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A World Like Our Own

Man and Nature in Madagascar

By (author) Alison Jolly
Illustrated by Russ Kinne
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Yale University Press, New Haven, United States
Published: 1st Jul 1980
Dimensions: w 190mm h 280mm
Weight: 1200g
ISBN-10: 0300024789
ISBN-13: 9780300024784
Barcode No: 9780300024784

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Kirkus US
For many, Madagascar is an exotic postage stamp or a newspaper headline. For zoologist Jolly (Univ. of Sussex), Madagascar is a life's work and, in particular, the study of lemurs, endearing primates that range from tiny mouselemurs to toddler-sized indris. While one would welcome a popular volume on these charmers - with their saucer eyes, soft fur, long tails, and complex behavior - Jolly's task is much larger: no less than a conservationist's review of the island flora and fauna. Madagascar split off and slipped south from mainland Africa 100 million years ago, allowing the rich development of species now found nowhere else on earth. There are no big carnivores, only civet-like creatures related to mongeese; no poisonous snakes, but, yes, boa constrictors (suggesting a very early connection with South America). Jolly and her photographer, Russ Kinne, take us on a walking tour of the island through dense rain forest, searing spiny desert, dry woodlands, and a broad central plateau - where much of the population is concentrated. Settlers from Indonesia arrived only 1500 years ago, Jolly explains, to be joined later by Africans plying the spice and slave trade. Some time thereafter, a fire destroyed most of the native forests. Fires - deliberate and accidental - continue to erode the island's woodlands. Jolly decries the plight of species extinct or rapidly becoming so: the giant lemurs, the elephant bird, the bizarre aye-aye. At the same time she is sympathetic to the needs of a growing population, needs that lead to illicit clearings in the woods and the unfortunate necessity of planting eucalyptus for firewood or pine for building materials. In contrast, each encounter with a living species is an occasion for delight or amusement, and possibly a photographic chase. Jolly's narrative is sometimes hard to follow - as in journal notes, people appear, technical asides are given, quotes often sound like nobody ever said them - but she is always passionate and convincing. The photographs, of course, speak for themselves. (Kirkus Reviews)