In this companion volume to the BBC/PBS television series, Indian biologist Valmik Thapar, a specialist on tigers, takes a leisurely look at the extraordinary animals that inhabit the subcontinent, among them serpent eagles and kiangs, water monitors and one-horned rhinoceroses, cobras and bustards. Although India and the adjoining countries are crowded with humans, and although wildlife-protection laws are a recent development there, animal life continues to thrive; the diversity of flora and fauna, Thapar writes, are the richest in the world. He attributes this uncommon variety of species to religious beliefs that accord the living world an uncommon respect and reverence. Anyone planning a visit to India will benefit from this lively book, as will those who are merely curious.
An excellent introduction to an area that most people know little about, this book accompanies a PBS series to be broadcast in fall 1998. Thapar is an expert on tigers and has authored a number of books on the largest of the big cats. In his dual roles as author of this work and presenter of the PBS series, he introduces the reader/viewer to a region encompassing Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Indian Ocean. The wide diversity of life in this region is due to the broad variety of climates, from desert to tropical forest and from snowy mountains to ocean islands. India alone boasts 1,200 bird and 340 mammal species. The compelling, thoughtfully illustrated text blends excerpts from the author's field notes with discussions of the spiritual place of animals in the region and quotes from early natural historians. An extensive bibliography will be extremely useful for those who want to explore further and helps recommend this book for all libraries. Nancy Bent