Wildlife Spectacles (Conservation
International/CEMEX, $50), renowned photographers and eminent
scientists (including Patricio Robles Gil, Cristina G. Mittermeier,
Thomas Brooks, Michael Hoffman, William R. Konstant, Gustavo A. B.
da Fonseca and Roderic B. Mast) have teamed up under the leadership
of Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of Conservation
International, to highlight nature's awesome profligacy. The
pictures and accompanying text feature dramatic congregations of
animals, their sheer numbers taking over the landscape and becoming
its dominant feature as they seek food and refuge, put on courting
displays or migrate.
Anyone leafing through this hefty volume will be impressed by the
superb photographs, but its true value is as a reminder of nature's
abundance in the absence of destructive human activity. The book
will inform teachers and students, thrill wildlife enthusiasts and
inspire conservation efforts. The authors point out that species are
vulnerable when many members amass and that it would therefore be
helpful for migration corridors and feeding and breeding sites to be
made protected areas.
The color plates, often spread across two pages, swarm with every
variety of creature—mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish
and invertebrates. We see herds of wildebeest trekking across a
dusty African plain in search of new pastures, a shimmering pink
mass of flamingos, vast seabird colonies packed onto a remote island
cliff, monarch butterflies festooning trees at their overwintering
grounds in Mexico, a herd of several hundred belugas, a multitude of
caribou stretching to the horizon, a huge mass of marine iguanas
climbing over one another, and a swarm of sea nettles (a type of
jellyfish). Shown above are hundreds of black-browed albatross on
Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands; the island is home to a
colony of 166,000 breeding pairs.
The sumptuous images are indeed spectacular but are of course no
substitute for seeing and experiencing the actual teeming wildlife.
The mute photographs serve as a poignant reminder of what the world
stands to lose.—Roger Harris