You are invited to roam the island nation of Madagascar in search of 101 species and sub-species of lemurs - those captivating primates found nowhere else on Earth. This expedition takes place in the third edition of Lemurs of Madagascar, from the Tropical Field Guide series of Conservation International, now completely revised from the second edition in 2006.
The most current and authoritative book on the topic, Lemurs of Madagascar presents a wealth of new information on every aspect of the biogeography, ecology and conservation of lemurs, with chapters reviewing and summarizing information on the geological history of Madagascar, the origin of lemurs, the extinct lemurs, the history of the discovery and study of living lemurs, and the conservation status of the lemurs and the threats to their existence. The accounts for each lemur species and subspecies include information on their identifying characteristics, their geographic range, natural history and conservation status, and where best to see them.
Intended for use in the field as well as a library reference, the guide is illustrated with over 500 full-color drawings, detailed range maps and outstanding photographs from the field. Its four appendices include national maps depicting island topography, cities, rivers and protected areas; descriptions and representative photos of Madagascar's principal terrestrial habitats; and a catalog of key sites for lemur-watching plus a lemur life-list.
"Once again, CI has provided an invaluable tool for a diverse audience, which includes ecotourists, Malagasy tour guides, students, lemur researchers, and lemur enthusiasts. Although larger and not quite as portable as its predecessors, the increased size of the third edition hosts a wealth of enhanced encyclopedic detail, new and stunning artwork by Stephen D. Nash, and additional color photos and illustrations. With a copy of this printing in hand, the only things missing are a backpack full of supplies and an airline ticket to Madagascar. So what are you waiting for?"
- Alex Dunkel
"Before I start gushing, a few caveats and disclaimers: First and most importantly, beyond owning a copy and writing this review I have no association whatsoever with the publisher or anyone else associated with this book. None. Second, I have never been to Madagascar, nor, regrettably, do I have any plans of doing so any time soon. Not for lack of interest, just a lack of means at the moment. Finally, I am not a primatologist.
So why on earth did I buy a copy, and why am I publishing a review? Well, though it will identify me as a hopeless nature-nerd, I bought it because it is just so well done. It really is my ideal of what a field guide should be like (I feel similarly about Primates of Columbia also in this series). I'm an amateur naturalist, by which I mean my passion for nature is fairly generalized and field-oriented, and I like to travel, so I use a wide range of guidebooks. I think that anyone who does that comes to learn pretty quickly that a lot of field guides, even fairly popular ones for the subject matter, are adequate at best. Experience is a great teacher of what works and what doesn't, and what is attractive and engaging over the long haul, and what is not.
So, while I haven't used it in the field, I've been at this business long enough now to know what great layout is like, what great illustration is like, and what great writing is like. Lemurs of Madagascar has all three. Maybe this book has done a superb job with all of those but has somehow botched the truly scientific aspects (which I cannot comment on) but that is pretty much impossible for me to believe, especially given the credentials of the contributors.
While there is much more in the way of specifics of both writing and format that I could put in this review, I want to focus on the illustrations. More than any other field guide I have seen (except perhaps the other in the series I mentioned above), this book shows an understanding of how photographs, line drawings, and color illustrations can work together. I'm sure that other guidebooks have done as well (it's a big world out there), but I have never seen them in all my searching. I simply cannot say enough for how intelligently each type of imagery is used to complement the other and convey the animal in question. Sadly, I really cannot think of any others that I've seen that come close in this respect, certainly not any that I know of that were published in the last 20 years.
To be fair to others, many potential guidebook subjects (like Central African birds or North American dragonflies) are just too broad to be treated in such an ideal manner, at least in terms of comprehensiveness. Madagascar's lemurs have just the right range of diversity without being overwhelming. Nonetheless, as far as I'm concerned this remains the ideal, even if it's not always an attainable one. Surely even with broader subjects, the combination of liveliness and precision of writing, the quality and appropriateness of imagery, and the coherent and extremely well-thought-through design are worth emulating.
An english-speaker going to Madagascar for wildlife viewing? No question, you've got to have it. An editor or writer or illustrator interested in making the best field guides you can and wanting an example of what to strive for? Ditto. Have a slightly obsessive bent for this genre? Highly recommended. I've spent a good portion of my life pouring through field guides, but there are few I truly love. I love this book."
- Carl Ramm, reviewed on Amazon.com
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