Friday, 11 January 2019

Book Review - Carnivores of the World - Princeton University Press

     It is safe to say that man's relationship with animals, especially carnivorous animals, has been universally bad for them. We have destroyed their habitat, and continue to do so, persecuted them continuously and mercilessly, and continue to do so, and have driven them to extinction, and continue to do so.
     Aldo Leopold, whose ecological legacy has been lauded, yet largely ignored, captured the essence and the sadness of wild creatures in 1949 when he wrote of being present when a wolf died and watched "the fierce green fire dying in her eyes." He wrote no less poignantly of how the last Grizzly Bear in the southwest, walked into the string of a set gun, and killed itself.
     And so this book, the latest in the vaunted series of Princeton Field Guides, is both a celebration of carnivores and likely a requiem for some of them.




     It is the second edition of a guide covering the thirteen terrestrial carnivore families of the world, yet mammalian carnivores of the oceans have fared no better at the hands of man (witness the plight of Orcas, for example).
     There is a short introduction to each family at the beginning of the book to set the scene for the detailed species accounts to follow. I find the illustrations to be first class, depicting the species accurately, often in typical postures, sometimes accompanied by their young.




     What is also especially appealing is the series of sketches on many of the pages depicting typical behaviours of the species covered. These little vignettes add greatly to our appreciation of the subject.




     When one combines the excellence of the text with the detail of the pictures one really does have a sense of the animal, its appearance, habits, range and outlook for continued survival. The larger the carnivore, the more dire its plight.





     In sombre reflection on the state of the world's carnivores each species account ends with a section devoted to Status and Threats. This is all too frequently not the stuff of easy reading, for the future for many species is grim, given habitat loss, climate change, trophy hunting and the simple pleasure that some humans at least seem to derive from killing their fellow creatures.
     Another couple of sections that I find especially useful are found at the end of the book, where skull diagrams enable the reader to study an essential component of carnivore anatomy, and an examination of footprints enable the reader to track the presence of a species without actual sightings.





     If I have one little niggly complaint, it is about the range maps. They are too small! Princeton set the standard for maps in their magnificent two volume work by Brian K. Wheeler on the raptors of North America where each map occupies a full page. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect this practice to continue, but it certainly was appreciated!
    Consider for a moment the immortal and oft cited words of John Donne.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

     Substitute "animal" for "man" and you have the dilemma which exists today. Any animal's death diminishes all of us. If the bell is tolling for the Lion and the Grizzly Bear, the Tiger and the Polar Bear, the Leopard and the Cheetah, it is tolling for us too. 
     Perhaps with good will, foresight and the recognition that we are all fellow travellers on this earth, the situation can be remediated. But, my hopes are not held high. I earnestly wish to be proven wrong.

Carnivores of the World: Second Edition - Princeton University Press
Luke Hunter
Paperback - $29.95 - 9780691182957 - 256 pages - 7" x 9 1/2" - 93 colour and 425 black-and-white illustrations - 250 maps.
Publication date: 21 January 2019



51 comments:

  1. Bunas tardes amigo David. Precioso y detallado libro amigo David. Creo que si los humanos no cambiamos sobre todo de educación, y de comprender que cualquier animal que habita en este planeta no es ningún ser despreciable y que merece todo el respeto y admiración por nuestra parte además de proteger y conservar su propio hábitat, mal nos va y mal nos seguirá yendo.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo David

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  2. Muchas gracias, Juan. Tienes derecho!

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  3. You posted an excellent synopsis of the predators whose species are in serious danger. While some publications make it appear that there are adequate hunting and breeding areas, these areas are shrinking and shrinking. Cougars were once common in my former Illinois area, their populations are shrinking. Great post.

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  4. We have a very angry and hateful discussion about wolves here in Norway. I'm very shameful about that hunters are allowed to shoot them with our government blessings, David.

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  5. A very good review David. Although some of those illustrations look quite beautiful, I couldn't help but see others as quite simplistic. Maybe I should see the book in the flesh?

    I watched a two part series the other week about Russian bears being reintroduced into the wild from sometimes very worrying backgrounds of hunting and abandonment after being in captivity. It was very eye opening, and I came away from the programme seeing large bears in a whole new light of respect for their plight.

