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First book on mammals out

Three decades of untiring and painstaking efforts of studying mammals has finally borne fruit. Wildlife conservationist Anwaruddin Choudhury has come out with a first-of-its-kind comprehensive book about mammals of India.

The book, Mammals of India, published by Balipara Foundation and released here today, is a major definitive work on the mammals of the country, where all the species have been mapped in colour with exhaustive details. The book has listed 430 species of mammals in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Choudhury, who is also a civil servant, said after the book on mammals in Northeast (2013), he refrained from treating species accounts in great details as he did for the Northeast work. "Much of the database for Northeast was cross-checked through visits. Such work in other parts of the country could not be done as much as I wished for," said Choudhury.


He said he did not want to make it a bulky volume with data published in greater details than his book on Northeast mammals. "The cartography of this book on Indian mammals and the presentation of maps are unique and no publication on Indian mammals has provided range-maps in such a style," Choudhury added.

On the literature on mammals, he said the first major documentation of field observation on several mammals of India was made by Babur (1483-1531) in his Baburnama. The next written account was found in Ain-i-Akbari authored by Abu'l Fazl ibn Mubarak (1551-1602), which was followed by Jahangir's Tuzuk-i Jahangiri (1620).

On the issue of conservation, he expressed concern about enforcement in the field, which he said is almost nonexistent, except in some protected areas.

Colin Groves of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, says in the foreword, "It is extraordinary that, as he mentions, there has been no dedicated taxonomic coverage of the mammals of India for over half-a- century. An enormous amount of taxonomic work has been done since then, but nowhere has it been gathered together in one place. There have been a number of books on mammals of India, but they have not been taxonomic works and have tended to concentrate on larger mammals, giving little space to the smaller ones."

"Taxonomy is a more specialised field, and it takes an experienced practitioner like Anwaruddin Choudhury to make sense of all the taxonomic advances. The book fills a real gap. He knows most of the species from personal experience and has a taxonomic 'nous' that few biologists today exhibit. He has himself described new taxa. For example, to him, we owe some new species and sub-species of flying squirrel and hoolock gibbon and recently he published a convincing revision of Trachypithecus pileatus, a notoriously difficult species taxonomically," Groves says.

Chairman of Balipara Foundation Ranjit Borthakur, who was present on the occasion, said Choudhury's understanding of taxonomy was commendable.


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