As a frequent traveller to Central and South America, I have relied many times on the wealth of information contained in A Neotropical Companion, the comprehensive work by John Kricher, published in 1997. I acquired my copy in 2000, and it is well thumbed, dog-eared here and there, and even bears the stain of an errant glass of wine. It is indeed a companion!
I was, therefore, delighted to learn of a "new and improved" edition and very happy to be asked to review it.
Unlike the spurious claims of consumer products which are alleged to be superior to an earlier version, it is no vain boast to state that this book delivers what it promises.Filled with myriad glorious colour photographs and a revised text based on knowledge that has been acquired since last publication, it is a joy to read, and new insights are to be gleaned from every page. As we continue to enhance our understanding of neotropical ecology it is important to deliver this knowledge in a format that the layman can understand. For this reason Kricher has avoided excessive use of scientific jargon.
The book is in every sense a readable travel companion, which is exactly what it is supposed to be.
It is instructive to review the chapter headings to see just how comprehensive the coverage is.
Chapter 1: Welcome to the Torrid Zone.
Chapter 2: Why is it Hot, Humid and Rainy in the Tropics?
Chapter 3: Rain Forest: The Realm of the Plants.
Chapter 4: Finding Animals in the Rain Forest.
Chapter 5: Sun plus Rain equals Rain Forest.
Chapter 6: Essential Dirt: Soils and Cycling
Chapter 7: If a Tree Falls......Rainforest disturbance dynamics.
Chapter 8: Evolutionary Cornucopia.
Chapter 9: Why are there so many Species?
Chapter 10: Tropical Intimacy: Mutualism and Coevolution.
Chapter 11: Evolutionary Arms Race: More Coevolution, More Complexity.
Chapter 12. Cruising the Rivers to the Sea.
Chapter 13: Scaling the Andes.
Chapter 14: Don't Miss the Savannas and Dry Forests.
Chapter 15: Neotropical Birds: The Bustling Crowd.
Chapter 16: From Monkeys to Tarantulas: Endless Eccentricities.
Chapter 17: Human Ecology in the Tropics.
Chapter 18: The Future of the Neotropics.
For the seasoned traveller and the neophyte alike there is a fountain of information in these chapters. This is especially true for those patrons of the all-inclusive resorts who are simply seeking to escape the cold and gloom of a northern winter. Take a few days and explore outside the resort, learn a little of what make the ecosystem operate the way it does,
become familiar with a few of the birds, mammals and reptiles that are easily seen, and your whole experience of Neotropical America will be enhanced. Furthermore your curiosity will have been piqued and you will thirst for additional knowledge. The New Neotropical Companion will help you to explore the environment further and point you to sources of more detailed specialization.
Whether you are looking for information on how to protect yourself from mosquito bites or the logic behind buying shade grown coffee; or what to do in the unlikely event of a snake bite or how you can be a responsible ambassador for your country, Kricher provides sage counsel in a very readable format devoid of arcane terminology.
Perhaps most important of all, however, the book gives guidance from beginning to end in the ways we can both cherish and enjoy the Neotropics and ensure that it will remain unspoiled for future generations.
The scientific and lay community alike owe a great debt of gratitude to Kricher for this sparkling revision to what was already a very fine book. I recommend it highly.