Book Review: Carnivores Of The World

I have been meaning to review this book for quite some time now. Carnivores Of The World is a field guide that covers all 245 species of terrestrial carnivores (the Pinnipedia are not covered). It is publish by Princeton University Press as part of their field guide series. The book is written by Luke Hunter (president of Panthera – an organization devoted to the conservation of the world’s wild cats). The carnivora are the fifth largest mamalian order and contain, as mentioned above, 245 species. The book divides these up into thirteen families (Felidae, Hyaenidae, Herpestidae, Eupleridae, Prionodontidae, Viveridae, Nandiniidae, Canidae, Ursidae, Procyonidae, Ailuridae, Mephitidae, and Mustelidae). Each of these families is discussed as a whole in the introduction with the key features of each being identified. In the chapters following the the introduction, the individual species are discussed. For each species the following information is provided; common name(s),scientific name, length and weight, pelt color and variation, subspecies (if any), distribution and habitat, feeding ecology, social and spatial behavior, reproduction and demography, and status and threats.

Let me give one example to show how this works.

The picture to the left is of a banded linsang, species name Prionodon linsang. According to the field guide their head-body lenght ranges from 37.9 to 45 centimeters with a tail length of 33-37.5 cm. Weight ranges from 0.59 to 0.8 kg. They are long and slender with cream colored fur with large dark bands along the spine, and they have protractile claws. Distribution and Habitat: They occur in Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia, South Thailand, and South Myanmar in primary and secondary forests up to 2700m. Feeding Ecology: They feed on small terrestrial and arboreal vertebrates (frogs, rodents, birds, etc.) and invertebrates (large cockroaches). They are mainly nocturnal hunters. Social and Spatial Behavior: Poorly known, but solitary, with occasional groups of mother and offspring reported. Reproduction and Demography: Poorly known. Litters or pregnant females reported in April-October. Litter size is 1-3. Lifespan is ~10 years in captivity. Status and Threats: Poorly known. The main threat is forest loss, although it does appear occasionally in wildlife markets.

The entries vary in size, reflecting the rarity of the species and the amount of field studies performed. Not much is known about the banded linsang, for example, so its entry is small. The puma, on the other hand, has a much larger entry. Each entry is accompanied by exceptionally beautiful line drawings, both in color and black and white, done by Priscilla Barrett. These drawings alone make the book worth buying.

Additional chapters contain line drawings of the skull of each species and the footprints of each species – both of which contain introductory material that point out features of interest to orient the reader.

Overall, the book is packed with information about carnivores and is a worthy addition to anyone’s bookshelf. Highly recommended!

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