Henricus Peters reviews Flames of Extinction: the race to save Australia’s threatened wildlife by John Pickrell.

A carefully researched and deeply empathetic portrayal of the battle to save Australia’s precious wildlife as we cook our planet”. Gaia Vince, author of ‘Adventures in the Anthropocene’ is certainly correct in this statement. 

John Pickrell has upturned seemingly every possible rock in his fairly exhaustive search for the truth of the bushfires that wrecked havoc on Australia – the ‘notes’ section itself runs to several pages and seem to be a ‘who’s who’ of those involved in wildlife rescue in Australia, especially New South Wales. This in itself is a feat, as of course at about the same time, Covid and its consequential lockdowns were coming into effect. 

As well as the koala, the book covers the impact of the fires on many other species including the Lemuroid ring tailed possum, regent honeyeater, platypus, Wollemi pine, bare-nosed wombat, glossy Blavatsky-cockatoo, mountain ash, northern quoll. 

Pickrell is an award-winning science writer with links to the likes of Australian Geographic magazine and New Scientist, so it’s no surprise that it’s a very easy read – you have to ‘decide’ to put it down! My only criticism, if there is one, would be that some of the topics could have had perhaps a more ‘textbook’ approach in providing readers with information – however that would have made the more book far more detailed and ‘thicker’ and it would have moved it away from a paperback, emotional and factual response that this book is. 

Pickerell, J. (2021). Flames of extinction: the race to save Australia’s threatened wildlife. Australia: New South Publishing. ISBN: 9781742237169. Paperback, 288 pages. AU$29.99. Available from newsouthbooks.com.au.

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