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Tiger Rescue

by Dan Bortolotti

Firefly launches a great new series with one of the highest-profile animals on the endangered list: the tiger, king of the cats. Flagged as on the way out in the 1970s, the tiger made a comeback in the ’80s before all five subspecies again declined. Today there may be fewer than 150 Siberian tigers and 30 Chinese tigers in the wild. But don’t give up on the tiger yet – as Bortolotti says, no animal capable of killing something four times its size is going to go down without a fight.

Bortolotti, a Toronto journalist who has written for Owl, Equinox and Canadian Geographic, knows how to catch and hold an audience while providing top-quality information. The photos are terrific, with plenty of tiger-eye contact. And in case you thought tigers were cuddly, a closeup of one with a dying deer in its jaws quickly dispels any illusions.

The writing is lively and direct, though it may challenge less accomplished readers. Neither does Bortolotti water down the concepts. In the conservation equation, he sets human concerns like land, livelihood, and the fear of being eaten against the more abstract value of species survival.

Subtitled “Changing the Future for Endangered Wildlife,” Tiger Rescue aims to turn young readers into conservationists, and for this reason, its most important chapter is the one titled “How You Can Help.” We also meet biologists, scientists, and rangers, the Jane Goodalls of the tiger world.

Panda Rescue, a companion title, also by Bortolotti, follows a similar format and is equally good. Bortolotti points out that pandas are unsociable animals who spend almost all their time “eating, sleeping and defecating.” Fortunately for these gentle and threatened creatures, something about them connects powerfully with the human heart.