Every day some species of plant or animal on our planet becomes extinct. In Mama Poc, the bestselling author of Woodswoman and Beyond Black Bear Lake relates her own attempts to halt the decline of a single species of bird found only in Guatemala. The giant grebe, a flightless bird living on mile-deep Lake Atitlan, came to LaBastille's attention in 1964. Her population count revealed that a mere eighty-two birds remained. Over the course of twenty-five years, Anne LaBastille made the cause of the giant grebe her own. This is the story of her life in Guatemala, observing the birds and working to reclaim their habitat and-against odds that turned out to be overwhelming-give them a future.
Though LaBastille's introductory reference to her previous books (Woodswoman and others) doesn't mention Assignment: Wildlife (1980), this latest of her first-person nature adventures tells much the same story, in much the same words. In both books, she is shuttling from her Adirondacks cabin and her Ph.D. studies at Cornell to Guatemala's Lake Atitlan, where she studies the giant grebe, a flightless bird found nowhere else and, as she discovered in 1964, fast disappearing there. Here, as in the earlier book, she establishes a refuge for the bird, aided by foundations and local allies, especially Guatemalan lover Armando, who occasions some fluttery prose. The present book takes the story into the 80's, when her chief Guatemalan ally (after the breakup with Armando) is killed in that country's guerrilla war. She officially declares the grebe extinct, while the lake, already damaged by earthquake, is badly polluted by development - but she takes satisfaction in the Guatemalan government's new conservationist measures. As before, the focus is not on the birds but on LaBastille's comings and goings; and as before, the whole account is drenched in banality. (Kirkus Reviews)