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In 2010, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species produced Britainâ€™s Mammals â€“ a concise guide, which I said was “aÂ rich delight to read”. So when I heard that another book in the same series was on its way, I was naturally interested. That book is Urban Mammals – a concise guide. Unlike its predecessor, the cover credits the author, former biochemist and erstwhile Edinburgh FringeÂ performer David Wembridge, who works asÂ Surveys Coordinator for PTES.
Urban Mammals is an interesting and well-presentedÂ tour through a selection of mammals that might be found inÂ Britain’sÂ urbanÂ environments.Â In the introduction, it gives the striking example of Jennifer Owen of Leicester, who in 30 years managed to identify over 2,500 species of plants and animals in her own suburban garden, including four that were new to science. This leads on to an interesting discourse on the extent and value of urbanÂ habitats, and the inevitable difficulty in defining them. Then it is onto the guide, which forms the main body of the book. In this, a selection of mammal species are given a page or more of description. Interspersed amongst these guide pages are various boxes and case studies which add background – for example, two pages on bats inÂ buildingsÂ by another author. These are valuable but sporadic, and do make it difficult to know whether the book is best used as a guide that one should browse, or a reference book to read through systematically and enjoy.
Towards the end of the book there are some chapters of discussion, with in a few pages a surprising number of graphs and quiteÂ detailedÂ analysis of selectedÂ issues, including an unexpectedly wry look at domestic pets and the effect they can have on wild populations:Â “Cats have gone one better than many mammal species; rather than adopting an urban lifestyle, cats have adopted us”.
Had I not already had two years enjoyment out ofÂ Britainâ€™s Mammals â€“ a concise guide I would be welcoming this new volume with similar unqualified praise. Like the 2010Â volume co-authoredÂ by David WembridgeÂ this book has a succinct but hugely informative style, enjoyably readable design, andÂ authoritativelyÂ thorough grounding in sound science. It even looks veryÂ similarÂ and shares a fair number of the same photographs. The problem is that, as the title might suggest, it’s essentially an urban-themed subset of the previous book, rearranged in a slightly moreÂ arbitraryÂ way and expanded out with a lot more background material. This doesn’t make it a bad book – far from it. Nor is the extra material superfluous. It is excellent and well worth reading; but the reader who already has the equally excellentÂ Britain’sÂ Mammals mayÂ justifiablyÂ consider that there is no pressing need to purchase this next volume. I trust that David Wembridge will be working on aÂ furtherÂ book in this promising series, and with any luck, focussing his considerable expertise on a new topic.
Urban Mammals – a concise guide by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (published by Whittet Books) RRP Â£9.99
Order directly from the publisher here.
The book is also available from most bookshops and internetÂ retailers.