Africa is home to an amazing array of animals, including the world's most diverse assortment of large mammals. These include the world's largest terrestrial mammal, the African elephant, which still roams great swathes of the continent alongside a host of other well-known large mammals with hooves such as hippopotamuses, giraffes, rhinoceroses, and zebras. African Ark: Mammals, Landscape and the Ecology of a Continent tells the story of where these mammals have come from and how they have interacted to create the richly varied landscape that makes up Africa as we know it today. It gives an equal airing to small mammals, such as rodents and bats, which are often overlooked by both naturalists and zoologists in favour of their larger cousins.
African Ark not only describes the diversity of African mammals and the habitats in which they live; it also explains the processes by which species and population groups are formed and how these fluctuate over time. A book on mammals would not be complete without attention placed on the impact of megafauna on the environment and the important roles they play in shaping the landscape. In this way, mammals such as elephants and rhinoceros support countless plant communities and the habitats of many smaller animals.
The book brings in a human perspective as well as a conservation angle in its assessment of the interaction of African mammals with the people who live alongside them. African Ark is at once scientifically rigorous and accessible for the layperson and student alike, while drawing on the contributions of numerous zoologists, ecologists and conservationists dedicated to the understanding of Africa and its wildlife.
Ara Monadjem is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Eswatini and a fellow of the Mammal Research Institute in the Department of Zoology & Entomology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is a co-author of Bats of Southern and Central Africa (2020).
Mike Unwin is a freelance writer with a particular interest in Africa and the natural world.