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Portraits in the Wild – Animal Behaviour in East Afrcia

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1989 hardcover edition.

Cynthia Moss is best known for her work on African elephants, but in Portraits in the Wild she surveys the large mammals of East Africa more broadly. There are chapters on the elephant, the giraffe, the black rhinoceros, zebras, antelopes (dikdik, gerenuk, impala, Uganda kob, wildebeest and eland), baboons, big cats (lion, cheetah and leopard) and the spotted hyena.

Moss’ focus is on behaviour and social structure, especially mating systems and breeding. The radically different mating and territorial systems of antelope species, for example, are linked to their ecological niches.

There’s also some information about conservation, poaching, and human attitudes to different species: baboons as “born criminals”, for examples, or the changing sentiment towards lions.

Moss also includes a bit about the researchers who carried out the studies she summarises, and the observational methodologies involved.

Portraits in the Wild was first written in 1975 and revised in 1982, so it is based on research from the 60s and 70s (for some species the first serious studies of behaviour) and is obviously dated. No more recent treatment of this kind exists, however, so it’s still useful background reading for visitors to Africa. (A better choice for field use would be a book like Richard Estes’ The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals, which has a similar focus on behaviour and social structure but covers many more species and is structured as a guide.)

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Dimensions 14.5 × 9.8 × 1.7 cm
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