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Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Book Review - The Kingdon Guide to African Mammals, Second Edition - Princeton University Press

     Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the literature of African fauna knows East African Mammals - An Atlas of Evolution in Africa - a six-volume magnum opus by Jonathon Kingdon, a veritable tableau of excellence, eclipsing all previous attempts at coverage of this group of mammals (and arguably all attempts since). Upon publication it received this level of praise from no less an icon than Richard Dawkins, "...it is more magnum than any opus has any right to be."
     With this background, however, one does have every right to expect a superlative field guide by the same author, and that expectation is satisfied in spades. The first edition was legendary, the second edition improves on legendary! Within the parameters of a standard field guide, designed to slip into a pocket or pouch, it covers all the mammals of Africa and updates taxonomy and adds new species since the original version in 2004. The illustrations, all done by the author, are designed as an aid to identification in the field, not as miniature artworks, and they admirably fit the bill in this important aspect.




     There is a very useful section at the beginning of the book dealing with the African environment where the relationship between climate, elevation and vegetation are linked to the presence of species. Several excellent photographs and diagrams are included in this section.
     This review is not the place to get into a discussion of the newly emerged concept of Afrotheria brought about by the science of molecular phylogeny, but a useful, succinct summary is provided, especially important for those unfamiliar with either the terminology or the concept of Afrothere radiation.
     The bulk of the work follows the standard, user-friendly format of most modern field guides, and its very familiarity and ease of use are key to its efficaciousness. Animals are divided into their various orders and families, with pictures on the right hand page and diagnostic notes and range maps on the left.  Some smaller groups are treated generically, as in the bats, for example, e.g. Tomb Bats, Taphozus, since the species in this group are impossible to tell apart in the field and for the average observer are seldom captured in the hand for more detailed examination. Where extensive morphological variations occur in well known species they are dealt with in detail, e.g. Giraffe, Giraffa (camelopardalis). 
     The book does what every good field guide should do. It gives you the tools to go out and observe creatures, and, by referring to the book, identify them. It is compact, user-friendly and accurate. And it will stimulate further study of Africa's fascinating and often unique fauna, and a concurrent desire to protect it. Who could ask for more?

The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals: Second Edition
Jonathan Kingdon
Paperback - US$25.95 - 9780691203522 - 304 pages - 780 colour illustrations - 5in. x 7 1/2 in.
Publication date: 25 February 2020
     


48 comments:

  1. Won't make it to Africa, but we live near San Diego Safari Park. Wish I could see all those marvelous creatues.

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    1. I have visited the San Diego Zoo but not the Safari Park which I would imagine is quite remarkable.

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  2. Sounds like a great book for visiting Africa with. I love watching wildlife documentaries, and we recently had "Serengeti" on our screens. It was good in that it presented the animals' lives and not just a casual observation of them.
    '

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  3. I would like for you to look at my recent post about Tundra Swans. Perhaps they are Mute swans? And if you can tell from the poor photo, what ducks are they with the swans?

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    1. Done. The swans are Tundra Swans and the ducks are Common Goldeneye.

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  4. Thank you.
    The world has so many beautiful animals, birds, reptiles, insects. Beauty which we desperately need to preserve. Quickly. And sadly in my own country we are losing species permanently at a horrific rate. Hiss and spit.

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  5. I'm sure it's a wonderful book, David.

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  6. Sounds interesting to have.
    Have family living in Africa.

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  7. Sounds like another wonderful book. These are mostly animals I only know from zoos and films, so it's always good to learn more about them. Have a great day, with lots of coffee! Valerie

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  8. I hela mitt liv har jag beundrat människor som passionerat hänger sig åt ett ämne som de intresserar sig för. Inga hinder är oöverkomliga och lusten och nyfikenheten att ständigt lära sig mer följer dem hela livet. Att skriva en bok på detaljnivå om Afrikas artrika djurliv måste vara den optimala utmaningen, ändå finns det någon som ger sig hän åt uppdraget - och genomför det med entusiasm och glädje.

    När kommer fågelboken David?

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    1. Good morning Gunilla: I am not aware of any plans for a new field guide for the birds of Africa. There are already two excellent guides for Southern Africa, both of which I have, "The SASOL Birds of Southern Africa" and "The Roberts Bird Guide" by Hugh Chittenden, with whom I spent time in 2008 when the book was just published, and I have a signed, personalized copy. Hugh is a wonderful fellow and an expert ornithologist. It was a great pleasure to be the beneficiary of his knowledge and enthusiasm. I also have a great guide for the birds of the Horn of Africa, and a couple of others that cover the northern part of the continent. I have books covering the birds of East and West Africa, The Gambia....and so on. It is a wonderful continent to visit (my first time was when i was only nineteen years old), but I doubt that I ever will again.

