New children's books on endangered animals

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Countless animal species have become extinct, and countless more are in danger of doing so. These four books roam the world to examine how scientists and other nature lovers have tried to save a variety of animals, great and small, from the effects of loss of territory, other environmental disruptions and excessive hunting. Saving them requires getting to know them - how they eat, communicate, raise their babies and interact with others - and the places in which they live.

- "The Woolly Monkey Mysteries: The Quest to Save a Rain Forest Species"

By Sandra Markle. Ages 8 to 12.

With their short, thick fur and strong, gripping tails, the two species of woolly monkeys spend most of their time high up in 150-foot-tall trees. That makes them difficult animals to count and to study. But cameras mounted aloft have provided valuable information and captured, as this book shows, amazing photographs. Experts now believe that Peru's lowland woolly monkeys (and the seed-filled waste they produce) are necessary to the survival of the rain forest.

- "Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild"

By Catherine Thimmesh. Ages 10 to 12.

The giant panda is much-beloved in China, but in the past 40 years, at least half of its habitat has been destroyed by the expansion of the human population. "Camp Panda" tells about efforts to reintroduce the giant pandas into the wild so that the species might have a future. As part of the complex process, shown in photos, people wear panda costumes (that smell like pandas) while weighing and measuring the young bears. Why the disguises? The cubs aren't supposed to get used to seeing and being around people, because people could pose a threat to them in the wild.

- "Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel"

By Carl Safina. Ages 10 and older.

With the help of dedicated scientists, Carl Safina studied elephants in an African national park and killer whales (also known as orcas) off the coast of Washington state. He learned about their strong family bonds, the surprising ways they communicate (both close up and miles apart) and how they play, grieve and hang out with one another. This book makes a strong case for protecting the ability of these intelligent, expressive and endangered animals to live freely.

- "Back From the Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction"

By Nancy F. Castaldo. Ages 10 and older.

This hopeful book focuses on seven groups of animals - including whooping cranes, California condors and American alligators - that were brought back to healthy numbers by a combination of government rules, scientific programs and individual initiatives (see William Hornaday's efforts on behalf of the American bison). As she celebrates these successes, Nancy F. Castaldo also makes clear that dangers, such as the effects of climate change, still cloud the future of these and other creatures.

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