Endangered Species Handbook

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In an Ecuadorian rainforest, great towering trees festooned with orchids whir with hummingbirds. Primitive mammals skitter up massive Australian trees of species older than the dinosaurs. The world's tallest trees grow in northern California; at the forest floor beneath them grows an intricate diversity of emerald green mosses and ferns inhabited by tiny creatures. At the southern end of the South American continent, a forest of small gnarled trees buffeted by sea winds shelters herds of short-legged Huemul deer. Kiwis, in their downy cloaks of brown feathers, probe the forest litter among giant tree ferns in New Zealand's dark rainforests, pushing their long, pointed bills into the soil to extract earthworms. Monkeys with elaborate facial patterns, in blues, reds and blacks, chatter in treetops above a plodding West African elephant herd. New Guinea's dazzling birdwing butterflies, measuring 1 foot across, flutter near moss-hung trees where iridescent birds-of-paradise display and utter resounding, eerie calls. Thousands of insects and hundreds of other life forms may inhabit a single tree, whose fruits and flowers feed countless other animals, each the product of eons of evolution and geological history. These irreplaceable forests are in imminent danger of disappearing. The most biologically diverse of these are the untouched, old-growth forests of the world, of which only 20 percent remain, largely unprotected from destruction.

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    ©1983 Animal Welfare Institute