WINNER OF THE 2017 NASW SCIENCE IN SOCIETY JOURNALISM AWARD
A FINALIST FOR THE 2017 PEN/E. O. WILSON LITERARY SCIENCE WRITING AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE
A LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST SCIENCE BOOK OF THE YEAR
“[A] curiously edifying book.” —The New York Times Book Review
“With the taut suspense of a spy novel, Voigt paints a vivid world of murder, black market deals, and habitat destruction surrounding a fish that's considered, ironically, to be a good-luck charm.” —Discover
“[An] immensely satisfying story, full of surprises and suspense....Things get weird fast.” —The Wall Street Journal
An intrepid journalist’s quest to find a wild Asian arowana—the world’s most expensive aquarium fish—takes her on a global tour in this “engaging tale of obsession and perseverance…and an enthralling look at the intersection of science, commercialism, and conservationism” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
A young man is murdered for his pet fish. An Asian tycoon buys a single specimen for $150,000. Meanwhile, a pet detective chases smugglers through the streets of New York. With “the taut suspense of a spy novel” (Discover) The Dragon Behind the Glass tells the story of a fish like none other. Treasured as a status symbol believed to bring good luck, the Asian arowana, or “dragon fish,” is a dramatic example of a modern paradox: the mass-produced endangered species. While hundreds of thousands are bred in captivity, the wild fish as become a near-mythical creature. From the South Bronx to Borneo and beyond, journalist Emily Voigt follows the trail of the arowana to learn its fate in nature.
“A fresh, lively look at an obsessive desire to own a piece of the wild” (Kirkus Reviews), The Dragon Behind the Glass traces our fascination with aquarium fish back to the era of exploration when naturalists stood on the cutting edge of modern science. In an age when freshwater fish now comprise one of the most rapidly vanishing groups of animals, Voigt unearths a surprising truth behind the arowana’s rise to fame—one that calls into question how we protect the world’s rarest species. “Not since Candace Millard published The River of Doubt has the world of the Amazon, Borneo, Myanmar, and other exotic locations been so colorfully portrayed as it is now in Emily Voigt’s The Dragon Behind the Glass…a must-read” (Library Journal, starred review).
The Asian arowana, also known as the dragon fish, ranks among the world's most expensive aquarium fish, and in this engaging tale of obsession and perseverance, journalist Voigt chronicles her effort to study and understand its appeal. The fish is a symbol of luck and status in Asia, where one albino specimen fetched $150,000 in 2002. Its place on the endangered list makes it illegal to traffic or own in the U.S. Voigt calls it "the most dramatic example of a uniquely modern paradox the mass-produced endangered species." Voigt's travels take her deep into Borneo and Myanmar, where she interacts with colorful, capricious characters such as Heiko Bleher, the "Indiana Jones of the tropical fish industry," and renowned ichthyologist Tyson Roberts. Through Voigt initially just wants to see the elusive arowana in the wild, she succumbs to the lure of the unknown and thrill of the hunt. Attempting to track down a previously unstudied species, she "began to suspect that relationship with the arowana was not 100 percent healthy." Voigt's passion in pursuing her subject is infectious, as is the self-depreciating humor she injects into her enthralling look at the intersection of science, commercialism, and conservationism. Maps & photos.