When you think of teeming wildlife, or deserts and jungles and grasslands replete with extraordinary fauna and flora, the chances are your mental image is of somewhere African. But as this handsome text demonstrates, the enormous South American land mass, that stretches from Patagonia to Panama, is equally as blessed in bio-diversity, and in some ways more interesting for being so much less well known Not many of you will have heard of the Brazilian termite mounds that glow in the dark.
Ostensibly and structurally, the book is a gazetteer--an A to Z of national parks, conservation areas and general wilderness, from all over the continent. Brazilian jungles, Chilean fjords and the Peruvian highlands, and the jaguars and tapirs that inhabit them, are all generously documented, along with more obscure ecologies like the Pampas and the Pantanal savannah. As such, the book could be used as a primer for those intending an ecotour of the area: you could map out an entire zoological holiday from these pages, and by watching the BBC TV documentary series which accompanies publication. But for those with no intention of such a trip, Amazon to Andes is a relishable surrogate; check out the gruesomely up-close photo of the coupling anacondas on page 120, or the chillingly vivid snap of the killer whale on page 140, if you need confirmation that sometimes it's best to stay home. --Sean Thomas