Elizabeth Webb is a writer living in New Mexico, not far from the where the Borderlands jaguars roam. She's spent much of her adult life exploring and photographing the plants and animals of the Desert Southwest. This is her first book for young people.
American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human
Borders by Elizabeth Webb Gazing in the eyes of the beautiful
jaguar on the cover pulls you in to the life, and sad plight, of
this fantastic creature. Jaguars have for centuries been in a
tug-of-war for land with humans. When people claim land originally
part of the animal's original territory, the jaguar loses. This
book is a reminder of the need for all animals, and the necessity,
for conservation. In addition to the jaguar, the author speaks of
other animals that have reached the point of near endangerment or
extinction, and how they could possibly come back. She also defines
the various types of what she refers to as conservation connection:
Distribution, Connectivity, Carrying capacity, and other ways a
species exists in its territory. Plus, the history of the cat
family tree is described, and their varied diversity. She also
explains the reason a lion roars, while your kitten purrs, and why
jaguars were so culturally significant that they appear in
Mesopotamian artifacts. Although this is written as a warning that
this beautiful animal could potentially become endangered, if not
extinct, as per the dodo bird, it is also a very well-written book
on the concept of conservation as a whole, and it is a story of
hope. Utilizing the jaguar, and other animals, the book explains
the work being done to keep many animals', and especially the
jaguar's, territory open, and away from humans. After reading this,
the reader will be mesmerized by the plight of animals such as the
jaguar, and will surely want to be a part of the solution.
Reviewer Rating: 5 -Children's Literature
Using the jaguar as its touchstone, this thorough,
well-organized book explores the challenges wildlife face in
today's world of human-created habitat fragmentation.
The book begins with the fascinating fact that there are indeed jaguars living in the United States--specifically the Sky Islands, high mountain ranges separated by desert in Arizona and New Mexico. But the jaguars are in trouble: Their need for vast areas of pristine habitat is threatened by human behavior. Deforestation, physical boundaries between nations, and highways, among other factors, compromise their ability to roam with the freedom they need to survive. The main story is bolstered with fascinating adjuncts--the evolution of big cats, the beginning of the conservation movement, the intricacies of DNA, and the dangers of a closed gene pool, for example. As the narrative progresses, other threatened species and their habitats are introduced (e.g., orangutans in Borneo, monarch butterflies' migration paths, and amphibians and vernal pools). A few conservation success stories are sprinkled in, but the uncertain fates of many of Earth's wild creatures are presented realistically and not sugarcoated. The book does end with hope, encouraging readers to become conservation activists and offering a list of actions to take, an extensive bibliography, and other sources of information. Latinx scientists are featured as well as White. Illustrated with full-color photos, this book will educate and motivate readers.
A powerful call to protect our Earth and its vulnerable creatures.--starred, Kirkus Reviews