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Serengeti Shall Not Die

Serengeti Shall Not Die (original 1959; edition 1977)

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Title:Serengeti Shall Not Die

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Serengeti Shall Not Die by Bernhard Grzimek (1959)



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  oirm42 | May 24, 2018 |
Grzimek Is Pronounced "CHIM-mek" with a soft J after the CH.

This book is written by one of the first teams to document and establish the scientific basis for "saving the Serengeti" -- the Nature movement which will save us all. It is also filled with first-hand interviews and research of historical significance. They proved, by counting them, that only 366,980 large animals remained in the Serengeti - only a third of the estimates given by exploiting privateers and hunters. Once killed, who will replace them?

In 1959, Dr. Bernard Grzmek and his adult son Michael gave up their savings, happy homes in Germany, and explored the ecosystems of the Ngorongoro Crater, as a practice run, for counting all of the animals of the Serengeti. The crater is a sunken volcano above a giant caldera of approximately 3200 square miles and a mile deep from the rim. Ngorongoro means "place where it sank". The Serengeti

This is a stunningly beautiful place in east Africa, now called Tanzania. They explored this ecosystem by flying a small airplane at low altitude over it and making many contacts with the native tribes, and the migrating Europeans, Indians, Arabs, and other scientists and adventurers. Sadly, Michael died flying the Dornier Do 27 in a collision with a griffon vulture.

Dr. Grzimek is also the author of 13 volumes of "Animal Life Encyclopedia" published in German in 1968 (English in 1975). of

At once epically heroic and stunningly tragic, the author embraces an ethic still so uncommon today, so essential for tomorrow, and ironically encompassed by the Koheleth-Ecclesiastical question quoted in the frontispiece:

"3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
3:20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
3:21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"

Grzimek was 48-year-old German zoo director who "had never been particularly venturesome," but nonetheless with his 23-year-old son, whom he acknowledges "was not only my son, but my only real friend," learns to fly an "aeroplane," a zebra-striped Piper Cub in which they undertake a 6,000-mile journey from Frankfurt, Germany, to Serengeti National Park on a mission to preserve the park and its magnificent wildlife for posterity. The father, the son, the 'plane, and the plains are the principals of a narrative more fantastic than any fantasy.

While firmly asserting the fact that human over-population is a crisis, his prophesies make a hopeful conclusion:

"Large cities continue to proliferate. In the coming decades and centuries, men will not travel to view marvels of engineering, but they will leave the dusty towns in order to behold the last places on earth where God’s creatures are peacefully living. Countries which have preserved such places will be envied by other nations and visited by streams of tourists. There is a difference between wild animals living a natural life and famous buildings. Palaces can be rebuilt if they are destroyed in wartime, but once the wild animals of the Serengeti are exterminated no power on earth can bring them back."

We learn that the Maasai live in the Serengeti as cattle-breeders, and have an aversion for eating "game". For the millenia, the wilderness has lived compatibly with these brave lions.

Bernhard Grzimek addresses every component -- snakes, hyenas, mosquitoes, tsetse flies, colonial history, poachers, the Maasai, and the grasses -- of this interconnected and very threatened ecosystem. While the Ngorongoro/Serengeti was chosen because it is so unique, its lessons apply everywhere. It is a must-read for environmental awareness. A film of the same title won the Academy Award in 1959. ( )
  keylawk | May 20, 2018 |
This is one of those books that arguably shifted the world a little on its axis - in the company of Carson's 'Silent Spring', or Hersey's 'Hiroshima'. References to the 1950's work of the Grzimek's turn up in a great many books written about African wildlife ever since, and not just because of the publicity they gave the Serengeti through their book and film, but also because of their meticulous research. Michael Grzimek died in the aircraft that figured so prominently in this book, and fittingly both are buried on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

Unlike some others this book has weathered the tests of time. The science in one sense saves it, there's profound and obviously careful observation that tells the story of what is happening on the African plains. Even the method of the field science is fascinating, and hair-raising at times. Throw in lively stories of customs (both African and European) and a rich mythology of peoples and animals and you have what is still an entertaining and informative read.

What sets this book apart, though, are two things. Firstly the extraordinary character of the Grzimak's. Having weathered World War II they don't seem to have any threshold of hardship or despair, and (seemingly) cheerfully put themselves in the path of danger if it means pushing their research ahead, and sometimes it seems simply for the sheer thrill of it. The other thing is their passion, and perhaps this helps explain all the rest. Grzimak senior is a serious zoologist, and Grzimak junior seems to have absorbed everything his father knows and felt. In the end Bernhard made a plea for the preservation of the Serengeti that echoed around the world. But perhaps Michael did as much, if not more, in his work and his death inspiring young people to a life a science and action. Still highly recommended after all these years. ( )
  nandadevi | Jun 26, 2012 |
This book was recommended to me To prepare for my trip toEast Africa. I read it in bits about German father/son zoologists attempting to count the numbers and diversity of animals in the new Seringeti National Park and animal reserve. In 1959 they had to be inventive using a small plane painted like a zebra. They were early ecologists and tried to stop the poaching which was decimating herds of animals for ivory and tails to be sold as fly swaters. This was the end of colonialism in Tanzania. ( )
  bblum | May 26, 2012 |
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It was the 11th December 1957, a dull morning, and I was sitting in our single-motored aeroplane flying up the Rhine towards Switzerland.
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