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Madagascar is home to one of the world’s greatest concentration of biodiversity—but that biodiversity is also among the most threatened on the planet. For decades, conservationists from the developed world have been working to protect those riches, for the earth and for the people of Madagascar. This diary from the late Alison Jolly, who was one of the leading figures in that movement, captures the successes and failures of those efforts, as well as the complicated, fundamental questions that they raise.
Offering a rich account of the lives of people who live on Madagascar, and the daily work of conservation science, Jolly reveals the beauty and tragedy of the island’s biological richness. To whom, she asks, does that richness belong? Is it a heritage for the entire world? A legacy of the forest dwellers’ ancestors, bequeathed to today’s people to serve their needs? Or is it an economic resource, to be pillaged for short-term gain, preserved only to the extent that it offers some sort of financial return for those who wield political and economic power? Negotiating the pitfalls of conservation efforts driven by these questions, Jolly presents an unflinching portrait of contemporary conservation in action, of its possibilities and problems alike.
About the Author
Alison Jolly (1937–2014) was a primatologist known for her studies of lemur biology, and she conducted extensive fieldwork in Madagascar.
"Without a doubt one of the very best books about conservation. It ranges from the author's work with Madagascar's fascinating and unique lemurs, efforts at all levels to protect their habitat, sympathetic descriptions of village life, and the often highly amusing stories of what goes on behind the scenes during high level meetings. The information presented in diary form makes you feel you were present, sharing the excitements, disappointments and triumphs that are part of the on going struggle to save the environment. And for those of us who knew and loved Allison, it is as though she is with us still, suggesting we do our best to save this planet for our children. I was truly absorbed from start to finish."
— Jane Goodall, founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
"Jolly's work offers a rare glimpse into the sociology, psychology, science, and politics that are important to any conservation effort. . . . The information is presented in a forthright and unassuming manner, avoiding the complex terminology typical of many books on ecology and conservation. . . . Highly recommended."
“Amounts to more than the sum of its wildly detailed parts. It’s not just Jolly’s memoir; it’s a memoir of the conservation movement in Madagascar. It extends beyond the personal to capture cultural, political, scientific, and environmental history. . . .this history is shaped by its historian’s perspective: astute, humorous, observant, optimistic.”
— American Scientist
“A captivating and absorbing account.”
— David Attenborough
"A gripping tale of the birthing years of the environmental movement in Madagascar. Jolly is a great story-teller, and brings to life the first studies of the unique wildlife of Madagascar. Sometimes provocative, often funny and always with wisdom about human nature, this tale is history at its best, a first hand view of the intrigues of complex politics and the drive of determined researchers at the frontiers of wild science. The pathos of human poverty and the richness of wildlife are one story, and Jolly brings you Madagascar with all its complexities."
— Patricia Wright, Stony Brook University
"Jolly’s amazing eyewitness account takes us from the halls of the World Bank to the huts of forest villagers - and even to the ethics of mining companies. I recommend it especially to the Malagasy friends and colleagues who struggle for sustainability for our country."
— Leon Rajaobelina, Conservation International
“A call for readers to join the effort of saving the natural world.”
— African Studies Quarterly