Monday, July 06, 2009

"Vietnam: A Natural History" by Eleanor Jane Sterling, Martha Maud Hurley, Le Duc Minh, and Joyce A. Powzyk

Why I read it: My brain needed some information to process in order to work on "Water Leopard". It's a library book.

Bookmark: Chapters Love of Reading Fund

Tastes like chicken: I don't think I've ever read a natural history of anything before. Reading it seemed a lot like that history of Finland I read a couple of years ago, where towards the middle it started to feel like work. Though this book picked up again at the end.

The book started off with a description of the plate tectonics and other actions that have led to where this particular chunk of land is now, and how that makes this chunk of land interesting and unique, in terms of climate, landforms, flora, and fauna. Then the authors explained the various types of forests that exist in Vietnam, and an overview of the various animals. After that, there were three chapters, one each for northern, central, and southern Vietnam. The north is dominated by the Red river delta (does every country have a red river? Here in Toronto we have the Rouge), and the south by the Mekong river delta. These chapters were long and difficult. They introduced creatures and plants, mostly following their common names with their latin names, and then their bleak conservation status. It was kind of depressing. Each of these chapters ended with a few pages about the various national parks (and the like) where one might be able to experience the local flora and fauna. The end of the book described challenges.

What I liked: This book was published in 2006, so it's quite up-to-date. The story of the Soala is awesome. A soala is a bovine-type animal with horns like an ibix that apparently has never been seen live in the wild by a researcher. They have no photos. They know it exists because they've seen heads of them in hunting lodges.

Not so much: I did not love the watercolors, though I see the reason for them (no photos of soalas, for example). Also, the fact that so much conservation work still needs to be done makes me very sad.

Lesson: One thing is, I don't think the water leopard is a ridiculously large cat. Vietnam has a couple of really interesting cats: fishing cat and leopard cat. The fishing cat has webbed toes, dives into the water to chase fish and waterfowl, and swims.

Also, I love the idea of mythical creatures with no magical powers at all. The saola is just a cow.

No comments: