Exotic and rare animals have always been alluring. Over the years, the thrill of discovering something remarkable or uncommon within the animal world has motivated some of the world’s greatest scientists and conservationists. This week, we’ve chosen a selection of pieces on extraordinary creatures and the adventurous men and women who track them. David Grann recounts the journey of a marine biologist who has dedicated his life to locating the legendary giant squid. In “Slow and Steady,” William Finnegan chronicles the fight to save the plowshare, one of the rarest tortoises in the world. Ariel Levy explores the phenomenon of half-wild feline crossbreeds, and Ian Frazier examines the alarming proliferation of feral hogs in the South. In “Valley Cats,” Dana Goodyear writes about the predatory activities of mountain lions in the hills of residential Los Angeles. Finally, in “Swamp Things,” Burkhard Bilger reports on invasive species and his encounters with exotic reptiles and other wildlife in Florida. We hope that you find these pieces as fascinating as the creatures that they depict.

—David Remnick


“Living-Room Leopards”

“Exotic cats have become a particular kind of status symbol, and people pay as much as thirty thousand dollars for the privilege of owning a hybrid that looks as if it could prowl the wilderness.”


“Slow and Steady”

“Turtles and tortoises have been particularly vulnerable to human depredation. They move slowly. They grow slowly, and are slow to reproduce.”


“The Squid Hunter”

“A fully grown giant squid is classified as the largest invertebrate on Earth. Yet no scientist has ever examined a live specimen—or seen one swimming in the sea.”


“Valley Cats”

“In Los Angeles, a place long mocked as hostile to nature, mountain lions are a symbol of stubborn, resilient wildness.”


“Hogs Wild”

“Of all the domesticated animals, none become feral more readily, or survive better in the wild, than the hog.”


“Swamp Things”

“Florida’s ecology is a kind of urban legend come true—the old alligator-flushed-down-the-toilet story repeated a thousand times with a thousand species.”

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