Last Chance to See

by Kitty on September 17, 2009

In 1990, Douglas Adams, renowned (and much beloved) author of (among other things) the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of books, undertook a journey with zoologist and wildlife photographer Mark Carwardine to view some of the planet’s most endangered species. Their adventures were serialized on BBC Radio and detailed in a book called Last Chance to See.

In late 2007 and continuing in late 2008 and early 2009, actor Stephen Fry, a long-time friend of Douglas Adams, undertook an adventure himself with Mark Carwardine to revisit those same species, to see where things stood almost twenty years later. (It is a trip that Douglas himself was planning to make at the time of his untimely death in 2001 and it seems fitting that Stephen, who housesat for Douglas while Douglas was on the original trip, should be the one to pick up the task.)

Last Chance to SeeThis trip resulted in a soon-to-be-published book from Mark and Stephen called Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams as well as the BBC Two television series “Last Chance to See“, which is currently being broadcast in the UK. It’s a marvelous chance to see creatures you may never get the opportunity to see yourself. The show is worth watching not just for the animals or for the stunning scenery or even for Stephen Fry’s ubiquitous humour and intelligence, but for the insight into wildlife issues around the world, where conservationists and activists are frequently at dangerous odds with the people involved in the lucrative and illegal endangered animal trade and where efforts are being made to educate the local peoples about the issues and help them change their economies so that they don’t rely on such practices.

If you’re not in the UK (and thus not able to watch the show or listen to the radio program episodes from 1990), never fear. The book will be published in October (according to the site) or November (according to Amazon) — though Stephen Fry’s blog indicates it was published in UK on Sept. 11 — and I’m sure the series itself will be shown on BBC America and BBC Canada sometime in the future. In the meantime, you can still keep up with things by visiting the site and reading Stephen’s and Mark’s blog there. (Most of the blog posts are from earlier this year as the filming for the show was under way, but Mark has been posting an entry to go with each aired episode since the beginning of September.) Video clips are also available on YouTube. And  Stephen wrote an article for the Guardian on September 2, 2009, called “In search of the planet’s most endangered species” that describes how he got involved with the project.

You can keep up with Stephen and his remarkable wit by following him on Twitter or by visiting his own site, and you can keep up with Mark by visiting his site.

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