Working for birds in Africa

Marion & Prince Edward - Africa's Southern Islands

Fri, 21/12/2012 - 10:26 -- abc_admin
Aleks Terauds, John Cooper, Steven L. Chown & Peter Ryan, 2010. Stellenbosch: Sun Press. 176 pp, many colour photographs. Hardback. ISBN 978-1-920338-42-8. SA Rand 350.
pages 245 - 246

Measuring c.25 km by 15 km at its widest point, Marion Island is located at 46°54'S 37°44'E, while the much smaller Prince Edward Island lies just 22 km to the northeast. Situated almost 1,800 km south of Port Elizabeth in the southern Indian Ocean, these volcanic islands (collectively known as the Prince Edward Islands) form part of South Africa's Cape of Good Hope Province and were declared Special Nature Reserves by the country's government in 1995.

This book draws on studies of many aspects of the islands' natural history and is based on observations made during expeditions and by scientists based at Marion Island's research station. There have now been over 800 scientific publications on the islands. This is not a scientific tome and there are no lists of species, but it includes many facts and figures within the text. Six main chapters introduce the physical aspects of the islands, their vegetation and wildlife, their relationship with Man, and the conservation issues that exist. While the islands' birds feature in many of the lavish photographs, they are also dealt with in more detail within a 26-page section.

With the exception of Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos (which breeds only on Prince Edward Island), all other breeding bird species are shared between the islands. Most important is Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans, with the combined colonies of 3,500 pairs representing >40% of the world population. Understandably, these birds, together with Grey-headed Thalassarche chrysostoma, Sooty Phoebetria fusca and Light-mantled Albatrosses P. palpebrata, are prominently featured. There is also an abundance of information on the penguins, given that King Aptenodytes patagonicus, Macaroni Eudyptes chrysolophus, Gentoo Pygoscelis papua and Rockhopper Penguins E. chrysocome are all present. Other seabirds featured include Crozet Shag Phalacrocorax melanogenis, Antarctic Tern Sterna vittata and Kerguelen Tern S. virgata. Petrels (of which 12 species are believed to breed in the islands) are given only relatively brief mentions.

The main aspect that impressed me with this book is the quality of the photographs - of which there are over 200, many filling an entire page. The quality of the whole production is lavish, with superb-quality printing on quality paper, and not at an exorbitant price.

Keith Betton

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