The Bottom Line
The Great Penguin Rescue is a riveting account of one of the worst wildlife disasters in history – an oil spill of 1,400 tons of oil and fuel between two crucial breeding islands for endangered African penguins. Dyan deNapoli relates her firsthand experience with the cleanup efforts and the rehabilitation of thousands of birds in exquisite detail that will capture readers' hearts and minds effortlessly. This book is a must read for every bird lover, nature lover and oil executive to learn not only how destructive a spill can be, but also how much love, compassion and labor is needed to deal with the consequences.
- Includes detailed maps, photos and appendices.
- Creative prologue sets an intimate tone for the book's detail.
- Chapters headed with compassionate quotes relating to the rescue.
- Thorough coverage goes beyond single oil spill event.
- Author plans to donate 20 percent of book's proceeds to conservation.
- Details of author's background can detract from the penguin-centered focus.
- At times repetitive in detail far beyond the need for emphasis.
- Title: The Great Penguin Rescue: 40,000 Penguins, a Devastating Oil Spill, and the Inspiring Story of the World's Largest Animal Rescue
- Author: Dyan deNapoli
- Publisher: Free Press
- Publication Date: October 2010
- Format: Hardcover (ebook, audio and paperback also available)
- Page Count: 307
- ISBN: 978-1-4391-4817-4
- Price: $26.00
Guide Review - The Great Penguin Rescue
It was one of the most successful breeding seasons for African penguins, but in just a few hours the season was devastated as the MV Treasure sank off the South African coast, threatening two critical breeding areas for the birds. In that one incident, half the world's population of African penguins was put in danger, and it would take a monumental effort to save them.
Dyan deNapoli was part of that effort, temporarily leaving her work at the New England Aquarium to fight to save the wild penguins. The Great Penguin Rescue is her account of those hectic weeks when thousands of oiled penguins needed rigorous care, and she shares her experiences passionately. From the agony of chick triage to the penguin washing process to all the facets of the birds' care that needed attending to, deNapoli leaves out no part of the rescue efforts, even when those efforts may have seemed in vain. "Although I tried to remain optimistic, I secretly harbored some doubts about our ability to handle the monstrous challenge that lay ahead," she recalled.
The author was not alone in her doubts, but neither was she alone in her dedication to the birds' successful rehabilitation. Over the three month rescue, 110 penguin professionals from facilities in 14 countries would contribute, and more than 12,500 volunteers donated their time to the birds. Those volunteers are some of deNapoli's best recollections of the chaos that would eventually save 90 percent of the birds, and she thanks them profusely not only in the book but in her continuing work to promote penguin conservation.
While the focus of the book is the incredible effort of the world's largest animal rescue, deNapoli provides a comprehensive account of the history, evolution and physiology of African penguins, as well as a bleak projection of their possible future if conservation efforts do not improve. To that end, she provides details of organizations readers can support to promote conservation as well as other ways even one reader can help to make a difference. Dyan deNapoli has also committed herself to further conservation efforts by donating 20 percent of this book's royalties to the organizations she has recommended. In her words, "the love of more than 12,000 people saved those 38,500 penguins, and my hope is that the love of even more people will help ensure a future for all penguins. … While mankind has historically been their biggest threat, we are also now their only hope."
Anyone who has ever seen the charm of a single penguin won't be able to resist this book and its heartfelt details. From the initial prologue of the oil spill from a single bird's perspective through the emotional and physical challenges of the rescue efforts to the triumph of the rehabilitated birds' release, deNapoli gives every reader an insight into the experiences of the penguins, rehabilitators and volunteers, each of which has a critical role in these birds' future.