Book review – Mammals of Africa- I

Following is a book review written by James Santigie Kanu, former official of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and currently Associate Editor of African Prospects Journal.

Mammals of Africa
Eds: Jonathan Kingdon, David Happold, Tomas Butynski, Micheal Hoffmann, Meredith Happold and Jan Kaliman

Books and field guides on mammals in Africa have been written before, but many of these mainly focused on a few larger mammal species in some regions in Africa. For the first time ever, a group of scientists, comprising 356 authors and editors, who worked for more than a decade in the compilation of a handbook and inventory of the mammalian fauna of the continent of Africa, have published Mammals of Africa. The book is a magnificent treasure trove consisting of a series of six volumes written in lucid prose and describing in detail, every extant species of African land mammal that was recognized at the time the profiles were written.

The volumes contain the very latest information and detailed discussion of the morphology, distribution, biology, and evolution, (including reference to fossil and molecular data) of every currently recognized species of African land mammal. The reader will learn from Mammals in Africa, that Africa has the greatest diversity and abundance of mammals in the world, totaling more than 1160 species and 16-18 orders. The reasons for this and the mechanisms behind their evolution are thoroughly explored in Mammals of Africa.

Among its many attributes, Mammals of Africa has become the most authoritative database for conservation policy makers. The authors convince us of the need to know more about land mammals in Africa, mainly because “humans in Africa and most of their primate ancestors have been an integral part of these communities for many millions of years.”   “We are African mammals,” the authors declare. The authors point out that:

An ancient lack of awareness of Africa, certainly of evolution in Africa, once deprived people of any possibility of correctly answering central puzzles of human existence: ‘where do we come from?’ ‘where is our ancestral home?’ ‘from what natural communities did we emerge?’ and ‘what is our place in the natural communities of the future?’

Mammals of Africa, opens the way in our search for answers to these tantalizing questions.

Read the rest of this book review here

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