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  9. Un livre qui semble très interessant, j'aime beaucoup les lions et les guépards :D
    Bonne journée

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  10. We can learn so much from these books. Thanks to the writers.

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  11. I only heard about Jonathan Kingdon last year when his name popped up in another book I was reading, I have a couple of his books on my to buy list, I shall add this one too!

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  12. Oh, I need this book for Jojo! Will be a real adventure to read in the book! He really loves the animals! Thanks for the recommendation!

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  13. Hello, sounds like a great pocket guide. It would be cool to see these animals in the wild. I would love to go on an African Safari, I doubt it will happen though. Have a great day!

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  14. My kids went on safari in Africa. They really enjoyed it.

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  15. Se ve interesante. Un abrazo David.

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  16. Otro maravilloso libro de bolsillo para poder obtener información rápida y concisa de ciertos mamíferos africanos. Gracias por compartir y mostrar amigo David.
    Que tengas un buen día.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu compadre y amigo Juan.

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  17. This would be a fascinating book to have even if one is not planning a trip to Africa to view its wildlife. So much wonderful wildlife and, unfortunately, so much of it threatened with extinction.

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  18. The illustrations are brilliant!

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  19. Sounds like a wonderful book. Great review!

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  20. Veldig fin presentasjon av boken!Det hadde vært gøy å dra til Afrika og se disse dyrene

    Jeg elsker naturprogrammer
    Jeg sier som en kommentator skrev her..Når kommer din fuglebok?
    Du er jo så flink med dette

    Miriam og deg er helt fantastiske!Og det beste er at dere tar mennesker med dere på tur!Kjempebra:)))

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  21. Judging by your review, 'mammals of Africa' sounds like a fascinating subject, and a guide "designated to slip into pocket or pouch" - irresistible.

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  22. I spent several years working in Liberia, and some time traveling West Africa; it's amazing how many people don't realize that giraffes, elephants, and wildebeest aren't spread across the whole of the continent. One of our most interesting mammals was the pygmy hippopotamus;they're quite reclusive, but still could be seen when I was there. I don't know if the civil wars affected them. Do you remember if they happened to be discussed in this book?

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    1. This is strictly a field guide, Linda, an identification tool. I have never lived in West Africa but spent a lot of time there years ago......Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, etc. Great memories.

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  23. Uwielbiam książki przyrodnicze. Jak byłam mała, godzinami je przeglądałam. To były magiczne chwile!

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  24. Estos libros son muy interesantes David. Te explican muy bien toda la vida de su entorno.
    Te deseo un buen fin de semana.
    Un abrazo.

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  25. Thank you for the interesting review, David!
    I don't think I will ever need a field guide to African animals, but the book sounds fascinating. :)
    Happy birding!

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  26. Hello David, thanks for sharing your review. It look like a great field guide. Happy Birding. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog.

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  27. This does sounds like a great field guide. One of my bucket list items has always been an African safari. It would be amazing to get out there and observe these fascinating animals in their natural habitat.

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    1. Hope you make it one day, Val. Africa is a wonderful continent to visit.

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  28. Hi David - never made it that far north ... but seen plenty in and around southern Africa - just wonderful ... still draws me in. I do like the play on words of his title and his name ... clever! Cheers Hilary

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    1. Dullard that I am it had not struck me! It is clever isn't it? The guide covers all of Africa, Hilary.

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  29. I have a good selection of books for African animals and birds. This looks interesting though. Hope all is well. Best wishes to you both. Diane

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    1. Do you have Kingdon's six-volume opus? An incredible work.

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  30. African animals are always fascinating. My only experience of them has been in Zoos of one kind or another. Used to go to the African Lion Safari a lot once upon a time too.

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  31. Hi David, nice book of Afrikans animals. I have too a lot of books. Have a nice sunday. Greetings Caroline

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  32. Thats a part of the world I have always wanted to visit - one day perhaps!

    The men in white coats have been circling for many years - I consider some of them to be my friends!!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  33. Nice review! Looks interesting.

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  34. Wonderful book, David. I don't know a lot about African mammals, but often watch on TV The animal planet. Thanks for your review!

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  35. Hello David!
    Great review and another fantastic book.
    Hugs and greetings:)

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  36. good to put the teens to work. Good for them to do some "handywork" and for the birds to get some place to live.

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  37. The illustrations on the cover look beautiful. If they are similar within it will be beautiful, even if small!

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