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  6. From your excellent review (no small wonder you get to review these books!), I'm really interested in this book, David. However, your review caused me to look it up on the internet, and I see that the same authors had "Field Guide to Carnivores of The World" - 2nd Edition, published on 15th November 2018 by Bloomsbury Wildlife. Do you know if these two publications are virtually identical? The Princeton one has 256 pages, the Bloomsbury one has 272 pages of the same size. Both includes skull and footprint diagrams. I'm thinking of chancing the Bloomsbury one as it's a little cheaper in UK - and available now!

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    1. It is the same book, Richard. It is mentioned in the Princeton book that it is published in the UK by Bloomsbury Wildlife.

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  7. Muchas gracias David, se ve un libro completo y muy interesante. Feliz fin de semana. Un abrazo.

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  8. It's a sad commentary on the human species. It's too bad that people seem not to care about the state of these animals, they are only concerned about their interests.
    Definitely sounds like a wonderful book to have. Thanks!

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  9. You know what to expect and what should be in this type of books and this one probably pleases you. The photo with the title of the blog is beautiful. :)

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  10. I share your fears and really, really hope we can both be proved wrong.
    And thank you for reviewing a book which sounds right up my alley.

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  11. reading your excellent review of this book, i am reminded that deer and bear hunting are allowed, even encouraged here in new jersey. how sad is that?? this sounds like a great read, the illustrations are beautiful!!!

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  12. Thank you for pointing this one out!

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  13. Hello David!
    A great review and so sad how many species are in danger,from the hunters.
    Like the illustrations of the book! Thank you for sharing! Enjoy your day and weekend!
    Dimi...

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  14. David, av alla misstag och övergrepp som människan gör sig skyldig till är vår behandling av rovdjur något som berör mig så illa att jag knappt kan läsa om det. Jag är sedan länge medlem i den svenska rovdjursföreningen men jag läser aldrig tidskriften som följer med medlemsskapet, det är en grymhet utan like som våra rovdjur utsätts för. Och precis som du beskriver kommer trycket mot djuren från många håll men alltid orsakad av mänsklig aktivitet.

    Här i Skandinavien finns absolut inga belägg för att varg attackerat människor under de senaste århundradena, ändå har man lyckats skrämma befolkningen så till den milda grad att så fort någon sett en varg blir det stora rubriker i media där familjer får stå och berätta hur rädda de är för att barnen skall attackeras. Denna propaganda om vargens farlighet, som inte bottnar i fakta, ger legimitet åt såväl laglig som illegal jakt på djuren.
    Det finns ingen jakt som attraherar så många frivilliga som rovdjursjakt och så publiceras bilderna, troféer där dessa män för det är alltid män, stolt poserar framför sitt blodiga byte.

    Rovdjuren bedöms utifrån mänskliga kriterier - goda eller onda - och det är en förfärande okunskap som här blottar sig. Förutom att rovdjur har en självklar rätt att existera för sin egen skull finns hur mycket kunskap som helst om rovdjurens nödvändiga existens i ett friskt ekosystem. Men den kunskapen väger lätt mot den osakliga propaganda rovdjuren utsätts för.

    Tack David för att du skriver om detta och tack för ditt ställningstagande!

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    1. Man has never let solid science get in the way of irrational prejudice. Thanks for a well-reasoned response, Gunilla.

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  15. So sad that humans are allowed to kill these beautiful animals unnecessarily, especially when they are not a threat to the humans.

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  16. It is good that there are such books. The plates look wonderful. I am reading "Lost land of the Dodo" by Anthony Cheke which goes into similar levels of detail, but a different layout.

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  17. Hello David. In Finland the wolf is classified as a highly endangered species. But - in Finland the hunters shoot wolves without permission (poaching). It is terrible. The wolf population has not grown… That population is very low.

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  18. What a beautiful book with nice illustrations. I am learning so much after my bobcat sighting. It's surprising how many people don't know the difference between the 'cats' here in Florida. It's nice to have good research material. Enjoy your weekend!

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    1. This book would be a first class reference for you.

