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BOOK REVIEW: The Kingdom of Rarities by Eric Dinerstein

Review by Janet Raloff

Armchair naturalists will delight in following Dinerstein as he treks the globe to find uncommon species and figure out why they are rare. Through field investigations and other research, this conservation biologist with the World Wildlife Fund comes to a rather startling conclusion: The majority of Earth’s nonmicroscopic species are rare — and probably always have been.

Unlike the dandelions and starlings of the world, he points out, most species consist of small numbers of individuals or are found only in a few tiny bits of real estate. People often take the blame for making species rarer, and Dinerstein by no means exonerates humans. Thanks to overhunting and a general despoiling of the environment, many once-common species are at risk of vanishing. One prime example: the lowland rhinos of Nepal that Dinerstein studied for five years.

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