it has lasting consequences. ( )
1 stem Stbalbach | Jun 24, 2015 |
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"In 1992, in a remote mountain range, a team of scientists discovered the remains of an unusual animal with beautiful long horns. It turned out to be a living species new to western science -- a saola, the first large land mammal discovered in 50 years. Rare then and rarer now, no westerner had glimpsed a live saola before Pulitzer Prize finalist and nature writer William deBuys and conservation biologist William Robichaud set off to search for it in the wilds of central Laos. The team endured a punishing trek, up and down whitewater rivers and through mountainous terrain ribboned with the snare lines of armed poachers. In the tradition of Bruce Chatwin, Colin Thubron, and Peter Matthiessen, THE LAST UNICORN is deBuys's look deep into one of the world's most remote places. As in the pursuit of the unicorn, the journey ultimately becomes a quest for the essence of wildness in nature, and an encounter with beauty"--

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