Vietnam: A Natural History


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Eleanor Jane Sterling, Martha Maud Hurley, and Le Duc Minh; with illustrations by Joyce A. Powzyk

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A milestone book that provides the first guide to Vietnam’s spectacular flora and fauna and the diverse natural areas in which they live

A country uncommonly rich in plants, animals, and natural habitats, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam shelters a significant portion of the world’s biological diversity, including rare and unique organisms and an unusual mixture of tropical and temperate species. This book is the first comprehensive account of Vietnam’s natural history in English. Illustrated with maps, photographs, and thirty-five original watercolor illustrations, the book offers a complete tour of the country’s plants and animals along with a full discussion of the factors shaping their evolution and distribution.

Separate chapters focus on northern, central, and southern Vietnam, regions that encompass tropics, subtropics, mountains, lowlands, wetland and river regions, delta and coastal areas, and offshore islands. The authors provide detailed descriptions of key natural areas to visit, where a traveler might explore limestone caves or glimpse some of the country’s twenty-seven monkey and ape species and more than 850 bird species. The book also explores the long history of humans in the country, including the impact of the Vietnam-American War on plants and animals, and describes current efforts to conserve Vietnam’s complex, fragile, and widely threatened biodiversity.

Eleanor Jane Sterling is director and Martha Maud Hurley and Le Duc Minh are biodiversity scientists at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History. Joyce A. Powzyk is visiting assistant professor of biology at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.

To learn more about the organization's research and projects in Vietnam or view an interactive online exhibition, visit the website for The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Musuem of Natural History.A majority of the authors' royalties earned from sales of this book will be contributed to an educational fund supporting Southeast Asian students working in biodiversity conservation.

The authors gave a lecture on Vietnam's natural history at the American Museum of Natural History. Listen to the podcast here: AMNH Podcasts Selected Lectures.

"Elegant, authoritative and full of surprises, Vietnam: A Natural History does not simply do justice to a neglected subject. It establishes Vietnam's living environment as one of quite exceptional interest and, as a survey, it sets a new standard in the interpretation and presentation of a country's fauna and flora. Quite outstanding."—John Keay, author of Mad About the Mekong: Exploration and Empire in South East Asia   

"Long shrouded by a veil of politics, Vietnam and its magnificent biodiversity are revealed in this exciting new natural history volume. From cycads to pangolins, Vietnam: A Natural History is required reading for all tropical biologists as well as for natural history enthusiasts."—Margaret Lowman, author of It's a Jungle Up There 

"A most welcome addition to the natural history reference material for South East Asia."—Noble Proctor, ornithologist

"A clear, well written survey of the fauna and flora of Southeast Asia as manifested in Vietnam, especially useful for those with scant experience of a region rich in habitats and species."—Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leopard

"This book does a fine job of describing the biodiversity of Vietnam, and an even better job of documenting the threats to biodiversity and the opportunities for conservation."—Phan Ke Loc, Hanoi University of  Science

"Vietnam: A Natural History unlocks the door to the fascinating geological, biological, and cultural diversity of a remarkable region of the world. This comprehensive but highly readable volume will be welcomed not only by conservation biologists and ecologists but by the merely curious as well."—Philip Rundel, University of California, Los Angeles

"Long shrouded in mystery and inaccessible for more than half a century, Vietnam's natural history is presented brilliantly in this stunning and exciting new volume. A must for every naturalist, tourist, and conservationist."—Thomas E. Lovejoy, President, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

"This volume fills a major gap by collecting and collating, in English, widely scattered information about Vietnam's natural history. Well organized into chapters that cover humans, biogeography, flora, and fauna; northern, central, and southern Vietnam; and conservation efforts, the text is written in a highly accessible style that will attract interested amateur naturalists and travelers as well as scientists. The authors not only describe the country's complex natural history but also provide the political context needed to understand the critical role its biodiversity plays in the world. This is essential for all natural history collections."—Library Journal

“…the first ever summary of the country’s rich natural history. … It is beautifully written and illustrated, combining expert scientific knowledge with an obvious love of Vietnam’s diverse biota that should please both scientist and popular reader alike.” - New Scientist

Vietnam’s extraordinary wildlife has excited scientists for decades. This book brings the thrill of discovery to a wider audience. … Clearly and comprehensively written by three biologists, each bringing a lifetime’s experience of the country, it provides the kind of background you often wish that field guides carried, but which their space prohibits. … [It] provides a fascinating and informative introduction to a region long overlooked by biologists and ecotourists alike. With the treatment of wildlife and plants divided into regional sections, and separate chapters on conservation and Vietnam’s 52 different ethnic peoples, plus fine overviews of the history of the land and its biota, this lovely book should entice many to travel to this wonderful country.” - Adrian Barnett, BBC Wildlife Magazine

“…the first comprehensive account of Vietnam’s natural history written in English…by three wildlife specialists…” - Jessie King, The Independent

"This single volume presents the entire geography, geology, and natural history of Vietnam in lively, accessible, language, making it the perfect companion for any visitor to Vietnam, with excellent and thorough information on the incredibly rich natural resources of the country, covering everything form orchids to monkeys. . . . Well-written and engaging. . . . The diversity and fragility of Vietnam's natural history is stunning, and this book does an admirable job of celebrating that wealth, while clearly dilineating what threatens it, including unexploded mines and poachers. For nature lovers travelling to Vietnam, this guide is a must-have."—Publishers Weekly

"This text is the first English language comprehensive account of Vietnam's natural history. . . . The authors have opened the door to a fascinating environmental world."—Wildlife Activist

"This natural history . . . is the latest chapter in the postwar development of one of the world's most remarkable, and mysteriously rich, landscapes. A comprehensive and knowingly illustrated scientific work that hints of more discoveries to come, the volume is engagingly readable. It deserves attention from those with a curiosity for contemporary biological exotica, as well as those increasing legions of tourists bound for this socialist republic, not just on account of rare and odd things that inhabit the east coast of Indochina but also because of the staggering variety of flora and fauna."—John Balzar, Los Angeles Times

"Richly descriptive and generously illustrated. . . . The well-written and engaging text complements the maps, illustrations and photographs. This book is an effective traveler's guide, an introduction to Vietnam's rich and fragile natural history, providing thoughtful commentary on critical conservation issues and will help raise awareness on the tenuous nature of its biodiversity."—Daniel Harder, Environmental Conservation

"Everyone knows the Amazon and the Serengeti, but who knows the Annamites and the Red River Delta? This book opens the door to a new ‘lost’ world."—Barney Long, World Wildlife Fund Greater Mekong—Vietnam Programme       

Winner of the Professional Scholarly Publishing Award in the Biological Science Category, given by the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

Named One of the Best Science Books of 2006 published by Library Journal
ISBN: 9780300126938
Publication Date: November 27, 2007
448 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
22 b/w + 54 color illus.