Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa: Photographs by Chris Johns

Bonnie brings home great books.

I wonder if Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa will be a rare book some day. Not many libraries bought this over-sized booked when it was published by the National Geographic Society in 2002. Inexpensive used copies can be found on the Internet now, but new copies are still $65. It is awkward to shelve, and the landscape layout with the binding at the top makes it heavy to hold. Still, for someone who loves African wildlife and longs to visit the preserves of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa, it is a wonderful book.

Unbind the book and many of the photos could be mounted and framed, especially the landscapes and wildlife scenes. Not all the photos, however, are pleasant. Photographer Chris Johns includes candid shots of poaching, predators killing prey, poverty, and squalor. Essayist Peter Godwin frankly discusses the problems of mismanaged parks, shrinking habitats, displaced people, and political misdeeds along with his accounts of wildlife conservation.

My favorite section is the remarkable story of a female cheetah who successfully raises a litter of five cubs to adulthood on Mambo Island in the Okavango Delta. It is followed by a section about the plight of wild dogs, which are not really dogs but a separate line of canines. Some of the wild dog hunting photos are rather bloody. You have to be a wildlife enthusiast (as I am) to like this book. If so, it is worth the wait to ILL.

Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa. National Geographic Insight, 2002. ISBN 0792269055

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