Geography - Set out on safari

21st December 2012 at 00:00
Facts and 'photicular' images bring African animals to life

Imagine a guide to the animals you would encounter on an African safari: cheetahs, lions, rhinoceroses, zebras, elephants and giraffes, to name but a few. Now imagine that instead of looking at photographs of these exotic animals, you are watching them run, leap and gambol as if you had a window on to Africa.

That is the effect of a remarkable little book, Safari: a photicular book, which contains fascinating information about the lives of each creature and "photicular" images that seem to move.

We learn not only that the rhinoceros is cantankerous and aggressive but also the differences between black and white rhinoceroses - and that the black has been hunted almost to extinction because of Chinese demand for the allegedly medicinal powers of its powdered horn. Its daily habits are outlined, along with its diet and behaviour patterns. The same forensic detail is provided for each animal.

Carol Kaufmann's writing is evocative - zebras are described as "pony-size, with soft expressive lips and the sweet gaze of a child" - but she never compromises on facts. She reveals, for example, that scientists have identified more than 70 types of elephant sounds, though humans can hear only about half of them.

Other details delight, such as the fact that lions can count and will calculate the number of individuals in a potentially threatening group. They can also distinguish individuals, recognising whether the voice belongs to an enemy or a friend. Then there is the giraffe, which we learn may look relaxed but can outrun a lion, buffalo or hyena. Their hooves can be a deadly weapon.

Kaufmann's short essay on a visit to the Masai Mara, Kenya's 1,510 km2 national reserve, and the animals she observes there sets the tone. And Dan Kainen's explanation of how he created the photicular images is captivating. As a boy, he reveals, he loved performing magic, and he has captured a good deal of it here.

Safari: a photicular book, created by Dan Kainen and written by Carol Kaufmann, is published by Workman, #163;16.99

What else?

Create your own school safari by getting pupils to role-play animals. Record the creatures that are seen with claireh1039's safari log. bit.lytesSafari.

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