Jeff Corwin’s 100 Hearbeats is a wonderfully beautiful informational book about numerous endangered animals and the conservationists, people, fighting hard to save them. Story after story told is inspiring and each and every animal you learn about just brings about a pain in your heart when you think it may disappear from the earth entirely if nothing is done about it. The book is not exactly formatted in a way where each chapter is about a different animal out of the 100 ones he talks about, but tells a full story about conservation. 100 of the most endangered species are talked about and highlighted, even the ones some may consider less desirable. I plan to write about each of these species in the next 100 posts of my blog. I hope it will interest some people in species that may have been completely unknown to them or get some people excited about species they already loved but maybe weren’t aware were endangered. I’ll start off with quoting quite a large section of the beginning of the book. It is one of my all time favorite sections in any conservation book because it just describes the essence of being a wildlife lover and conservationist.
Jeff Corwin talking about his childhood:
“When I was six years old and on a summer visit to my aunt downstate in Holbrook, I came face-to-face with a creature that I’d never seen before: a garter snake.When this scaly animal uncoiled itself like an unraveling turban and moved its long body deeper into my aunt’s woodpile without the aid of legs, I may as well have been discovering a new life form. And when it slipped back into the stack of firewood as quickly as it had appeared, I panicked.
I picked up the heavy logs and heaved them behind me until the layer of mud and detritus was within reach. And there amid the spiderwebs and the abandoned cocoons, was my new friend. With no preconceived notions to guide me, I reached out and gently grabbed hold of its coiled lower body. And it did the same, gliding over my wrist and “grabbing” onto my forearm with its upperbody. Scared and exhilarated at the same time, I proudly took it inside, where, naturally, my aunt was less enthusiastic about my discovery.
‘Get rid of it!’ she screamed.
‘No!’ I shouted.
There I was, a trembling, 3-foot-tall city boy utterly ignorant about the wild animal that was wrapped around my arm and inspiring such fear in my aunt. But I answered without hesitation.
‘Because I love it!’
Somehow, amid the mayhem, she pried the snake off my arm and we put it back in the yard.
That was the day I became a naturalist. That was the defining moment when the light came on and I knew what I wanted to do with my life.For the next 2 years, I kept tabs on that snake as she lived her life. I learned about love and passion and birth and predation from her. Eventually, I wouldn’t need to capture her to get an up-close look- I respected her space and she topped fleeing at the sight of me.Snakes are creatures of habit, and at some point, she apparantely this little boy’s presence as routine.
One day, as I watched her bask in the sun 4 feet from where I lay on my belly with my chin resting in my hands, I saw a sharp flash of a medal and a sickening thud. The next thing I knew, she had been ripped into two, each half of her body flying in opposite directions as she helplessly bit at the air. As the pieces of her hit the ground, they writhed like the severed locks of a Medusa,her agony not quite over. When I looked up from the carnage, I saw the man who lived next door, shovel in hand and a stern, satisfied look on his face.
That was the day I became a conservationist.”
I find that passage so powerful. Powerful, because it rings true and because it uses a common example. Jeff Corwin first connects you to the snake, makes you love it, feel for it, because the beautiful garter snake stayed with Corwin for 2 years. Then, when she was killed, it wasn’t just any snake killed, but Corwin’s friend, just like any pet being killed. Except, it wasn’t just like any pet because people actually think it is wrong to kill dogs and cats, but a snake is evil, scaly, and gross and it makes no difference if it is killed. But, you see, that is why Corwin says that day he became a conservationist, because as a conservationist you want to protect all species, but especially the ones that are undesirable to others, you want to educate people about how awesome snakes can be, how sweet they are, you want people to see the worth in all species, and hopefully do whatever they can to save them from their possible extinction.