Princeton Field Guides have an enviable reputation, much deserved, based on a long history of fine publications, all of which have proven invaluable for field observation and research alike.
Felids and Hyenas of the World maintains this tradition of excellence.
José R. Castelló has already carved out his niche in the realm of mammal field guides with his earlier works Bovids of the World (2016) and Canids of the World (2018). This latest volume maintains, perhaps even exceeds, the high standards that are the trademark of this renowned mammalogist.
I am often at pains to encourage users of a field guide to read the introductory pages, all too frequently skipped over. In Castelló's guides there is so much information contained in the Introduction that you are seriously short-changing yourself if you fail to read it thoroughly. Everything from skeletal structure to feeding habits, classification, taxonomy, mating practices, distribution and conservation are covered extensively. This is akin to setting the table before you begin to eat.
There is a section called, appropriately enough "How to use this book". I cannot imagine ignoring these directions because they enable you to fully benefit from what follows.
A full account of all the felids by lineage ensues, comprehensively illustrated with excellent photographs. It is somewhat depressing, I must say, that in species after species, under the heading "Conservation Status", so many are designated "Endangered" or "Critically Endangered". We have modified and destroyed habitat, and persecuted these top predators in every way possible, and there is a serious threat that without active and enlightened intervention we may lose some of these magnificent animals to extinction.
The situation with Hyenas is somewhat brighter, but of the nine species extant, only two are classed as "Least Concern". Human attitudes towards these creatures have been negative, and Hyenas have been shot, poisoned and trapped mercilessly.
In some areas at least, there is a faint glimmer of hope that we are starting to view all organisms as an integral and essential component of a healthy, functioning ecosytem, without pejorative anthropomorphic bias. One must fervently hope that this shift in attitude will form a new consciousness, and that animals and humans alike will benefit from a greater degree of commitment to preserve and protect nature writ large.
The illustrations of the skulls of all the felids and the hyenas are quite fabulous. Key details are revealed about the hunting strategies of these predators and scavengers, by an examination of skull structure and dentition.
The book ends with a comprehensive glossary and no less than ten pages of links to other references.
Felids and Hyenas of the World is a compendium of knowledge about some of the world's most emblematic species. What would East Africa be without lions? South America would be much the poorer without jaguars.
Whether you are an armchair naturalist, a member of your local zoo, or expect to encounter these animals in the wild, this is a book you should not be without.
Felids and Hyenas of the World
José R. Castelló
US $29.95 - £25.00 - ISBN: 9780691205977 -280 pages - 150 colour plates
Publication date: 20 October 2020