The fifth edition of this world-renowned guide provides detailed information on the origins, discovery, study, and conservation of Madagascar’s lemurs and comprehensive species accounts for all currently known taxa. The guide is illustrated with more than 600 drawings, photos, and maps to assist in field identification. It also introduces the concept of primate-watching and primate life-listing to encourage readers to see as many primates as possible in the wild and to help conserve them in their natural habitats.
Madagascar is one of the two richest countries on Earth for primates and is considered one of the four major primate regions globally, comparable in many ways to the Neotropical region, continental Africa, and tropical, subtropical and temperate Asia. What is more, with five primate families, 15 genera and 112 taxa, all of them endemic, its levels of endemism are unmatched by any country; indeed, it is home to five of all 16 primate families and 15 of 81 genera. However, Madagascar is not just important for primates; it is also one of the highest-priority Biodiversity Hotspots overall. It has already lost on the order of 90% of its original natural vegetation, and its levels of endemism at the family level for all organisms is unmatched by any other hotspot, meaning that it conserves not just unique species but deep evolutionary lineages as well. By providing this guide to facilitate the identification of Madagascar’s best-known flagship species, the authors hope to stimulate interest in this ‘island continent’ and encourage everyone concerned about our natural world to visit this very special place.
In this guide, the team of expert authors explains the origins, discovery, study, and conservation of Madagascar’s lemurs, and provides species accounts for all currently known taxa. It is also important to note that we continue to discover species that were previously unknown to science. Twenty-nine years ago, at the time of the first edition of this guide, just 50 different kinds of lemurs were recognized. This edition covers 112, of which 53 have been described since that first guide because of the increased understanding of their systematics and geographic ranges. What is more, it is highly likely that other new lemur species will be discovered and described in the years to come.
The guide is illustrated with more than 600 drawings, photos, and maps to assist in field identification. It also introduces the concept of primate-watching and primate life-listing to encourage all of you interested in primates to see as many of these wonderful animals as possible in the wild and to help conserve them in their natural habitats. You, the reader, whether scientist, primate-watcher, budding naturalist, adventure traveller, or casual visitor to Madagascar, are making a very significant contribution to the future of biodiversity in this amazing corner of our planet. This guide aims to enhance your experience and convince you to visit this ‘Land of Lemurs’ again and again.
"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