Primate ecology and conservation: a handbook of techniques [Eleanor J. Sterling, Nora Bynum, Mary E. Blair (Eds.). Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013)]

Majolo, Bonaventura (2013) Primate ecology and conservation: a handbook of techniques [Eleanor J. Sterling, Nora Bynum, Mary E. Blair (Eds.). Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013)]. Animal Behaviour, 86 (6). pp. 1334-1335. ISSN 0003-3472

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In the last few decades science has been growing exponentially and new techniques and analytical approaches are frequently made available to researchers. Primatology does not come second among scientific disciplines in this respect, as scientists have proved able to develop, learn and use new methods, for example to study endocrinology or social behaviour. New methodological advancements are often presented in specialized journals and make frequent use of jargon, making it difficult for newcomers to the methodology or discipline to comprehend fully the benefits and applicability of the new method. Therefore, books reviewing the methods and techniques used in a particular research field are usually welcome by scientists and students alike, as these books often aim to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each method without requiring the reader to have specific knowledge on the topic. This sounds perfect but there are two main problems. First, books on research methods and techniques are still relatively scarce in many scientific disciplines. Second, some of the available books are targeted so much at nonspecialized readers that they are of little use for those who really want to start learning and applying a new methodology. So, when invited to write a review on this book for Animal Behaviour I was interested and a bit sceptical at the same time. I have to say that all my scepticism went soon after I started reading the first few pages: this is a great book, packed with information, full of technical details but still accessible to nonexperts on a specific discipline or technique.

The book is organized into 17 edited chapters, plus a general introduction and discussion, by some of the leading experts on primate ecology, behaviour and conservation. The book editors have done a great job and managed to put together contributions that cover virtually the whole range of aspects, methods and techniques relevant for primate conservation and ecology. Such breadth of topics is impressive as the focus of the various chapters ranges from census techniques, diet and niche modelling to darting, captive breeding, human–nonhuman primate interactions and endocrinology. Most chapters are organized around an introduction that describes the topic of the chapter and discusses its importance for primate ecology and conservation. This is followed by a review of the most used, reliable and new methods and techniques, ending with a section in which the contributors either describe some of the main challenges in their field or future directions of research.

What I really liked about this book is that it gives the reader very useful and practical guidance about what to do if, for example, you want to measure food abundance in the area in which your study groups live or you want to collect hormonal data, and you don't know what to do or where to start. Each chapter guides you through the various methods available to investigate a specific topic, its practical and scientific benefit (e.g. how reliable a technique is and how time consuming the data collection) and drawbacks (e.g. how expensive particular equipment is). All this information is up to date and useful; for example, the section comparing the software programs for data entry give the reader the type of key information that otherwise you get only after talking to colleagues with extensive experience in the field. The chapters also direct you to more specific reading on the topics through the extensive reference list at the end of the book. Finally, contributors of chapters that discuss potentially invasive techniques (e.g. Chapter 3 on darting and anaesthesia and Chapter 17 on captive breeding and ex situ conservation) have paid particular attention to the welfare implications of such techniques. Therefore, anyone who is new to the field or who wants to have a critical review of the available techniques can use the relevant chapters of this book as a very useful and quick way to get to know the ‘how’ in a specific research area.

In conclusion, I much enjoyed this book. It keeps the high standards of the previous books published by Oxford University Press for the series on Techniques in Ecology and Conservation. The book is clear, well written and full of useful details. Most of the topics covered and techniques presented are also relevant for people working on the ecology and conservation of nonprimates and, as such, this book should appeal to a larger audience than primatologists alone. I believe this book will soon become a ‘must’ in any University library running courses on ecology, animal behaviour, conservation and primatology, and it is an excellent read for students, scientists and practitioners involved with animal management and conservation.

Additional Information:Series: Techniques in Ecology and Conservation
Keywords:Review, Primatology
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:13367
Deposited On:18 Feb 2014 10:48

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