Home Conservation Reviews Book Reviews Birds and Mammals of Ladakh


Birds and Mammals of Ladakh

Despite its location and harsh weather conditions, both the fauna and avifauna of Ladakh has attracted a lot of attention for several centuries.
A.L. Adams did the early work (1859) followed by Dr. Stoliczka (1868), Ludlow (1920),V.A. La Personne (1927) and the now disgraced R. Meinertzhagen in 1927. R.S.P. Bates and E.H.N. Lowther amalgamated the works of all the above pioneers in their path-breaking Breeding birds of Kashmir, published in 1952.

This was followed by smaller, but nonetheless important, surveys such as Trevor Price’s and Nitin Jamdar’s study on Phylloscopus warblers in Kashmir. But the most important work on the fauna of the region was, beyond doubt, George Schaller’s Stones of Silence (1988). And now we have Otto Pfister’s book, which brings it all together in a single volume and is a welcome addition to the much-needed regional guides. Otto Pfister, Swiss by birth, but Hindustani by inclination, chucked his well-paying bureaucratic job, to study the Black-necked Crane in the marshes of Changthang.

This led to an M. Phil. from the University of Hull. Along the way, he also began to photograph birds and animals and possibly now, has the largest collection of Indian bird photographs under his belt. An additional four years of research was needed before the book went to press. The book under review has an extensive introduction, followed by individual descriptions of all the recorded birds and mammals so far found in Ladakh, covering breeding, habitat, behaviour, status and distribution. Local and alternate names add to the information. Allied and sub-species are also mentioned.

The accompanying checklist gives the names in English, Latin, French, German and Ladakhi together with status indicators of appearance as well as abundance. Over 450 photographs, including several rare ones, accompany the text. Unfortunately, the quality of the reproduction of the photographs leaves much to be desired and does not do justice to the excellent text. For some reason, probably known only to the publishers (and perhaps the Government of India), the often-referred to map is missing all together. Overall, an excellent book that will contribute greatly to the faunal knowledge of the area.
By Otto Pfister, Published by: Oxford University Press, Hard Cover Rs. 795/-

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