Friday, January 04, 2008

The Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon

Recently, ecotourism in Africa has been hurt by fear of terrorism and political unrest. While current events in Kenya are troubling, there are still safe countries to visit, including Tanzania and Botswana. These countries need tourist dollars to continue to protect their wildlife. Going on camera safari is still a wonderful thing to do. If you go, you will need a field guide to mammals. The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon is an excellent choice.

Jonathan Kingdon has previously published numerous larger works on the mammals of African and on human evolution. Distribution of these mostly academic books in public libraries is rather spotty. With the pocket guide, public libraries should take notice and add it to their collections. It is authoritative, affordable, and easy to shelve until it is borrowed and taken to Africa.

The pocket guide is a handy item to have while sitting in a Land Cruiser near an African water hole where the animals congregate. It shows more of the small mammals than other guides than I have seen. Kingdon's illustrations will help you distinguish between a gerenuk and a springbuck, between a wild boar and a bush pig, and between bush hyrax and tree hyrax. He includes continental distribution maps, tells you animal habitats, and describes behaviors.

This colorful pocket guide is also good for libraries that have students with animal assignments. It should be shelved with The Safari Companion by Richard D. Estes, which goes into greater depth about African mammal behaviors.

Kingdon, Jonathan. The Pocket Guide to African Mammals. Princeton University Press, 2004. ISBN 0691122393

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