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  19. The illustrations in this book are fabulous. It always makes me sad when I read the endangered status of so many animals. I don't understand hunting for mere pleasure or trophies (why oh why? What is wrong with people?) or any cruelty to animals and people alike. When I see an animal in the wild - and thankfully I've seen many - it is always a special moment and something I hardly forget.

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  20. What beautiful pictures / drawings are in the book.
    Very nice David.
    Greetings Tinie

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  21. A book for everyone, it is remarkable colours of each other. Beautiful images, even I could use it.

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  22. It is really sad that as humans who should be taking care of these animals, we're the ones who kill them or atleast made a way to resolve the issues of extinction. Beautiful review you got here!

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  23. That sounds like a very impressive book, David. What fantastic illustrations. I am sorry that the maps aren't up to the standard you would like but it sounds, overall, like a wonderful addition to your library.

    My 12 year old goes to Aldo Leopold school and she knows ALL about him and his works...and is passionate about trying to change the downward slide of these precious animals.

    Have a wonderful weekend, David. Diana

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    1. It's encouraging at least that we name a school after Aldo Leopold rather than honouring some politician.

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  24. That's an interesting choice of book! We have a limited number of critters!
    (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

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    1. In times past wolves would have been part of your landscape, Jenn.

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  25. David, you wrote an excellent review on a wonderful book. The drawings are wonderful and detailed, I enjoyed looking at them. How sad that many creatures are in danger. I wish we would help them more to survive. We share one planet and have to be more kind.

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  26. thank you for an excellent review.
    I should read the book.
    have a great day

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  27. Such a beautiful and important book! Naturally I would find the bears, wolves and lynxes the most interesting of the species discussed.
    As the Nordic bloggers above have told, we don't have reasons to be proud here in Fenno-Scandinavia - but I have hope that younger generations are growing much more attentive than the previous ones.
    Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry you weren't able to read my profound analysis... :D
    Did you notice the brief summary in English? In any case, my photos are better than my writing. :)

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    1. Hi Sara: I did read the brief English summary, thanks. And now I am able to translate it, so I have read the balance of your profound commentary! Why I couldn’t do it before I don’t know.

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    2. Hello again and thank you for your interesting question! I added to my answer a link to a fun article about the Finnish language.

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  28. David, a really interesting book, a way to get to know that fauna that carnivorous animals and with good illustrations.
    A hug!

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  29. My sort of book and my sort of animals. I just wish the whole world would learn to love them instead of making trophies out of them or thinking they have magical health powers!!
    Take care Diane

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  30. Looks like a very interesting book, with a lot of info

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  31. Wonderful book review David. There must be some sad stories unfortunately, what a pity some people don't worry about the extinction of animals.

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  32. Well, if we can't save them, the least we can do is "catalogue" them....! Just joking, actually it's a shame the way we humans have stuffed up most of the other creatures that share our planet.

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    1. The really sad thing, John, is that it is almost certain that extinction does await some of the large carnivores, and books like this will become a catalogue of lost species.

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  33. First of all, the illustrations are beautiful and this looks like a wonderful book to add to a collection, both for information and for it's beautiful design.

    I think you are spot on when you advise us to exchange the terms animal and man. The Donne poem reads powerfully either way. And most aptly.

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  34. Hello my friend David,
    it is always very nice to read these book reviews.
    Moreover, you also show a few very nice pictures from the book. These kinds of books are an asset for everyone who loves nature :-)

    Kind regards, Helma xx

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  35. I always enjoy reading your book reviews. It looks an interesting book and thanks for showing us some of the pictures.

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  36. Yes, it's a book celebration - the author presented the essence.

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  37. Nice to read your review, the illustrations look good.

    All the best Jan

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  38. Hello, this look like another awesome book. Thanks for the great review. So sorry I am late commenting. I am just back from my trip away and catching up. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day and week ahead. I also appreciate your visit and comment.

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  39. Looks like a great book.
    These animals have to be cared by humans.We live on the same planet to share.

    Here in my place, we have not chances to see various critters.
    2019 is the year of the boar in Chinese Calendar. We cerebrate the New Year, and some have learned the difference between boar and pig.
    Have a good day,David.

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  40. Wonderful book it seems to me. The drawings are stunning. It is sad that lots of these amazing animals are to be lost for ever. It Always makes me sad.
    Regards,
    Roos

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