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All about tigers - the best books on the market


Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

YOU may think that one tiger looks very much like another and, in a way, you would be right, but tiger markings are as individual to tigers as our features are to us, which means, no two tigers are exactly the same.

And so it is with photographs of these magnificent creatures, which, in turn, means that no two books on the subject are excatly the same either - far from it, in fact.

And, not surprisingly, they also come in a range of prices...

So let's start in the bargain basement, with Tigers - A Portrait of the Animal World, by Lee Server, which, published by Todtri, sells at a mere £4.99. At that price, not much of a book, you might think, but you would be wrong!

It contains 80 full colour illustrations - all lovely photographs - and a simple, but highly informative, text.

It's the sort of book you might give a child, particularly as there aren't any photographs of actual kills, which, understandably, can sometimes cause distress; while several pages are dedicated solely to young cubs. That said, it doesn't mean adults can't enjoy it, too!

And so to Tigers, from biologist, Ullas Karanth, priced at £12. Slightly more expensive, it comes in both hard and soft back editions and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) receives a donation from every copy sold.

Again, beautifully illustrated, Tigers is a comprehensive study of this enigmatic creature which, throughout the ages, has been admired and reviled in equal measure - the latter, simply for daring to impinge upon territory inhabited by man.

Consequently, it has been regarded as a pest and killed; killed, too, for trophies and body parts - a cruel irony that man's insatiable thirst for obtaining a thing of beauty has come close to robbing future generations of that very thing.

For tigers have become an endangered species - there may be fewer than 5,000 remaining in the wild, world-wide - and the question Tigers poses in its final chapter, is 'can we save the tiger'?

Hopefully, with the knowledge and understanding imparted by Karanth, the answer is yes.

At £19.99, Tiger Forest, by Chris Brunskill, is quite different. A visual study of Ranthambhore National Park, it puts tigers in their natural habitat.

With over 120 beautiful, full-colour images taken over a five-year period, all authentic and not, as is common practice in America, manipulated solely for the camera, Tiger Forest transports you to 'a fantasy forest where wild tigers roam around the remnants of a forgotten kingdom, amongst the souls of vanquished warriors'; where a peacock displays in front of a chatri, a samba wallows in the muddy shoreline of Rajbagh Lake and a crocodile sunbathes on the lakeshore.

Here, we see how tigers interact with these, their fellow creatures, as well as with one another, and how one tiger, Machali, raises a family against extraordinary odds.

Here, too, the theme is conservation, but, in this case, not solely of the tiger, but of the forest itself and the fragile eco-system it supports.

The message is clear, but not without hope, thanks to a British-based charity, Global Tiger Patrol, and to Chris Brunskill, whose book brings the magic of Ranthambhore National Park out of India and into our homes, thereby increasing our awareness, and, hopefully, the determination to succeed.

Finally, Wild Tigers of Bandhavgarh, by freelance wildlife photographer and author, Iain Green.

At £24.95, it's the most expensive of the four, but, in my opinion, worth every penny.

As with Tiger Forest, we see tigers in their natural habitat - in this instance, in the 'Kipling' jungles of central India.

Beautifully illustrated with more than 300 genuine photographs, taken, coincidentally, over a period of five years, it tells the true story of four generations of Bengal tigers - of the three male cubs born to the elusive tigress, Bachchi, Bachchi's boys, as they are affectionately known, who despite natural dangers, a shrinking habitat and the ever-present threat from poachers, become fathers themselves.

It is an epic tale of love, devotion, adventure and danger - all the ingredients of a best-seller.

But this is no fiction and the vibrant narrative will have you holding your breath in anticipation, or alarm, and will almost certainly tug at the heart strings.

More importantly, though, it will underline the importance of saving these beautiful and extraordinary creatures.

Wild Tigers of Bandhavgarh is most definitely a book to treasure - as, indeed, are the tigers themselves.

For more information about conservation, log on to:
www.eia-international.org or www.globaltigercompuserve.com

If you wish to purchase any of the books above, simply click on the photos, or follow the links in the right-hand column...

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