Emerald Labyrinth

A Scientist's Adventures in the Jungles of the Congo

Eli Greenbaum

Emerald Labyrinth is a scientist and adventurer’s chronicle of years exploring the rainforests of sub-Saharan Africa. The richly varied habitats of the Democratic Republic of the Congo offer a wealth of animal, plant, chemical, and medical discoveries. But the country also has a deeply troubled colonial past and a complicated political present. Author Eli Greenbaum is a leading expert in sub-Saharan herpetology—snakes, lizards, and frogs—who brings a sense of wonder to the question of how science works in the twenty-first century. Along the way he comes face to face with spitting cobras, silverback mountain gorillas, wild elephants, and the teenaged armies of AK-47-toting fighters engaged in the continent’s longest-running war. As a bellwether of the climate and biodiversity crises now facing the planet, the Congo holds the key to our planet’s future. Writing in the tradition of books like The Lost City of Z, Greenbaum seeks out the creatures struggling to survive in a war-torn, environmentally threatened country. Emerald Labyrinth is an extraordinary book about the enormous challenges and hard-won satisfactions of doing science in one of the least known, least hospitable places on earth.

Cover Image of Emerald Labyrinth: A Scientist's Adventures in the Jungles of the Congo
Paper: $22.95 | E-book: $14.99
ISBN-13: 9781512600971
Pages: 336 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: November 7, 2017


  • In this riveting scientific travelogue. . . . Greenbaum, a professor of evolutionary genetics, recounts arduous journeys throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo, illuminating in fluent detail its bloody history, precarious present, spectacular landscapes, and gloriously varied, now rapidly disappearing, biological abundance.

    Booklist (starred review)
  • The narrative is smooth and engaging, effectively showing the natural wonder of the Congo-and its fragility. Greenbaum’s enthusiasm for his work shines through, as does his compelling message about the future of our planet.

    Kirkus Reviews
  • Greenbaum . . . combines scientific endeavor,environmentalism, and Congolese history as he shares his experiences exploring remarkable ecosystems in the midst of a civil war.

    Publishers Weekly
  • Greenbaum’s account of a 2008 expedition with Congolese colleague Chifundera Kusamba and a crack team of local rangers is much more than derring-do among prodigious natural riches: it is also a meditation on how colonial power seeds violence. A valuable record of conflict and conservation at a time of climate change and population pressures.

    International Journal of Science
  • Emerald Labyrinth packs in more about the country's biological, cultural, and political history than is likely to be found in any other single book. It should be required reading for all ecologists, missionaries, politicians, and decision-makers who journey to tropical Africa, especially the Congo.

    J. Whitfield Gibbons

About the Author

ELI GREENBAUM is an associate professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Texas at El Paso, with a research focus on the herpetology of Central Africa. He has published over one hundred articles in refereed science journals, and his work has been covered in NBC News, National Geographic Daily News, Africa Geographic Magazine, and The Huffington Post. This is his first book.

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