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A Functional Field Guide

Wildlife of Costa RicaBy Jim Parisi

Be suspicious when someone tells you that size doesn’t matter. On the contrary, when it comes to field guides, for example, the size of the book is a determining factor toward how well it will serve the customer. For example there are several beautiful coffee table books whose subject matter is the wildlife of Costa Rica. But I wouldn’t want to treat that book like a field guide, put it in my backpack and go into the jungle in search of its subject matter. Likewise, there are pocket guides that provide concise snapshots of the most common species of wildlife in Costa Rica, concise being the operative word. Pocket guides are handy but are limited and compact in their information as well.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music

Recently a field guide has appeared that fills this void in that it is compact, travels well and is a fountain of pertinent information. Simply titled “The Wildlife of Costa Rica”, this field guide is a collaboration of four experts in their respective fields. Fiona Reid is a biologist from Cambridge who has written more than a dozen books on mammals, including “A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico”; Jim Zook is an ornithologist who has lived and worked in Costa Rica for twenty-two years, coming here originally as a volunteer of the Peace Corps to teach environmental education; Twan Leenders is a biologist from The Netherlands, specializing in Animal Ecology, especially among amphibians and reptiles; Robert Dean has been studying and painting neotropical birds for a dozen years, including the artwork he did for the highly acclaimed “The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide”, which is considered The Bird Bible among the serious bird watchers here.

This two hundred-fifty page book is presented in five main sections: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods, each with a nice introduction. It also offers a very good glossary and an index of scientific and common names of each species. One very distinguishing attribute that I enjoy about this field guide is the presentation of twenty-four natural history vignettes interspersed throughout the book. Each vignette offers text that, accompanied by a photograph of the subject at hand, portray general points of interest, describing in greater detail the given species and the natural history and ecology of their habitats. With forty color photos and more than six hundred detailed color illustrations, this functional field guide exposes readers to the animals and other wildlife one is most likely to see in Costa Rica. I also appreciate the fact that all measurements in this book are being relayed in both metric as well as inch/foot terms. As a matter of fact, this book itself measures 14 cm by 21.5 cm (or 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 inches), a good daypack size.

I find the overall presentation of “The Wildlife of Costa Rica” – the layout, the language and the flow of information to be very user-friendly, especially for the inquisitive, non-scientist, such as myself. To be sure, there is a plethora of scientific information in this guide, which has adeptly been made digestible for the average reader. The guide is published and distributed by Zona Tropical, a Costa Rican company who, I believe, saw a need, filled it, and hit a home run in doing so. And a home run is a home run, no matter the size, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

“The Wildlife of Costa Rica” is available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Tilaran, where they will gladly let the customer browse through their open copy of the book.

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